Around the holidays, I receive a flood of questions about how to safely enjoy an adult beverage while breastfeeding (and yes, you can have a drink!). The general rule: if it's in your blood it's in your milk. However, just because it goes into your milk does not mean it is there forever. The alcohol level in your milk maintains the same alcohol level as your blood. So once it is out of your blood it is also out of your milk. In fact, if you are responsible and plan your evening well, you may not even have to pump and dump your milk. Here are the tips I provide to new moms who are planning to have a drink while they are breastfeeding.
Breastfeed or pump right before you leave your baby, or if your baby is going with you, right before you decide to have a drink. This will help you avoid leaking or the need to pump due to fullness while your milk has alcohol in it.
Be prepared - have some pumped milk handy to feed if the baby gets hungry and your milk still has alcohol in it. If you are leaving the baby with a caregiver, leave the pumped milk with them and make sure they feel comfortable preparing and feeding a bottle. If this is your first time pumping, I recommend storing 3-4 ounces per milk bag and making bottles at a similar volume so that milk doesn't have to be thrown away if the baby doesn't eat it all. You can always feed more if the baby is still hungry.
Have your drink! Yep, I said it. It is perfectly acceptable to responsibly enjoy a drink or two while you're breastfeeding. Research shows that it takes approximately 2 hours per drink for your body to filter all of the alcohol from your system. So if you consume 1 drink, you should wait a minimum of 2 hours from the time your finish your drink before breastfeeding. If you have two drinks, you should waits minimum of 4 hours after you finish the second drink to breastfeed. Every body is different, so if you feel intoxicated even if you have waited the "recommended" amount of time, you should not breastfeed your baby.
What if you feel full and need to breastfeed/pump? If you have waited the recommended amount of time after having a drink and you do not feel intoxicated, you can safely breastfeed or pump your milk and keep it to feed to your baby another time. If you have not waited the recommended time, then you will need to pump your milk and dump it out.
Follow your gut. At the end of the day I always tell mothers to trust their gut. If you are unsure about if you can breastfeed or keep pumped milk due to alcohol consumption, air on the side of caution. Feed a bottle of pumped milk or throw the pumped milk in question out.
*Please drink responsibly and make sure your child is appropriately cared for if choosing to enjoy a drink or two.