FEATURE | Drinking While Breastfeeding: Here's What You Really Need To Know how long does it take to get alcohol out of your breast milk?

Drinking While Breastfeeding: Here’s What You Really Need To Know

Worried about drinking while breastfeeding? You’re certainly not alone. This debate has inspired guilt and anxiety in far too many new mothers. If you’re like most moms, you want a simple answer to this question: How long does it take to get alcohol out of your breast milk? These drinking while breastfeeding facts will help you decide whether a glass of wine is worth the risk.

The Truth About Drinking While Breastfeeding

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Side Effects of Alcohol in Breast Milk

Side Effects of Alcohol in Breastmilk | Drinking While Breastfeeding: Here's What You Really Need To Know side effects of alcohol in breastmilk

Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns for both mothers and babies. Some babies may fall asleep more quickly after their mothers drink alcohol, but the quality of this sleep is reduced. They also wake up sooner than babies not affected by alcohol in breast milk.

Not only can alcohol in breast milk affect baby sleep patterns, it can also be inconvenient for mothers, who may need to pump more often. Why? Research suggests alcohol interferes with breast milk production — it disrupts the hormones responsible for producing breast milk. Mothers who drink alcohol may be forced to feed more often, as research indicates their babies take less milk in a single sitting. The bulk of empirical evidence counters the age-old advice of drinking beer to amp up breast milk production.

Alcohol in breast milk may be harmful not only for short-term eating and sleeping patterns but also for long-term development. One especially concerning study reveals a lag in gross motor functioning for breastfed babies when mothers drink on a daily basis.

How Long Does It Take to Get Alcohol out of Your Breast Milk?

You may ask yourself, “How long after drinking can I breastfeed again?” Remember, what you consume can find its way into your breast milk and ultimately, to your baby.

Alcohol levels in breast milk mimic those in the bloodstream. Typically, levels are highest between 30 and 60 minutes after drinking. If you drink while enjoying a full meal, alcohol levels may peak after 90 minutes.

A general rule of thumb: it takes two hours for a unit of alcohol (such as a small glass of wine) to exit your system completely. This will vary somewhat based on your weight and how much you eat while consuming alcohol. If you knock back more than one drink, it can take far longer for alcohol to leave your bloodstream and any breast milk you produce.

How Long After Drinking Can I Breastfeed Again?

How Long After Drinking Can I Breastfeed Again? | Drinking While Breastfeeding: Here's What You Really Need To Know alcohol in breastmilk affect baby

In the past, parenting experts recommended ‘pumping and dumping‘ breast milk so as to avoid infant exposure. Today, however, experts don’t think it’s necessary to waste milk in this manner. It’s best to avoid pumping shortly after drinking, but other solutions are available.

When in doubt, abstain from alcohol completely. Experts recommend breastfeeding moms avoid alcohol completely for the first three months following delivery. After this time, the occasional drink is just fine — but only if scheduled carefully according to feedings. Aim for one drink with a meal shortly after a regular feeding. This will allow maximum time for the alcohol to leave your system before the next pumping session. Ideally, you will pump two or three hours after you consume a single unit of alcohol.

Another option: pumping your breast milk in advance and storing it until it’s needed. This grants you a little more flexibility with both drinking and feeding times.


Need more information about this? Watch the video below to see the effects of drinking while breastfeeding:

YouTube video

While pregnant, you reassured yourself you could enjoy your favorite glass of wine after giving birth. But, is that really a good idea? Turns out, alcohol can be harmful to your baby even after delivery. Drinking while breastfeeding can also mess with breast milk production, creating further inconvenience as an already busy mom.

It’s good to be careful, but you don’t have to quit cold turkey. It’s possible to enjoy a social life — complete with alcohol — as a new mom. Time your alcohol consumption carefully, and you don’t have to worry about inadvertently harming your baby.

Share your thoughts about drinking while breastfeeding in the comments section below.

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