Breastfeeding and Alcohol?

While it has been a long-held belief that a breastfeeding mother should, under no circumstances, consume alcohol while breastfeeding her infant as the alcohol might pass through the mothers milk into the baby, or at the very least, if she does drink she must “pump and dump,” I’m here to share the latest evidence-based research that states that this might not be the case!

Old evidence suggests that not only is drinking alcohol a big no-no if you are breastfeeding, but also suggests that drinking alcohol can act as a galactagogue (a supplement that will help increase milk supply).  So, which is it?  Can I drink alcohol or not?  The good news is YES!  You can!  Under certain circumstances.

First, the Not So God News…

Alcohol has been known to block the release of oxytocin, which in turn blocks the milk ejection reflex.  It has also been studied that infants ingested less breastmilk after their mothers drank an alcoholic beverage.  This was also after the smell and taste of breastmilk has been studied in these lactating mothers, suggesting that the change in said taste and smell was enough for baby to not ingest as much of the milk.

Now For the Silver Lining…

When you drink an alcoholic beverage (let’s say a glass of wine) it passes into breast milk in the same concentration that is in your bloodstream.  Alcohol concentrations will peak about 30-45 minutes after that glass and will start dropping as your body starts breaking it down.  Once you have sobered up, your milk will be alcohol-free again with no need to “pump and dump!”

An interesting article that I have found (linked at the bottom) suggests “Even if you’ve refilled your glass a few times, there is very, very little alcohol in your milk—and very little ingested by your baby. If a 150-pound nursing mom downs four alcoholic drinks—say, four 5-ounce glasses of table wine—and then breast-feeds her 13-pound baby 4 ounces of milk when she’s at her tipsiest, her baby will end up with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.0038 percent—the same blood alcohol concentration her mom would have after consuming a mere 1.5 ounces of Bud Light (one-eighth of a 12-ounce bottle).  Ultimately, there is a higher concentration of alcohol in some fruit juices—which can contain up to 0.1 percent alcohol due to fermentation of the sugars—than there is in the breast milk of a tipsy nursing mom.”

But What Are The Risks?

So even though it is studied that drinking while breastfeeding and waiting until the mother has sobered up to feed her baby is acceptable, that is not to say that there aren’t risks associated with drinking with a baby.  It’s important to know the difference between having a few occasional drinks and binge drinking.  Some risks associated with this may include, dropping your baby while intoxicated, accidental smothering of a baby if bed sharing, or accidentally hurting baby (Research suggests you are three times more likely to have an accidental fall if you’ve been drinking than if not).  It is also not advisable to breastfeed a baby if alcoholism is a problem with the mother or her family has a history of alcoholism.  This opens a whole new group of problems.

Will Alcohol Help My Milk Supply?

It is also a myth that alcohol can stimulate milk production.  Alcohol reduces the release of milk via the letdown reflex.  Babies that were fed after their mother drank alcohol were shown to have eaten 20% less, although they made up for the loss by eating more frequently later on.  But, what about beer?  I’m sure we’ve all heard that the darker the beer, the better it is for milk production.  “There is limited evidence that barley, used to make beer, can stimulate the secretion of the hormone prolactin, which is involved in milk production. The big question is how the two opposing forces—the milk-stymieing effects of alcohol and the milk-promoting effects of barley—balance out when a nursing mom imbibes a beer. No studies have tackled this one yet.”

In Conclusion, Worry Not!

So, with all that being said.  It is not necessary to worry about having few drinks here and there.  Please exercise caution while drinking and around your baby while waiting to sober up to feed, but also know that baby is not going to get drunk off of a few glasses that you have before nursing her to sleep as long as you wait to sober up.


“Breastfeeding & Human Lactation Enhanced Fifth Edition.” 2016.  By Karen Wambach and Jan Riordan


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