DRINKING ALCOHOL WHILE BREASTFEEDING – MYTHS AND THE TRUTH

I have been breastfeeding for only 5 months and counting. I’m indeed no expert in science but I am an educator and I am here to educate my moms who fear having that glass of wine.

If you think I haven’t had any drinks in this time then you must not know me at all! I was given a drink in the hospital as a job well done! (My midwife and doula team was absolutely superb!)

Can You Have a Drink While Breastfeeding?

I’ll start with my opinion, if you didn’t understand my answer as much from above, I’ll list all the facts below. You also have to understand that pregnancy and motherhood is a personal journey! You have to do research so that you feel confident in your choices.  I completely understand that drinking and breastfeeding is a topic many people will choose to judge me (and you) for taking part. But here’s the but here’s the deal: They can judge away – plus who had the child you or them?

Here’s the tea – Science supports a few drinks, as do some of the top breastfeeding gurus.  Let them judge or be pissy; we’ll be over here smiling with our wine glasses full! I enjoy a glass of something pretty. It’s not every night, but it’s often. Since my husband doesn’t drink I’m not the type to get drunk or even tipsy on my own or at all. Especially since we bed-share with our daughter, and falling asleep tipsy or drunk is definitely unsafe conditions. We are responsible – plus my husband doesn’t play when it comes to me or his kids.

When breastfeeding, however I tend to nurse as I am having a drink, that way the alcohol has been completely metabolized before the next nursing session.  That being said, there are plenty of times I have nursed after having a drink as well.

The Myths

Pump & dump is a myth.

You do not need to stop breastfeeding because of moderate alcohol intakein fact giving your child the breast will remain to be the best option for your child.

Breastfeeding is best – If you are breastfeeding do not stop or skip feeds

Alcohol does get into breast milk, but your body breaks down the alcohol molecules.

Alcohol does not get trapped in breast milk. Within an hour or two of one drink, all of the alcohol molecules in the breast milk have already been broken down.

If you are intoxicated or binge drinking, you should wait until you are sober to restart breastfeeding. Simply because the safety concern is greater than the alcohol present

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) & La Leche League both agree women can continue breastfeeding with moderate alcohol intake.

Photo by Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz on Pexels.com

The Facts

Less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by the mother reaches her blood and milk. So that means 30-60 minutes after drinking (but there is considerable variation from person to person, depending upon how much food was eaten in the same time period, mom’s body weight and percentage of body fat, etc.).

Alcohol does not accumulate in breastmilk.

When alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, the concentration of alcohol is high in the blood compared to the breast milk, so alcohol molecules move down their concentration gradient into the milk. They keep moving until there is no gradient, meaning both the blood and the milk have the same number of alcohol molecules.  At this point, it seems like the alcohol molecules would be stuck in the milk and would make it to baby.  However, this process isn’t static because enzymes in the blood quickly break down alcohol molecules.  YAY ENZYMES!

As the alcohol concentration level in the blood decreases, a new gradient is created between the blood and breast milk, but in the opposite way.  Now, the breast milk is the area of higher concentration and the blood is the lower area.  Alcohol MOVES OUT of breast milk, back to the blood, and is then broken down by blood enzymes. This continues until all of the alcohol is moved out of the breast milk and broken down in the blood.  As you can imagine, in the end, all of the alcohol molecules are broken down in the blood and none are left in the blood or breast milk.

So see – Have that glass of wine, bottle of beer or wine cooler. You know you best. Take care

REFERENCES

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8312842/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2265592/

Posted by

Melissa Philippe, or Mel, is the founder and creator of Da Modern Mama. An organisation built around the advocacy and support for POC maternal health. After being an English educator for 8+ years, Mel decided to devote her time to being a speaker and advocate for women of colour. With degrees in English, Writing and literature while being a doula and certified Montessori educator and an Adult and Child Psychologist focused on development and neuroscience. It's allowed her to learn from both sides of the fence and use the same practices in our family. Melissa is also a multi-award-winning author, writer, educator, parent coach, and keynote speaker. - Melissa Philippe (Laura Valentine)

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