Breastfeeding and Alcohol – Is it a Safe Mix?
Is breastfeeding and alcohol consumption harmful to my baby’s health?
The effects of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding are less pronounced and less well-known than the effects of drinking during a pregnancy, which can cause serious developmental and health issues for the child. Breastfeeding and alcohol consumption in amounts more than one or two drinks per week is not advised, for both the mother’s health and that of the nursing child. Generally, one or two drinks will not harm the child while a mother is nursing her baby. If more than that is consumed, the mother should wait until the effects of alcohol have worn off before returning to breastfeeding. Alcohol can affect milk production–contrary to popular belief, alcohol causes less milk to be produced.
Some studies show that breastfeeding and alcohol consumption can affect the child’s development if the mother consumes more than a couple drinks a week and also lets her child breastfeed while still under the effects of alcohol. This can affect the time the baby sleeps and his or her quality of sleep, as well as overall weight gain and motor development.
The level of alcohol in the mother’s bloodstream when she drinks is less than that which is produced in breast milk. However, due to a child’s much smaller weight and different metabolism, alcohol may be processed differently. Infants metabolize alcohol at half the rate of adults due to a liver that is not fully developed yet. Although a relatively small percentage of alcohol is passed through the mother’s body into her breast milk, it is usually safest to abstain from heavy consumption of alcohol while breastfeeding, if the mother chooses to drink at all.
In general, it is best to abstain from alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding just to be safe. Drinking while breastfeeding requires careful planning to ensure that the baby is not exposed to alcohol content in breastfeeding, and it can be difficult to calculate when the effects have worn off. One or two drinks occasionally will not harm the child. If the mother drinks more alcohol than that, it can become difficult to time feeding so that it does not affect the growing baby.