Calling all wine lovers and cocktail enthusiasts! You can go ahead and enjoy that glass of Pinot with your pasta. It turns out that breastfeeding and alcohol aren’t a disastrous combination, as long as you consume in moderation. "Having a standard glass of wine or beer one to two times a week should be fine," says Liz Pevytoe, a registered nurse, certified lactation consultant, and founder of askthelactationconsultant.com. A standard beverage size is 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. It’s important to stick with these guidelines, since consuming too much alcohol while breastfeeding could stunt an infant’s growth and development, according to the CDC.
Kimberly Durdin, a certified lactation consultant, says alcohol does pass through breast milk—but usually in tiny amounts. Blood alcohol levels peak 30 to 60 minutes after ingesting boozy beverages, she says, and the alcohol will remain in breast milk for 2-3 hours per beverage. But it’s important to note that exact blood alcohol levels are based on various factors, including your body weight, speed of consumption, and whether you ate before drinking.
Durdin says that oxytocin, a hormone involved in lactation, becomes suppressed when you combine alcohol with breastfeeding. And studies have shown that alcohol consumption may decrease your milk production. If you notice a change in your supply, hold off on imbibing.
"As soon as you don't feel the effects of alcohol any more, it's safe to feed," Pevytoe says. "Because everyone metabolizes alcohol differently, it could be one hour or two after you drink, depending on your body." As a guideline, nursing moms should wait two hours after drinking alcohol when breastfeeding.
While you wait, you may need to express a little milk to keep from becoming engorged, but there's no need to pump and dump the whole batch. Milk doesn't hang around in your breasts waiting for a hungry baby to come calling; it's only produced on demand. This means once the alcohol has left your system, your breast milk will be free of it as well.
"Pumping and dumping is recommended far too often," Pevytoe says. "When I was breastfeeding my daughters, I'd nurse just prior to going out for the evening. We would go out, I'd have my glass of wine with dinner, and by the time my child needed to nurse again, I was able to feed her without pumping and dumping. As a mom, it's important to follow your own instincts. If you feel it would be safer to discard your milk, then by all means do so. But research shows that one alcoholic beverage consumed should pose no ill effects on your nursing baby."
If you’re going to a party, and you know you'll be sipping more than the recommended maximum number of drinks, "plan on pumping and dumping until you become sober," Pevytoe advises. It’s also smart to pump before the party, so your baby has a steady supply until your blood alcohol levels lower.