Is it safe to consume alcoholic beverages while currently breastfeeding?

Here at Breastfeeding Mama Talk , one of the most common questions we get asked is , “Can I enjoy that alcoholic beverage even though I’m currently breastfeeding?” And the answer is yes, there are ways you can safely consume alcoholic beverages while currently breastfeeding. This is a topic MANY people seemed misinformed on. People ASSUME that just like when you’re pregnant everything you consume will go straight to baby. When you’re pregnant that is true, but when your breastfeeding you have more options as to how you can prevent something from going straight to baby.


Dr. Jack Newman, member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council, says this in his handout “More Breastfeeding Myths”:

Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.

So is pumping and dumping the trick to prevent alcohol from going to baby? Many woman are under the impression that they need to pump and dump their precious liquid gold when consuming alcohol, but sadly it isn’t necessary. Pumping and dumping your milk does not expedite the process of alcohol leaving your milk. Only thing it helps, is to comfort mom. Alcohol leaves your milk on its own just like it leaves your bloodstream. If you’re feeling engorged or full to the point of discomfort, that would be the only reason why I would say pumping and dumping may benefit you.

How long should I wait to nurse after drinking alcohol? This is the million dollar question. Every woman is different, For woman A it may have left her milk an hour after her first drink and for woman B two hours. It depends on the woman’s weight, how much food was eaten in the same time period, body fat, ect…  Straight from La Leche League- Generally speaking,  Alcohol is known to peak about 30 to 60 minutes after consumption, 60 to 90 minutes when taken with food. the more alcohol that is consumed, the longer it takes for it to be eliminated.  A heavier person can metabolize alcohol more quickly than a lighter person would.

So how will I know FOR SURE if alcohol is no longer present in my milk? Well you just don’t. It has been said that if you’re sober enough to drive then you’re sober enough to nurse. But there is always a possibility that when you drink no matter how little,that some may go to baby. There is also something else  I wanted to recommend although controversy surrounds this product, but a company called “UpSpring Baby” sells a product that allows you test the alcohol content in your milk, called, “Milk Screen.” It’s best not to rely on this test as your sole indicator when deciding whether or not it is safe for you to nurse, because the accuracy of these at home tests, as with ANY at home test, could be questioned. I will say when I asked my nursing mamas on my Breastfeeding Mama Talk facebook page what their thoughts were about this Milk screen product, I heard nothing but good things. One member said she liked it because it gave her a better idea on how long she would need to wait to nurse after consuming an alcoholic beverage. Another mom said that although it wasn’t something she solely relied on she liked the peace of mind. So it’s definitely something to look into, but again I cannot vouch as to the accuracy of this product.

What is a safe amount of alcohol to drink while nursing? Of course when nursing, you want to drink alcoholic beverages as little as possible and with less potency as possible. I have heard some woman say that alcohol actually dried their supply up. So not only could it potentially affect baby, but there is a possibility of it effecting your supply, if you were to consume alcoholic beverages regularly, but having  a drink or two every now and then so you don’t feel completely left out on girls night out, shouldn’t have a harmful effect on your supply or baby.

If alcohol was to still be present when I nursed, how harmful is it to my baby? Yes. Alcohol abuse (excessive drinking) by the mother can result in slow weight gain or failure to thrive in her baby. The let-down of a mother who abuses alcohol may be affected by her alcohol consumption, and she may not breastfeed enough. The baby may sleep through breastfeeding, or may not suck effectively leading to decreased milk intake. The baby may even suffer from delayed motor development. If you are concerned that you or someone you know is drinking alcohol excessively, call your doctor. -Source – La Leche League , but that is only if you ABUSE alcohol, that doesn’t apply if you’re not abusing alcohol and following the necessary steps to SAFELY consume alcohol while breastfeeding.


Quick tips I would suggest you do if you’re wanting to consume alcohol and breastfeed are:

*Make sure to have eaten a nice hearty meal before you drink.

*Have plenty of expressed milk stashed in the freezer before hand.

*If able to, wait until you have put baby down for the night to drink, that way by the next feeding at least four hours or more has passed.

*Completely optional, but use an at home testing kit such as,”Milk Screen” to test the alcohol content in your milk. (Although The Breastfeeding Mama Talk organization is not vouching for the accuracy of the results.)

Quick facts:

*One drink includes: 12 oz of 5% beer, or 5 oz of 11% wine, or 1.5 oz of 40% liquor (80 proof).

*Alcohol present in pumped milk is permanent. Hence the pump and dump theory, discard the milk if alcohol is present.

*Only in time will alcohol leave the milk. There aren’t any “tricks” to get the alcohol to leave sooner.

~In summary based on all the information I have gathered is, go out enjoy a drink or two, wait a couple of hours from first drink consumed to nurse and it shouldn’t be a problem. Most mothers I have talked to say they usually go out at night after they have already put the kids down for the night, so by the next feeding 6-8 hours had already passed. Always listen to your gut though. Mothers intuition is sometimes better than anything out there. If you are not feeling good about something you consumed and are that worried then worst case scenario you give baby some frozen milk that I’m sure you have stored in your freezer and wait until the next day to nurse. Just because you are breastfeeding doesn’t mean you have to be restricted in other areas of your life. I always hear people trying to compare nursing with pregnancy and the two couldn’t be any different. When your pregnant of course everything you consume goes directly to baby, but with nursing and alcohol there are ways around things you consume going to baby. If you are reading this that means you are doing your own research and not listening to all the old wives tales people spin. Remember you’re a nursing mother, but you CONTROL your own nursing experience, not the other way around. Don’t let the sanctimonious people around you dictate how you live your life.


Kristy Kemp (creator of Breastfeeding Mama Talk)

Resource Links:

La Leche League (FAQ on Alcohol)

KellyMom (Breastfeeding and Alcohol)

Picture credits:

Kayla McCay Atchison, Krista Hammar



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