Having kids and indulging in alcoholic beverages don’t really mix well. Doctors recommend not having alcohol even when you’re trying to conceive and obviously it’s absolutely prohibited in pregnancy. But after delivering the baby and abstaining from alcohol for over 9 months, are you still allowed to drink alcohol while breastfeeding the baby? Well that’s a question of interest for more than 50% of the breastfeeding mothers. Sometimes after a long tiring day, all you want is to open a bottle of Champaign, chug down a beer or sip on that delicious red wine but the thought of how it will affect the little one stops the mothers in their tracks.

Breastfeeding mothers have to think about a zillion things before making any choice in life as they aren’t alone now, they’re responsible for feeding a child. Drinking alcohol, pumping, having lactating cookies, smoking and various other decisions have to be taken keeping in mind the baby, its health and well-being. Many nursing mothers really want to consume some alcohol in order to relax and unwind, in fact more than 50% of the nursing mothers drink alcohol in western countries, so this subject ought to be a matter of great research and investigation. This is because the guidelines of drinking alcohol while nursing the little one aren’t as harsh as the ones during pregnancy.

In this article, I will let you all you need to know about breastfeeding and consuming alcohol. I’ll be addressing any and all the questions any mother would probably have in their mind. So let’s get started.

Effects of Alcohol on the Breast Milk, Baby and Mother

Breastmilk– The concentration of alcohol in breastmilk is the same as the concentration of it in the bloodstream, the reason being its free flowing from bloodstream to milk. But the thing to be considered about is the proportion in which alcohol reaches the milk. The alcohol concentration that reaches the milk is only a fraction or tiny amount of what the mother actually drank. It’s almost 5 to 6 percent of the weight-adjusted dose of the alcohol that reaches the breast milk. The alcohol levels are highest in the breastmilk in the first 30-60 mins after a single drink is consumed by the mother. The more drinks the mothers take the higher the alcohol levels will be. It usually takes 2-3 hours for the alcohol to leave your system after a single drink, though it depends on the metabolism rate and weight of the mother.

Baby– The rate at which babies metabolize alcohol is almost half the rate at which the mothers do, suggesting that the alcohol levels will remain high in the body of the baby for longer hours till it is processed by the body. Keep in mind that the liver of the baby is immature which will put added pressure on it and may even harm it over time. Even though one single drink isn’t proven to be harmful for the baby, it doesn’t mean it’s not harmful, it only means it is not proven to be. The best way is to completely avoid alcohol while pregnant and nursing the baby and only consume it after weaning off the baby. If a mother takes more than the recommended single drink per day, the baby will have a poor sleep pattern, not enough weight gain, psychomotor skills will kick in late, the baby will be irritated and cranky and it can also result in cognitive delay in life.

Mother– Motherhood is draining, testing and overwhelming for sure, one drink after a long day feels so good and well-deserved. It’s also said that alcohol serves as a milk supply booster. But we can’t just drink alcohol to increase the milk supply, there are far better products to do so like lactating cookies, drinks, brownies, supplements and herbs. The truth is that, if a mother drinks excessively or more than a single drink per day then it will hinder her ability to take care of the baby responsibly. Although drinking alcohol allows the mother to let her hair down, enjoy and relax, it eventually will put her in more stress and worry thinking about its negative effects on the child, leading to depression and even anxiety disorders.

Deciphering Single Drink per Day

The recommended dosage of alcohol consumption is a single drink per day, but what does it mean when we say single drink. Single drink per day doesn’t mean a single glass or bottle or shot of alcohol. A standard single drink is one can of beer, approx. 12 ounces containing 5% alcohol, one standard size drinking glass, around 8 ounces of 7% of mail liquor, one glass of wine, about 5 ounces with 12% alcohol and one shot of 40% alcohol or 1.5 ounces. Any amount of drink exceeding this will fall out of the allowed range and will have the mentioned effects above.

What’s Pump and Dump?

Mothers often do the “pump and dump” technique thinking that this will give them instant safe milk for the baby. Unfortunately that’s not how this works. As long as the alcohol is present in your blood levels, it will flow freely and easily in your breastmilk as well. The pump and dump method only works when the mother has been drinking for a while, has been away from the child for 5-6 hours and her breasts have started to feel heavy and engorged. In order to relieve breast fullness she can pump the milk out and dump it.

Alcohol and Breast Milk Production

There’s absolutely no truth in alcohol being a milk supply booster, it’s just an old legend or maybe a rumor spread from a mother who really didn’t want to give up her alcohol, no matter what!  In fact, it’s quite the contrary, it actually decreases your milk production as it affects the hormonal response or the letdown effect to slow down.

Takeaway

Drinking alcohol and nursing the baby doesn’t really mix well, the best way is to keep your hands off the alcohol for the time you’re nursing but if that’s not a possibility then either you nurse the baby immediately after drinking or wait for 2-3 hours after having a single drink.

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