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Alcohol & Breastfeeding

You’ve been without alcohol for 9 months and you’d love to unwind with a glass of wine - we get it. A common question you might have is, “Is this safe for my baby while I’m breastfeeding?” The short answer is yes, if in moderation.

How long does alcohol take to enter your milk supply?

It takes about 30 minutes from the moment you start drinking alcohol for it to be present in your milk. This means that if while you’re nursing you’d like to sip on a glass of wine, this should be safe - as you’ll likely be finished nursing by the time any trace of alcohol could be found.

How long does alcohol take to leave your milk supply?

One alcohol drink leaves your milk just as it leaves your bloodstream, which is in about 2-3 hours. If you are still feeling the effects of alcohol, it is likely still in your milk supply. If you are feeling clear-headed, your milk is likely in the clear as well. A safe rule of thumb is if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to feed. 

If you want to be sure, you can purchase Milkscreen Tests to ensure your breastmilk is good-to-go. Simply saturate the test pad with a few drops of breast milk, then check for any color change 2 minutes later. No color change = no alcohol present!

Something to keep in mind, however, is to not share a bed or sleeping space with a baby after you’ve consumed any alcohol, as drinking can affect your natural reflexes. 

Let’s discuss some myths that we’ve all heard about drinking while breastfeeding…

The "Pump and Dump" method

In case you aren’t familiar with this term, “pump and dump” refers to pumping and throwing away your breastmilk. The intention here is to pump the milk that has been contaminated with alcohol and allow fresh milk to come in. However, this is not how it works! Because alcohol leaves your milk just as it leaves your bloodstream, if you’re able to wait about 2 hours after having one drink, you can still use your milk!

Some of the reasons the “pump and dump” method might make sense, is if:

  • You want to keep up your milk supply while you’re not able to nurse.
  • You are engorged and need relief.

The “pump and dump” method can be used as a benefit for mom’s comfort. But it does not speed up the process in which the alcohol leaves your milk.

Alcohol increases milk supply

Despite the rumors, alcohol does NOT increase your milk supply. In fact, even if your baby is nursing more frequently, they are intaking less than normal within the 3-4 hours following alcohol consumption. One study showed a 23% decrease in milk volume with one drink (Mennella & Beauchamp 1991, 1993; Mennella 1997, 1999).

If you do choose to treat yourself to a glass of wine or a refreshing cocktail postpartum, we hope you enjoy it. Being a new mom can be hard and you’re not alone! If you have any questions or concerns, please check with your doctor to be safe. For more information regarding this topic from the CDC, please click here.