Many women miss having the occasional glass of wine during pregnancy and look forward to being able to drink again once baby is born. Breastfeeding moms need not completely abstain from alcohol, but there are good reasons to keep drinking to a minimum.
When you drink, the alcohol is present in your breast milk the same way it is present in your blood. An occasional glass or two of wine will probably not affect baby too much. However, binge drinking or regular drinking can cause problems for your baby including fussiness, sleeplessness, and reduced weight gain. This is especially true for babies under 3 months old. A newborn’s immature liver cannot process alcohol as quickly or efficiently as an older baby or adult can. A good rule of thumb is that if you can feel the effects of the alcohol you are drinking, your baby can too.
If you want to have a drink or two, planning ahead is a good idea. Feeding baby just before you drink will give your body time to metabolize the alcohol before you feed your baby again. If you are planning to drink more than just two, consider pumping beforehand so that you will have clean breast milk for your little one during the time that you are intoxicated.
There is a common myth that you can get rid of the alcohol in your milk by “pumping and dumping”. This is not true. If you are intoxicated, there will still be alcohol in your milk, even if you pump and dump. The only way to get rid of the alcohol is to wait until your body metabolizes it. As the alcohol leaves your blood, so it also leaves your breast milk.
If you have problems controlling your alcohol consumption, the best option is to manage it as best you can. The benefits of breastfeeding are so great that most doctors would rather have you breastfeed, even if you are drinking too much, than feed baby formula. Try to reduce your drinking as much as possible. Feed baby and pump when you are sober, have your partner or caregiver use your stored supplies to bottle feed baby when you have had too much. Most importantly, if you have a drinking problem, get help and support.