Drinking and breastfeeding do not exactly go hand in hand, but as a mom, are you ready for a much-needed date night? Perhaps a social function sans children for once? Looking forward to relaxing with a glass of wine after a long day? Are you currently breastfeeding? The latter question may not be an issue for moms of older children but for newer moms and those still in the breastfeeding years, having a drink (or two) can be a bit tricky.
Tricky, yes. Impossible, no.
“Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for breastfeeding mothers. However, moderate alcohol consumption (up to 1 drink/day) is not known to be harmful to the infant.”Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
This means that if your evening glass of wine was your only refuge from your busy day to day life before pregnancy, you don’t have to continue to deprive yourself. That being said, here are a few things to consider while drinking and breastfeeding along with a few mom hacks to help you figure out which route is for you.
Baby’s Health and Safety
For obvious reasons, drinking and breastfeeding to the point of getting intoxicated isn’t a good idea. (Is it ever a good idea?) You can’t take care of your baby if you can’t take care of yourself. It is important to remember your health and safety as well as your baby’s. As with anything, know that too much alcohol can be harmful.
However, drinking responsibly while breastfeeding may be okay without negatively affecting baby. The CDC warns that “exposure to alcohol above moderate levels through breast milk could be damaging to an infant’s development, growth, and sleep patterns.” Alcohol can adversely affect your baby’s sleep, motor skills, weight, and mental development.
What is Transferred Through Your Breastmilk
If you would not get behind the wheel of a car based on how much you’ve had to drink, then you certainly should not be drinking and breastfeeding at that point either. Studies from the Toxicology Data Network showed that “milk alcohol levels closely paralleled blood alcohol levels”, meaning that your Blood Alcohol Level or BAC, is a good indicator of what you would be feeding your baby.
Your Options If Drinking While Breastfeeding
Of course, the safest thing is to not consume any alcohol while breastfeeding, but if you are willing to take the extra steps to ensure your breastmilk is safe for baby to drink, then there are plenty of options out there for having a drink or two while breastfeeding.
It has been said that ‘timing is everything’, well drinking while breastfeeding is a case in which that holds true. Time your alcohol consumption correctly and you will not have to toss out any milk contaminated with alcohol, which is a waste of precious liquid gold for your baby. You can follow the rule of drinking and driving; if you wouldn’t or shouldn’t be driving, then you shouldn’t be nursing either. “If you are sober enough to drive you should be sober enough to breastfeed.” This is especially the case if you wait 2 hours after one drink before nursing according to the CDC.
There are neat little test strips like these from SelfCheck that allow you to check the alcohol content in your breastmilk. Testing your milk after you’ve had a drink can help you determine whether or not your milk is good for your baby yet. Results are ready in just 2 minutes letting you know whether you have to pump and dump (or wait the recommended 2 hours – please don’t waste your milk if you don’t have to) and ensuring the safety of your breastmilk before baby consumes any. This is a good backup option if you hadn’t planned to drink ahead of time.
If you know you will be having a drink, try pumping beforehand so that you can be sure to have your baby’s milk ready and non-alcoholic right when you need it. Pumping ahead of time is also a good way to avoid uncomfortable leaking or engorgement since it might be a couple of hours before you can nurse or pump again if you’re headed out for a date night or meeting up with your girlfriends.
As a side note: If you do plan on having a drink or two without pumping ahead of time, be sure to use breast pads. Having breast milk leak through your bra and clothes is not a good look. It is also pretty uncomfortable.
Did You Know? ‘Pumping and Dumping’ doesn’t actually do anything to mitigate the alcohol content in breast milk. It may help alleviate full or engorged breasts but as long as there is alcohol in your bloodstream, it will be in your breastmilk as well.
Benefits of Drinking and Breastfeeding
You may or may not have heard, but some alcoholic beverages can actually be beneficial for a breastfeeding mom by increasing milk supply. You can rule out that glass of wine or that fruity cocktail if you are looking for any benefit because most studies show that it’s the “polysaccharide found in barley and malt” which helps with milk production. Beer can increase a nursing mama’s milk supply by increasing prolactin, the hormone responsible for telling the body to make milk. An adult beverage with the added bonus of increasing milk supply? Score!
If you are going to go the beer route, then what better way to boost your milk supply than with a tasty stout? Bon Appetit has served up a list of 9 great milk stouts for the drinking and breastfeeding mamas to try. Looks like you’ll be kicking back a beer with the guys if you’re looking for more milk.
As with everything, moderation is the key mama. Cheers!
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