Woman bottle feeding her baby.

How to Enjoy a Glass of Wine While Breastfeeding

After abstaining from alcohol for nine months, many new mothers are excited to finally enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or while unwinding with a good book. However, if you’re breastfeeding, restricting alcohol intake should still be a daily practice. Since what you consume is passed onto your baby through your breast milk, having alcoholic beverages can present a degree of danger when handled improperly. While you don’t have to continue complete restraint, there are some things that you should keep in mind to make sure that you’re being safe. To give you all of the information you need, here’s how to enjoy a glass of wine while breastfeeding.

What to Know About Alcohol and Breastfeeding?

Everybody metabolizes alcohol at different rates. The speed in which your blood alcohol content (BAC) returns to normal depends on your weight, the number of drinks you consume, the alcohol content of the drinks, and the time since consumption. Generally speaking, the effects of alcohol peak about 30 to 60 minutes after consumption and then gradually wane as time passes. When consumed with food, this changes and effects peak around 60 to 90 minutes. Since alcohol takes about one to three hours to fully metabolize, you should wait at least two hours after one drink before nursing. If you’ve had two drinks, you’ll need to wait four hours, et cetera. As a rule of thumb, wait two hours for every drink you consume.

There are also several factors that you need to consider regarding alcohol and breastfeeding. Newborns are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol, even if there are trace amounts. This means that you may want to wait longer than two hours after consuming alcohol before breastfeeding your newborn. As babies age, they are able to metabolize trace amounts of alcohol faster, causing less of an impact. The effect of alcohol on your baby is always directly proportional to the amount of alcohol you’ve consumed and whether or not it’s been metabolized. If you’re ever in doubt, stay safe and use previously expelled milk.

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How Alcohol Affects Milk Production

While there is a myth that alcohol increases milk production circulating the breastfeeding community, it’s not true. Alcohol does not increase your milk production. In fact, alcohol actually inhibits letdown and can contribute to decreased milk production. This is due to the fact that alcohol inhibits oxytocin, which is the hormone that fuels your letdown. It’s been found that nursing immediately after one or two drinks can decrease your baby’s milk intake by 20 to 23%, so opt for expelled breast milk fed through a bottle until you can be sure your body has cleared the alcohol.

How Alcohol Affects Your Baby

Unmetabolized alcohol can pass onto your baby through your breast milk. While small traces of alcohol are not likely to cause extravagant health issues, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Alcohol can increase irritability in your baby, disrupt their sleeping patterns, and create hormonal imbalances. With repeated exposure to alcohol through breast milk, abstract reasoning ability is reduced, and future academic performance may be impacted. Regardless of whether you have one drink or five, the best way to ensure that your baby stays safe is to wait to nurse until you can be sure that your BAC is 0%. However, according to some sources, maternal blood alcohol levels must attain 300 mg/100 ml before significant side effects are reported in a baby. While this doesn’t justify consuming large amounts of alcohol, it can provide a little peace of mind when you have a responsibly consumed glass of wine every now and then.

Drink Sizes Vary

When having your alcoholic beverage, remember that different drinks have different amounts of alcohol in them. What’s considered “one drink” therefore depends on the overall alcohol content. For example, one drink tends to equate to 12 fluid ounces of beer (not including beer with high ABV), 5 fluid ounces of wine, and 1.5 fluid ounces of distilled spirits. While the type of alcoholic beverage you prefer to consume does not affect how your body metabolizes it, the amount does. Regardless of how you choose to enjoy your alcohol, make sure that it’s limited based on serving size.

Even though your body can metabolize alcohol in your blood stream to safe levels with the passage of time, breastfeeding mothers should still limit their consumption. The general guidelines recommend that breastfeeding mothers stick to only one or two alcoholic drinks per week, allowing you to enjoy yourself without causing any harm to your baby.

The Truth About Pumping and Dumping

Just as drinking a cup of coffee won’t actually sober you up, pumping and dumping won’t remove the alcohol from your bloodstream. Pumping and dumping has absolutely no effect on how fast your body metabolizes alcohol, so it’s pointless. Your breast milk will only be free of alcohol when your body has fully metabolized it—there are no shortcuts around this. Since everyone’s bodies are different, this timeline varies. Some mothers prefer to be 100% sure that their breast milk is safe before nursing, which is completely understandable. Luckily, there are several products available for mothers to purchase so they can test their breast milk for traces of alcohol. This is a fast, easy option that removes all of the guess work and gives you confidence in safely feeding your baby.

Enjoying a Glass of Wine While Breastfeeding

It’s not uncommon for mothers to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer after delivering and when done safely, it will not harm your baby. Breastfeeding is a wonderful, beautiful experience that allows new mothers to bond with their babies and provide them with everything they need for a healthy development. However, despite how much you enjoy these moments, breastfeeding can be draining and frustrating at times. After nine months of abstaining from alcohol, many medical professionals agree that enjoying a glass of wine while breastfeeding is perfectly fine. As long as you drink in moderation and avoid nursing immediately following consumption, your baby will be healthy and continue to reap the benefits of your breast milk.

If you have any questions or concerns about drinking during breastfeeding, always discuss them with your doctor and never do anything that you’re not comfortable doing. Don’t succumb to peer pressure from friends or family members trying to get you to drink if you don’t want to. You’re entitled to making your own decisions and you shouldn’t have to feel bad about doing so.

Additionally, while the occasional glass of wine or beer is fine and won’t cause damages, excessive alcohol use can and will create problems for your newborn. If you have difficulty drinking in moderation, binge drink regularly, or think that you may be suffering from alcoholism, reach out to a loved one and seek help. Fetal alcohol syndrome occurs during pregnancy and can lead to brain damage and growth problems, but it’s irreversible. Alcohol use and abuse during breastfeeding can also result in developmental disorders and varying degrees of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Just remember that addiction can happen to anyone and you’re not alone, but getting treatment is essential in protecting the health of your baby. If you have been drinking in excess, have your partner feed your baby with expelled milk and do not bed-share with your baby.

Create a Backup Plan with Breast Pumping

To give you everything you need to confidently enjoy a glass of wine while breastfeeding, make sure that you have options. Begin by exploring your options for ordering a breast pump ahead of delivery. There are hundreds of great options on the market but finding something that works for you is essential to actually using the pump and expelling an adequate amount of milk. Begin building your milk supply to help prepare yourself for nights when you want to enjoy a drink or two and if you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding and alcohol consumption, reach out to your doctor.

Byram Healthcare is here to help you along your pregnancy journey and into motherhood. In addition to our resources, Byram makes it easy to order an insurance covered breast pump at no cost to you. Get started with our simple, three-step ordering process today, or reach out to a representative using the live chat option on our website.