by Virginia B. Hargrove
You watched your drinking during pregnancy when solid research supports abstaining from or limiting alcohol. Now that your baby's arrived and you're nursing, you might be wondering if you can have an occasional drink.
According to our contributing expert Dr. Jack Newman, "The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers."
We've asked nursing moms about their concerns, dug through research and found answers. They wonder:
• How much alcohol gets into breast milk?
• Can I limit my baby's exposure to alcohol by not nursing for several hours after drinking?
• Do I need to pump and dump when I drink?
• What effect does alcohol exposure via breast milk on my baby?
• Should the baby's age factor into my decision?
If your questions don't appear in this list, let us know in the comments.
What's the dig on boobs, booze and babies? The official take on alcohol and breastfeeding differs and sometimes conflicts with itself. La Leche League points to research indicating that the amount of alcohol a baby receives when the breastfeeding mother drinks occasionally or limits her consumption to one drink or less per day hasn't been proven to be harmful. The bottom line: alcohol in small amounts, like one to two drinks per week appears harmless. Not willing to take that risk? The solution is to abstain from imbibing, and your breasts will be set to go. As the alcohol leaves your bloodstream, it also leaves your breast milk.
What happens when you drink? Let's follow that alcohol around your body:
For an occasional drink:
"The general rule of thumb is that you should refrain from nursing for two hours for every drink. For example: If you have a beer and finish it at eight you shouldn't nurse your baby until ten. If you need to pump before two hours then you should dump the milk, but there's no need to pump unless you're uncomfortable." ~Kat, IBCLC Intern
If you plan on several drinks:
Age Matters: A newborn's liver doesn't work efficiently. Alcohol in your breast milk leaves a tiny babe's system slowly. Up until three months, babies are able to eliminate waste products about half as efficiently as an adult.
What do we know about alcohol in breast milk and your baby's development? The limited research that exists suggests that alcohol in breast milk may affect your nursling in several ways:
Short term changes in your baby's behavior such as: