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8 things you should know about breastfeeding and alcohol

Drinking wine while breastfeedingAfter nine months of pregnancy you’re probably used to saying ‘no’ when you’re offered a drink.

But what about now the baby is here? Is it OK have a drink if you’re breastfeeding?

The short answer is that it is OK to have a glass of wine or a beer occasionally – but you need to plan ahead and you need to understand the way alcohol affects your body and your breast milk.

Here are some things you should know about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.

Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding

1. Alcohol gets into your breast milk from your blood

It takes about 30-60 minutes for the alcohol to reach your breast milk.

2. The alcohol level in your breast milk is the same as in your blood

So if your blood alcohol level is 0.05 then so is your breast milk alcohol level. Many factors contribute to your blood/breast milk alcohol level, including your size, how much you’ve eaten and how quickly you are drinking.

3. It takes about two hours for the average woman’s body to metabolise one drink

Depending again on your size etc. So your breast milk should be alcohol-free approximately two hours after you’ve drunk a standard drink. If you’ve had two standard drinks it will be four hours before your milk is alcohol-free etc. This is a general guide, however, as everybody will metabolise alcohol differently (see point 2).

4. There is no need to ‘pump and dump’ your breast milk after you have a drink

The alcohol will leave the breast milk in time (see number 3). Although some people will want to pump to relieve engorgement and/or to maintain their supply. If you express breast milk while the alcohol is in your system you should NOT keep that milk (see point 6).

5. A baby less than a month old will have trouble metabolising any amount of alcohol …

… in your milk. Also they may have an irregular and frequent feeding pattern which means it will be hard for you to predict when the next feed will be. Once a baby is older and in an established routine you may be able to have a drink knowing that the next feed will not be for a few hours, by which time your milk will be alcohol-free

6. If you’re planning on having a few drinks consider expressing milk in advance to bottlefeed your baby

If you miss a feed and your breast become engorged while you’re still affected by alcohol you should express and throw out that milk. Once milk is expressed the alcohol will remain in it.

7. The ‘safest option is to NOT drink alcohol’ …

… according to the Australian Government’s guidelines for alcohol consumption while breastfeeding. They also recommend you avoid drinking alcohol in your baby’s first month and then after that limit your drinking to just two standard drinks a day (but not every day).

8. Breast milk with a small amount of alcohol in it is better than letting a baby go hungry

If your baby is hungry and you’ve had a small amount of alcohol, but you’re not sure if it has completely left your body yet, you should know that it is better to feed your baby than let your baby go hungry.


– Information from the Australian Government’s New Guidelines for Alcohol Consumption and the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

Image credit: taden/123RF Stock Photo

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