Wine and Breastfeeding
Sometimes a mom just needs a glass of wine… which is why I get so many questions about alcohol and breastfeeding!
A glass of wine has a way of helping us wind down. But breastfeeding moms often wonder if alcohol can affect their baby.
You could probably guess that no alcohol is BEST for your baby… but breastfeeding has so many benefits that having alcohol in moderation is better than not breastfeeding.
So we’ll talk about how to safely have that glass of wine while breastfeeding.
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Drinking Wine and Breastfeeding
Wine has been around for a very long time. It’s been around much longer than formula.
That means women have been drinking wine and breastfeeding for much of history.
Rest assured that wine is safe to drink in moderation as long as you follow guidelines. A glass of wine is known to have relaxing effects, so it can certainly help to wind down after a long day.
Alcohol and Breastfeeding
Let’s talk about alcohol and breastfeeding. There have been many in-depth studies on breastfeeding after drinking alcohol. Those studies give us breastfeeding and alcohol facts; they help inform how to make drinking alcohol while breastfeeding as safe as possible.
After drinking alcohol, your blood alcohol content rises. A breastfeeding mom’s milk alcohol content rises and falls along with her blood alcohol level.
So if you know your blood alcohol level then you also know your breast milk alcohol level.
Breastfeeding and Alcohol Facts
This study shows that babies don’t take as much breast milk after their mother drinks alcohol. Breast milk tends to change taste, and babies overall don’t like the taste of alcohol. Babies also don’t metabolize alcohol as well as adults do.
This study, done on babies after they breastfed following mom’s alcohol consumption, showed that babies don’t sleep as well. They sleep significantly less in the 3.5 hours following alcohol consumption than they would normally.
Another consequence of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding is slowed milk release. This is because it decreases the amount of oxytocin your body releases. Oxytocin is the hormone that helps your body release milk when your baby breastfeeds.
Breastfeeding and Alcohol: How Long to Wait
Because breastfeeding can cause some effects in your baby and your breast milk alcohol levels align with your blood alcohol, it’s recommended to wait 2-3 hours to breastfeed after having one standard drink.
Every mom is different though, and some metabolize alcohol faster than others. Keep reading for more information and check out the chart I included below based on body weight. Your body weight determines how quickly you metabolize alcohol depending on how much alcohol you drink.
You could always buy a blood alcohol tester to help you determine when your levels are safe. This way, you’ll know exactly when it’s safe for you to drink alcohol and breastfeed your baby.
How to Enjoy a Glass of Wine (or Other Alcoholic Drink) While Breastfeeding
If you want to enjoy a glass of wine while breastfeeding (in moderation), please do! Here are the steps to take to enjoy a glass of wine while breastfeeding.
- Breastfeed your baby before drinking.
- Enjoy your glass of wine.
- Wait 2-3 hours before breastfeeding again.
That’s it! Pretty simple. If you decide to have more than one drink, you’ll have to wait longer before you breastfeed again.
Alcohol and Breast Milk Supply
Some people say that dark beer increases your breast milk supply. Although alcohol has been said to increase breast milk supply, there isn’t any evidence to show it does.
In fact, it’s more likely that alcohol decreases breast milk supply. That’s because it decreases your milk ejection reflex. In other words, you don’t release milk as easily when your baby breastfeeds.
Additionally, babies often don’t eat as much following alcohol consumption. The taste of your breast milk changes and babies don’t like it.
The combination of those two things leads to your breasts not emptying as much as they should. Breast milk supply is dependent on demand, so if not as much milk is removed – your body can respond by making less.
It is possible however that an occasional glass of wine won’t cause problems for a breastfeeding mom. Alcohol can help you to relax which may cancel out the effects and lead to your body releasing more milk.
Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding probably won’t affect milk supply if it’s done occasionally and in moderation. The problem really comes when there’s too much alcohol consumption that results in your breasts not being emptied for an extended amount of time.
As long as you follow the guidelines for alcohol and breastfeeding, and drink in moderation, alcohol shouldn’t affect your breast milk supply.
Drinking Alcohol and Breastfeeding
If you decide to drink alcohol and breastfeed, following expert guidelines will help. The CDC recommends drinking no more than 1 standard drink per day if you’re breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding should be encouraged because it’s the best source of nutrition for babies. So while no alcohol is best, don’t worry about drinking up to one standard drink per day. If you follow the guidelines, your baby is getting the benefits of breast milk which outweigh any negatives.
If you’re wondering how much one standard drink is, check out the graphic below. I also included an alcohol and breastfeeding chart. It outlines how much time you should ideally wait before breastfeeding based on your weight and amount of alcohol consumed.
Alcohol and Breastfeeding Chart
Dietary Guidelines for Americans say that moderate consumption of alcohol is up to 1 standard drink per day. This is the safe amount of alcohol for breastfeeding mothers. This graphic shows how much one standard drink is, based on different alcohol types:
(This image is adapted from the CDC’s website)
The following alcohol and breastfeeding chart is extremely useful for determining how long it takes for alcohol to leave your system. I’ll help you be able to enjoy that glass of wine and breastfeed safely.
