When it comes to drinking alcohol when breastfeeding, the National Health & Medical Research Council Guidelines 'To reduce health risks from drinking alcohol' are clear: for women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to consuming alcohol when breastfeeding.
How long does alcohol remain in your breastmilk?
Alcohol enters your breastmilk approximately 30 – 60 minutes after you start drinking, where it remains for several hours. The general rule is that for every standard drink you have, you need to wait at least two hours before you can breastfeed again.
Doesn’t drinking alcohol increase milk production and help breastfeeding mothers relax?
It’s a common myth that alcohol can increase milk production and help breastfeeding mothers relax. Instead, alcohol actually inhibits let-down, which in turn can create stress for you and your baby if they're not able to get enough milk.
Can drinking breastmilk containing alcohol harm your baby?
When you drink, the concentration of alcohol in your blood and breastmilk is the same. Therefore, exposure to alcohol through breastmilk can have serious implications for a baby, including affecting how their brain and spinal cord develops.
If I do choose to drink while I’m breastfeeding, how can I make sure I do so as safely as possible?
Experts recommend avoiding drinking for at least the first month after your baby is born so that you can establish a feeding pattern. If you then choose to drink while breastfeeding, there are a few steps you can take to help ensure the safety of your baby and to protect your milk supply.
Firstly, we recommend you download the Feedsafe app, which calculates when you can safely breastfeed according to your height and weight, plus the number of drinks you have had.
The general rule is to always breastfeed your baby before you drink, and to eat before and while drinking alcohol. You should also consider expressing in advance so that you have breastmilk to feed your baby while you are drinking alcohol, as you may need to express the milk that you’re not able to give to the baby to avoid your supply being affected.
If I do choose to drink, do I need to pump and dump?
If you have been drinking and still have alcohol in your system, no amount of pumping and dumping will clear the alcohol from the breastmilk. It is only once your bloodstream has cleared of alcohol that your breastmilk will be clear of alcohol.
Who can I go to for personalised information?
Speak to your GP, midwife, obstetrician or lactation consultant if you would like further information. You can also contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association helpline on 1800 686 268.