Breastfeeding and drinking alcohol is a touchy subject for many, with some suggesting that women can’t drink at all while breastfeeding, and others suggesting that they can. The problem lies in the simple fact that we don’t know how alcohol affects the baby’s developing brain. The alcohol does pass through the mother’s milk, making the consumption of alcohol appear to be improper.
Medicinal Alcohol for Babies
Generations ago, alcoholic beverages were used for medicinal purposes, and in some cases, babies were given alcohol in order to alleviate symptoms associated with common problems that occur during infancy.
The problem is that the effects on the baby’s brain and body are unknown, making drinking alcohol while breastfeeding unwise. Basically, if you would not drink while pregnant, you should not drink while breastfeeding. However, some assert that this leads to fewer mothers breastfeeding as long as they should.
Can You Drink Alcohol while Breastfeeding?
The short answer to the question of whether you can drink while breastfeeding is “no” but this does not mean that you have to abstain completely nor does it mean that you have to stop breastfeeding completely in order to enjoy a glass of wine. The key is to use common sense and moderation when dealing with alcohol and breastfeeding.
It is important to keep in mind that the alcohol does not stay in the milk after you have a drink. It metabolizes out of the milk-producing systems just as it does in the blood. As a rule of thumb, if you feel tipsy, do not breastfeed. Keep breast milk stored for bottle feeding if you have an alcoholic beverage.
A doctor friend suggests that having one or two drinks before breastfeeding is safe, but little information supporting this claim is available. Considering that the alcohol leaves the system, the “pump-and-dump” approach does not appear to be helpful, especially if you pump, dump, and breastfeed while you are still under the influence.
Balancing Alcohol and Breastfeeding
The best approach is to abstain from alcoholic beverages while you are breastfeeding, and if this is too difficult for you to do, try some of the following strategies.
- Have alcoholic beverages after the baby goes to sleep for the night.
- Keep milk stored in the freezer or refrigerator.
- Wait until all signs of alcohol influence has left your system before breastfeeding.
- Try pumping and dumping as an additional precautionary measure, but do not pump, dump and nurse immediately. The alcohol may still be present in the milk.
- Do not drink alcohol at all during pregnancy.
- Avoid alcohol completely during the baby’s first six weeks of development.
Discuss the ideas with your physician. If you are a heavy drinker, make sure that you get proper treatment for potential alcoholism. Breastfeeding is an important component to a baby’s health and development. The ideal situation offers the baby the best possible nutrition, and alcohol is not helpful for the infant’s development.