As you can see, the more you weigh the better you are able to metabolize alcohol from your system. So based on how much you weigh, adjust the time until you wait to breastfeed. Alternatively, you could try just drinking half a glass of wine and breastfeeding sooner. The less alcohol you drink, the less time you have to wait for it to metabolize out of your system.
(This alcohol and breastfeeding chart is adapted from this resource.)
What are the effects of drinking alcohol and breastfeeding?
The effects of alcohol and breastfeeding are as follows:
- Alcohol could make your baby not sleep as well.
- Your baby may have weight gain problems if too much alcohol is consumed.
- Breast milk supply could be effected because milk isn’t released as easily.
The effects of drinking alcohol and breastfeeding will be reduced if you follow guidelines and allow your body to metabolize the alcohol before breastfeeding again. You should wait 2-3 hours after drinking alcohol to breastfeed.
Signs of Alcohol in Breastfed Baby
Here are the signs of alcohol in your breastfed baby:
- Your baby doesn’t fall asleep well in the 4 hours following alcohol consumption.
- Your baby doesn’t stay asleep in the 4 hours following alcohol consumption.
- Your breasts don’t empty as much because of the effect on milk release.
- Your baby may fuss or not want to eat because of the flavor of your milk.
- There could be some psychomotor delays as your baby grows with frequent alcohol use.
Not all of the signs are obvious. Some women don’t notice that their baby isn’t eating as much. Although their baby may eat for the same amount of time, they may not get as much milk because it isn’t released as easily.
Psychomotor delays are also hard to determine as well. They take longer to recognize and they could be affected by other lifestyle or environmental factors.
Pump and Dump Breastfeeding Rules
There’s no need to pump and dump because your breast milk alcohol levels will fall as your blood levels fall. But if your baby gets hungry and you still “feel” that glass of wine, you can give formula or previously-stored breast milk.
If you do though, you should pump. Your breast milk supply could be affected if your baby doesn’t drain your breasts. If you do pump before the alcohol levels wear off, then you should dump that milk.
A better option would be to just wait until the alcohol wears off and then breastfeed your baby. (If they get hungry before then, give stored milk or formula). If your baby doesn’t eat at that point or after your baby eats – then pump. This is just to keep your milk supply up.
And if you wait until your blood alcohol levels drop before pumping then you can save that milk!
Breast milk is precious so save it for later if you can!
Wine, Alcohol and Breastfeeding Questions
How long after drinking can I breastfeed again?
General recommendations are to wait 2-3 hours after drinking one standard drink before breastfeeding again. But because everyone metabolizes alcohol differently, some people should wait longer than others. The amount of time you should wait to breastfeed depends on your weight and how much alcohol you drink.
I’ve included a chart above that describes how long you should wait after drinking to breastfeed again. For example, a 90-pound woman should wait 2 hours and 50 minutes before breastfeeding again. But a 210-pound woman only needs to wait 1 hour and 51 minutes because she’ll metabolize alcohol faster.
Does alcohol stay in breast milk if not pumped and dumped?
No, alcohol doesn’t stay in your breast milk if not pumped and dumped. The content of alcohol in your breast milk is directly related to the amount of alcohol in your blood. When the alcohol level in your blood decreases, it will also decrease in your breast milk.
There is no need to pump and dump. Instead, wait for the alcohol content to decrease before feeding your baby. You should only pump and dump if you give your baby formula or stored breast milk in order to keep your milk supply up.
Does wine decrease breast milk supply?
Wine can decrease your milk supply. It causes your breast milk to taste differently so some babies don’t eat as much. It also decreases oxytocin levels which inhibits the release of milk.
Both of those things can cause your breasts to not be emptied adequately which then causes supply decreases.
Can I have a glass of wine at night while breastfeeding?
Yes, you can have a glass of wine. The CDC recommends drinking up to one standard drink per day for breastfeeding mothers. The CDC also states however that no alcohol consumption is generally best for babies.
How much wine can I drink while breastfeeding?
It’s generally safe to have one standard drink per day while breastfeeding. The safest way to breastfeed after one standard drink is to wait 2-3 hours before breastfeeding again.
Wine, Alcohol and Breastfeeding: Final Thoughts
Breastfeeding is so beneficial for your baby, even with the occasional glass of wine or alcohol.
And sometimes a mom just needs that glass of wine! No worries, having a glass of wine and breastfeeding is safe as long as you follow the guidelines and don’t overdo it.
Kealy Hawk, BSN, RN, CLC
Kealy is a Registered Nurse, Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own baby feeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their feeding journey. She specializes in breastfeeding support and evidence-based formula recommendations. To talk with Kealy or take one of her breastfeeding or formula classes, visit https://littlebearcare.com.
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