Alcohol and breastfeeding
If you are breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed you are making the healthiest choice for your baby.
If you drink alcohol, your breast milk will contain alcohol or a few hours afterwards.
Alcohol can harm your baby, so it's safest to avoid alcohol while you are breastfeeding.
Is it OK to drink alcohol when I’m breastfeeding?
If you drink alcohol it gets into the breast milk your baby drinks. The level of alcohol in your milk will be similar to the level of alcohol in your blood. Alcohol can harm your baby so it is not safe to breastfeed while there is alcohol in your bloodstream.
To protect your baby the easiest, safest way is to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.
The early days of breastfeeding
In the first month or so you should avoid alcohol altogether. This is because it takes time for your body to get rid of any alcohol you drink (2-3 hours for every standard drink) so that your milk is safe again for your baby.
During the first month your baby will likely be feeding very frequently and so your baby may need to feed before the alcohol has been cleared from your system.
After the first few weeks
While you are breastfeeding you are advised not to drink alcohol, however if you choose to drink alcohol while breastfeeding take these steps to protect your baby:
- Try to breastfeed your baby before you drink alcohol, so that you will have time between feeds for the alcohol to leave your body. It can take up to 3 hours for the amount of alcohol in 1 standard drink to leave your body.
- Express some breast milk into a bottle before you drink alcohol, in case your baby needs to feed before you are ready
- Wait 2-3 hours after drinking one standard drink before you breastfeed.
- Your milk flow may not be as strong as usual if there is alcohol in your system but this will return to normal again once your body has cleared the alcohol.
Why it’s better to avoid alcohol
It’s best not to drink at all when you are looking after a baby:
- Alcohol in your milk can affect your baby’s development
- Alcohol can affect your milk supply and flow
- Alcohol can affect your judgement and coordination - you may not be able to take care of your baby properly if you are affected by alcohol
- If your baby drinks alcohol in your milk, their sleep may be upset
How to manage breastfeeding with a night out
- Express some breast milk into a bottle before you drink alcohol, in case your baby needs to feed before you get home or before your milk is free of alcohol.
- Remember you need to allow at least 2 hours per standard drink before you can feed again.
- Expressing milk can help to maintain your supply while you are away from your baby. It can also relieve you if your breasts are very full. This milk will have alcohol in it, so it won’t be any use to keep it.
- Expressing milk won’t clear the alcohol from your milk supply any faster. The alcohol in your milk comes from your bloodstream. You need to wait until your liver processes the alcohol from your blood.
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