With the holidays fast approaching, many moms may wonder what is the best protocol for breastfeeding while celebrating, especially when it comes to drinking alcohol. After nine tiring months of pregnancy and adjusting to breastfeeding schedules, new moms everywhere deserve to unwind a bit during the holidays. However, while there is never any shortage of reasons to celebrate this time of year, safety for mama and baby remains top priority. Pumps for Mom is here for you to deliver the latest research and health guidelines concerning alcohol and breastfeeding.
Drinking Alcohol While Pregnant
Before we dive into the facts about drinking and breastfeeding, let’s take a step back and cover the guidelines for drinking alcohol during pregnancy. According to the CDC, there is no amount of alcohol that is safe to drink while pregnant. The body is working overtime to grow a baby, and alcohol can have some serious health consequences for your little one during and after pregnancy. Any alcohol consumed by a pregnant woman can travel through the umbilical cord to a growing baby and may result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Alcohol can even cause problems in those first few weeks of pregnancy before many moms even realize they are expecting. So if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, it is best to abstain from drinking alcohol entirely.
Can I drink alcohol while breastfeeding?
Many moms are familiar with the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, and, understandably, these concerns continue to exist when a mom is breastfeeding or expressing breast milk with a breast pump. Not drinking alcohol at all is certainly the safest option for moms who are breastfeeding, as it eliminates the risk that a growing baby ingests any alcohol. However, experts generally agree that moderate alcohol consumption, specifically one standard drink per day, is not harmful to an infant, especially if a mom waits at least two hours after a single drink before breastfeeding. It is important to note that alcohol can pass into breast milk if moms do not delay breastfeeding long enough for the alcohol to dissipate from the body, which is potentially dangerous for a growing baby.
Tips to breastfeed safely after drinking alcohol
Whether it’s a planned girls’ night or a glass of wine at Thanksgiving dinner, nursing mothers can absolutely enjoy a drink as long as they do it safely. In general, if a mom has one standard drink, she should wait at least two hours after she finished the drink before breastfeeding or expressing breast milk. A standard drink is equal to 12 ounces of 5% beer; 8 ounces of 7% malt liquor; 5 ounces of 12% wine; or 1.5 ounces of 40% (80 proof) liquor. After two hours, a standard drink should have made its way out of the body and will not pass to breast milk.
The common idea of “pumping and dumping” refers to when a mom pumps breast milk after drinking alcohol and throws that milk away. And although some moms may claim otherwise, this process does NOT get alcohol out of the body more quickly. A mom may “pump and dump” her breast milk, but she must wait at least two hours after finishing one standard drink for that breast milk to be safe. Nursing moms can certainly pump their breast milk and discard it if their breasts are getting engorged or if they feel uncomfortable, but she should not store that breast milk or feed it to a baby. Additionally, each woman’s unique tolerance to alcohol and other factors, like if the alcohol was consumed with food, can impact how long it takes for blood alcohol levels to reach a safe range. For example, if a woman has three standard drinks, it will take at least six to eight hours for that alcohol to not be detectable in breast milk. When in doubt, wait a few extra hours, pump and dump if you feel uncomfortable, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor with specific questions.
It is possible to safely drink alcohol while breastfeeding if moms know the facts and drink responsibly! We understand the desire for a cup of eggnog or spiked apple cider this holiday season, and breastfeeding moms don’t have to be left out. Just remember to do it safely and give yourself plenty of time between your last drink and a pumping or breastfeeding session.
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