Don’t confuse drinking while nursing, with drinking while pregnant. Having a few glasses of alcohol while you’re nursing may be okay if there are celebrations. But, it’s better to avoid it. If you have to drink, wait for at least 30-45 mins before breast-feeding your child, so that your alcohol levels can drop and your child will be away from harm.
Are you in a fix because your parenting books say one thing about drinking alcohol while nursing and some people suggest you to drink dark beer like Guinness to boost milk supply? Well, let’s break down some facts and look at whether alcohol poses any risks if you’re a nursing mother.
What happens when you drink alcohol?
When you drink alcohol, it moves from your stomach to your intestines and eventually to your blood. It also passes into breast milk in approximately the same concentration. For example, if your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent, then the alcohol in your breast milk will also be at 0.08 percent concentration.
The alcohol concentrations peak about 30 to 45 minutes after you’ve had your drink, and then they both start to drop as your body breaks the wine down. So instead of having to throw your milk away after you’ve been drinking, you may simply need to wait. Once you’ve sobered up, your milk will be alcohol-free again.
A recent research review on this topic suggested that babies break down alcohol more slowly than adults do, but since they consume so little alcohol from breast milk in the first place, this difference “should have no clinical significance.” There seems to be more alcohol concentration in some fruit juices—which can contain up to 0.1 percent alcohol due to fermentation of the sugars—than there is in the breast milk of a tipsy nursing mom.
But don’t confuse drinking while nursing with drinking while pregnant. Alcohol goes straight from an expectant mom’s bloodstream through her placenta. A fetus will have the same blood alcohol concentration as her mother.
Of course, this by no means concludes that drinking for a nursing mother is okay. There is a difference between having a few occasional drinks vs getting drunk to the point of extreme hangover like in your college days. If you’re drunk, you might accidentally hurt your baby. In fact, research suggests that you’re three times more likely to have an accidental fall if you’ve been drinking than if you have not.
It’s also extremely doubtful that alcohol will boost milk supply, even if your friends tell you that. In a 1991 study, researchers gave ethanol mixed with orange juice to nursing moms and found that immediately afterward their babies ate about 20 percent less. So it seems that alcohol actually reduces milk release in part by inhibiting the let-down reflex. These babies didn’t go hungry, though; they made up for this lost milk by eating more frequently later on.
Even with beer, there is limited evidence that barley, used to make beer, can stimulate the secretion of the hormone prolactin, which is involved in milk production.
So, having a glass or two of alcohol while you’re nursing may be okay if there are celebrations. But it’s better to avoid it, as you may have to wait for some time before breast-feeding you child for your alcohol levels to drop. Find other ways to relax, de-stress and indulge in healthy foods that will help improve your mood.