All Blogs | Facts on Alcohol Metabolism While Nursing

All Blogs | Facts on Alcohol Metabolism While Nursing

Facts on Alcohol Metabolism While Nursing

Being a breastfeeding mama comes with its own set of responsibilities and challenges, one of which is navigating the question of alcohol consumption. While it's natural to want to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail from time to time, it's crucial to understand the effects of alcohol on your breast milk and your baby. In this blog post, we'll explore the metabolism of alcohol in your body, discuss how it affects your breast milk, and provide you with practical guidelines on how long you should wait before nursing after drinking alcohol.

Remember, the key is to be informed so you can make the best choices for both you and your little one. Always consult with your doctors and lactation consultants who are aware of your specific circumstances and make decisions based on their guidance and your personal comfort. Also, refer to the American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC on published guidelines regarding alcohol consumption during nursing.

How Alcohol Affects Breast Milk

The amount of alcohol consumed can affect your breast milk and your baby. When you consume alcohol, it enters your bloodstream and can be detected in your breast milk. The amount of alcohol in breast milk is roughly similar to the alcohol content in your blood. As your body metabolizes alcohol, the concentration in your blood and breast milk gradually decreases overtime.

Alcohol can have negative effects on your baby, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed. That’s why it’s generally recommended for breastfeeding mamas to completely avoid alcohol when breastfeeding just to be on the safe side.

Here are some key effects between alcohol and breastfeeding:

  • Delayed Development: Maternal alcohol consumption can impair a baby's neurological development.
  • Reduced Milk Production: Alcohol can temporarily reduce milk production. This is because it can interfere with the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for milk ejection. As a result, your baby may not feed as efficiently, and you might experience engorgement or discomfort.
  • Altered Sleep Patterns: Some babies may have disrupted sleep patterns when exposed to alcohol in breast milk. They might have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep for extended periods.
  • Decreased Motor Skills: Babies may experience decreased motor skills and coordination when exposed to alcohol through breast milk, making breastfeeding more challenging for them.
baby on bed next to breast pump

Understanding Basic Alcohol Metabolism

Let's take a closer look at how alcohol is metabolized in your body. When you consume alcohol, your liver works to break it down. The rate at which alcohol is metabolized varies from person to person and can be influenced by factors like body weight, amount and type of alcohol, and whether consumed with food.

It is the liver that metabolizes alcohol and at a constant rate, however this varies by person. A standard alcoholic beverage typically contains 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits like vodka or whiskey. Keep in mind that the strength of an alcoholic beverage can vary, so it's essential to read labels, measure what one drink looks like, and get familiar with alcohol guidelines while nursing.

Alcohol Consumption and Nursing

Now that you understand the potential risks associated with alcohol consumption while breastfeeding, let's discuss the measures you should take to stay informed on the best decision for you and your baby. 

Abstaining From Alcohol is the Safest Choice

Remember, the goal is always to minimize your baby's exposure to alcohol. If you’re hoping to make the safest decision for your little one, choosing not to drink alcohol is the best decision for your baby’s safety.

Consult A Healthcare Professional

Every mama’s journey is unique and requires specific guidance. If you have questions about your body, your baby, and alcohol consumption, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor for specialized guidance on what’s best for your situation.

One Standard Drink

If you choose to have an alcoholic beverage, limit it to one standard drink, and consume it slowly. You can consider having it with food as well. It is important to wait and ensure it is metabolized out of the breast milk. While each person metalizes alcohol at different rates, roughly, it may take about 2-3 hours for your body to metabolize one standard drink, but still won’t be fully cleared from breast milk.

Timing is Key

The timing of alcohol consumption is crucial. To minimize your baby's exposure to alcohol, it's best to have a drink right after breastfeeding or pumping. This allows for the maximum amount of time for your body to metabolize the alcohol before your next nursing session.

Pump and Dump

Some moms wonder if pumping and dumping breast milk after drinking can eliminate alcohol from their milk. No, this method is not very effective. Pumping does not speed up the elimination of alcohol nor remove it from newly produced milk, so it's not recommended.

Safe to Nurse

According to the CDC, the safest way to nurse is by completely avoiding alcohol. If you decide to drink alcohol, waiting until the alcohol has almost completely metabolized through your body before nursing again is the next best option. Due to the time it takes for the alcohol to run through the body, consuming more than one drink per day is not recommended.

Alcohol Content Matters

Remember that the alcohol content of your drink matters and you may have no way of measuring what you are consuming. A cocktail with a high alcohol content may take longer to metabolize than a glass of wine or a beer. Be mindful of this when deciding how long to wait before nursing and find out what one standard drink looks like.

Plan Ahead

If you know you'll be having an alcoholic beverage, consider pumping some breast milk beforehand. This way, you can have a supply of milk available for your baby while you wait for the alcohol to clear from your system.

Alcohol-Free Alternatives

There are plenty of alcohol-free alternatives available. You can enjoy delicious alcohol-free beer, wine, or mocktails without the worry of alcohol affecting your breast milk.

Celebrating Responsibly While Breastfeeding

Women cheers red wine glasses

Celebrations and special occasions are an inevitable and enjoyable part of life, and as a breastfeeding mom, you can partake in them while being mindful of your responsibilities. Celebrating responsibly while breastfeeding is not only possible but also essential for both you and your baby's well-being.

We understand the desire to learn how much alcohol is being passed on to your little one through breastfeeding. That’s why we created Milkscreen for breastfeeding mamas like you. Milkscreen allows mamas to test their breast milk and be informed about whether their breast milk contains alcohol content below a minimal threshold. The best part? You get peace of mind in 2 minutes. There’s a reason this mama-approved favorite has been trusted by moms for over 10 years!*

Being a breastfeeding mom doesn't mean you have to miss out on celebrations or special moments. You can participate while keeping your baby's well-being at the forefront of your priorities. Celebrating responsibly involves planning, moderation, and knowing what’s best for your body and your baby.

green heart and lightbulb design

Breastfeeding and alcohol consumption do not go well together so it's essential to be informed with your baby's well-being in mind. Understanding your body's alcohol metabolism rate and the timing of alcohol consumption in relation to nursing sessions can help you make informed choices. If you have any doubts or concerns, you can always be alcohol free, and otherwise seek advice from healthcare professionals who can provide guidance tailored to your unique circumstances.

*Refer to product leaflet for more information.