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  • The ACOG says it is acceptable to consume 0.5g of alcohol per kg of body weight while breastfeeding.
  • Pumping and dumping will not make your milk safe. You have to wait for the alcohol to leave your system.
  • A good rule of thumb is to wait 2 hours to start breastfeeding, but you may need to wait longer.

Although it is generally accepted that avoiding alcohol is the best option for breastfeeding mothers, there is a lot of confusion as to why and whether or not an amount is safe.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), alcohol consumption while breastfeeding should always be limited to 0.5 grams per kg of body weight – for example, 8 ounces of wine for a 130 pound person. (59kg).

The ACOG also recommends waiting at least two hours after drinking before pumping or breastfeeding.

There are several reasons why it is important to limit the amount of alcohol you drink while breastfeeding. According to the ACOG, not only can drinking too much cause you to produce less milk, it can also stunt your baby’s development.

With that in mind, here are the do’s and don’ts of drinking while breastfeeding.

Can I pump and dump?

The “pump and dump” technique — which involves pumping out milk and then dumping it — can help relieve engorged breasts, but it won’t make your milk safer, says Monica Grover, DO, MS, board-certified obstetrics gynecologist. and Family Medicine and Chief Physician of VSPOT.

The idea behind pumping and dumping is that you pump any milk that contains alcohol, so the next time you pump or breastfeed, the milk is alcohol-free. But alcoholic milk does not come in batches.

What is important to know is that if there is alcohol in your bloodstream, it will show up in your milk no matter how many times you pump.

How long should you wait after drinking to breastfeed?

ACOG advises waiting two hours after drinking before pumping or breastfeeding to give your body time to break down the alcohol.

However, Grover notes that there are a few factors that can affect the time it takes for alcohol to metabolize, such as your weight, what you’re drinking, and whether or not you’ve recently eaten.

For example, according to a 2022 study, food delays alcohol metabolism, so you may have to wait even more than two hours if you eat and drink at the same time.

It’s also important to consider the strength and volume of what you’re drinking, because the concentration of alcohol in your milk depends on the alcohol level in your blood, says Grover.

For example, drinking an 80-degree alcoholic drink contains 40% alcohol by volume, while a 5-ounce glass of wine contains 12% alcohol, and a can of beer contains 5% alcohol. .

So if you drink a glass of alcohol you will have a lot more alcohol in your blood than if you drink a beer and you will have to wait longer to metabolize all that alcohol out of your system.

“Remember that everyone metabolizes alcohol differently and that rate can change from day to day,” says Kecia Gaither, MD, board-certified OB-GYN and maternal fetal medicine physician and director of services perinatal at NYC Health + Hospitals/ Lincoln.

Also, the more alcohol you consume, the longer it stays in your blood and breast milk. While alcohol from one drink can be detected in breast milk for two to three hours, alcohol from three drinks can remain in breast milk for six to eight hours.

Since the timing can vary, Grover recommends waiting as long as possible – but at least two just to be safe.

What alcohol does to breast milk and baby

Drinking in moderation (i.e. one glass a day) is not considered dangerous for a baby, as long as the mother waits at least a few hours before expressing milk or breastfeeding.

It’s when you start drinking more that it becomes a problem. For example, according to the ACOG, regularly drinking more than two glasses a day while breastfeeding can cause abnormal weight gain, drowsiness and weakness in your baby.

And a 2013 study found that infants slept an average of 25% less after ingesting alcohol-containing milk. The review also found that milk-fed infants from women with the highest alcohol consumption scored significantly lower on scales of psychomotor development (i.e. cognitive, emotional, physical and social abilities) .

The reason for this is that even though a baby is only exposed to about 5-6% of the amount of alcohol the mother drinks, they eliminate alcohol at only half the rate of an adult due to a smaller and still developing liver.

As it takes longer for babies to clear alcohol from their system, they are exposed to it for longer and to its potentially harmful effects.

The other problem with drinking alcohol and breastfeeding is that they reduce the amount of milk you produce. In fact, just one or two glasses can reduce the amount of milk your baby drinks by 20-23% because alcohol makes the nerves in your nipples less sensitive to your baby’s mouth, reducing the amount of milk. that you can release while breastfeeding.

“Without this reflex, your baby can’t suck and empty the breast effectively,” says Grover. Worse still, “when milk stays in the breasts, it sends a signal to your body to reduce production.”

Advice and non-alcoholic alternatives

If you want to have an occasional alcoholic beverage while breastfeeding, here are some tips from Grover to keep in mind:

  • Nurse before a drink
  • Pre-pump milk and refrigerate ahead of time
  • Limit consumption to one drink per day, taking into account your eating schedule
  • Use alcohol test strips before pumping or breastfeeding to make sure the alcohol has left your bloodstream
  • Enter your weight and alcohol intake into a breastfeeding-specific calculator to determine when it’s safe to breastfeed

There are also plenty of non-alcoholic alternatives to enjoy while breastfeeding. Here are a few that Grover recommends:

Something to keep in mind with coffee and tea: ACOG recommends limiting caffeine intake to 200 milligrams per day while breastfeeding. You may want to avoid caffeine or limit your intake as much as possible right after your baby is born, as newborn babies are especially sensitive to the effects of caffeine in the first two weeks after delivery, according to ACOG. .

Insider’s Takeaways

Moderate alcohol consumption – one drink a day – is not harmful to your baby, as long as you wait at least two to three hours before expressing milk or breastfeeding.

However, the more you drink, the more likely it is that not only will your milk supply decrease, but also that alcohol will harm your baby.

Remember: how much you drink, what you drink, and even your weight all play a role in how long alcohol stays in your system (and milk).

To minimize the risks to your baby’s development, you may want to stick to low-alcohol beverages like beer and wine, or opt for non-alcoholic alternatives.

If you ever begin to suspect that your drinking habits may be interfering with your ability to breastfeed or pose risks to your baby’s health or wellbeing, Grover recommends talking to your doctor — they can assess the changes. that may be needed and help you get all the help you need to make these changes.