Hey mamas, many of us are wandering when you can have that long awaited sip of your favorite wine again after giving birth. I am personally a big fan of good Belgian white beer (you just can’t substitute it with the non-alcoholic version!). But being a fresh nursing mom the priorities are clear: the health and safety of baby comes before satisfying personal cravings. Many moms feel awkward to ask their doctor about how long after drinking alcohol can you breastfeed. And the opinions vary greatly from doctor to doctor.
After digging around, I came to conclusion that with proper timing and moderation of the consumption we can ensure the well-being of baby and still treat ourselves once in a while.
First of all, please note that many experts recommend against drinking more than 1-2 drinks per week.
When it comes to having that occasional drink while nursing, staying in the safe zone is mostly determined by your timing and the alcohol amount. As with anything a breastfeeding mom consumes, alcohol gets into her blood stream and ultimately gets into the milk.
How alcohol passes through mom’s milk
From the consumed alcohol roughly under 2% make it into the breast milk. Alcohol does not stay “stuck” in the milk as it does not stay in the blood. It passes through. According to La Leche Group International (LLLI) “Alcohol passes freely into mother’s milk and has been found to peak about 30 to 60 minutes after consumption, 60 to 90 minutes when taken with food. Alcohol also freely passes out of a mother’s milk and her system.” It takes longer for alcohol to get into the blood and then pass if you are drinking while eating or drinking right after eating. The food absorbs some of your alcoholic drink, which then takes longer to get digested through the stomach.
LLLI also states that “within two to three hours, the alcohol content from one serving of beer or wine will have passed out of her [mom’s] system”. Lactation consultants say that more than one drink (wine or beer) an hour will take longer to pass your body.
You can slightly speed up passing of the alcohol by drinking water afterwards. About 5% of the alcohol is processed by the kidneys and not the liver. So drinking water will help the kidneys detoxify your body a little faster.
If you are choosing to go for that drink, the best time to do so is right after a feed or even while you are breastfeeding. If the timing didn’t work out and you don’t feel safe to feed, you can always skip the next feed and offer you baby a bottle. Some moms pump ahead and store up milk for such occasions. Formula will work as well.
There are now breast milk alcohol test strips available that will give you a clear indication if your milk is safe for baby. For total piece of mind, before attempting to feed the baby, express a bit of milk on the strip and in 2 minutes you will have your answer.
Milk Bath instead of “Pump and dump”
Pumping milk after having a drink is a good idea if you are skipping a feed. Doing so will keep up the breastmilk production. Pumping after having a drink will not however make the alcohol content go away from the milk faster. The alcohol will leave the milk as it leaves the blood.
You can do much better than the “dump” part however. Breast milk is too nutritious and valuable. It can be saved in a freezer (six months to a year!) and at a later time added to baby bath for a milk bath. The rich nutrients are nourishing for baby’s skin. Their young skin will feel even softer and plumper afterwards. Breast milk bath is also great as treatment for eczema or other baby skin irritations. Here is a good guide for a milk bath for your baby.
If you decide to have a night off feeding and indulge in more than just one drink, make sure someone is there to look after the little kiddo. Otherwise, I believe treating ourselves in a safe way is a great way to increase life balance as the world turns upside down when that new and wonderful bundle of joy arrives at home.
I am curious to hear from other moms. Feel free to comment and let me know where you stand on this matter.