Monday, November 12, 2012

Can I breastfeed and have a glass of wine?

So, the holidays are fast approaching and with them many situations where breastfeeding moms will have to decide whether to have an alcoholic beverage or not.  The last thing any of us want to do is hurt our babies.  But does not mean you have to wean just because you want to have a few drinks this holiday season?   I am not suggesting that you SHOULD drink.  But if you want to here are some guidelines and my disclaimer.
The standard guideline is 1-2 servings of wine or beer a day with no more than 4 servings a week. A serving is12 oz of 5% beer, or 5 oz of 11% wine, or 1.5 oz of 40% liquor (80 proof).  And then you have to wait a while.  I can get all medial and technical on you, but basically after drinking you should wait until you do not feel any effects of the alcohol before breastfeeding.   Which means that some mom’s will be able to return to nursing sooner than others.  Pumping and dumping does not remove the milk with alcohol.  Only your body and time can remove the alcohol from the milk.  But the great news is that you don’t have to dump milk just because you over drank.  Now, if you get too uncomfortable, you may have to pump and dump.  But otherwise, just wait until the alcohol’s effects wear off before returning to nursing.

The younger baby is the more careful you have to be.  Less than 16% of what you drink will be preset in your milk even at peak levels, but before three months old, baby’s liver may not be mature enough to process even that small amount of alcohol. The other reason is that younger babies nurse more frequently, giving your body less time to eliminate the alcohol before the next feeding.

If you know you are going to have an holiday party and you are leaving baby with the babysitter then pump before you leave so that 1) baby has milk an 2) so you are comfortable during the party. After the party you don’t have to pump when you get home to get rid of the alcohol milk.  You only have to wait until your body has processed the alcohol to resume nursing.    Here is a calculator so you can see how low it will take you to have zero alcohol in your milk.

For more usual situations, you can have a glass of wine or a beer with dinner if it will be a couple hours before baby nurses again.  Four glasses a week is probably still a good guideline (some experts say two) because we don’t have studies to show exactly how much is safe.  There have been a few studies that show chronic or excessive drinking can cause complications like poor weight gain and developmental delay.

So, here are some more resources for you to look at


  1. interesting! I'm sure there are mom's out there who will use this information, especially in the coming months! :)

  2. Thanks Anna! I think the holiday season is when I get the most questions about drinking and breastfeeding.