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      Alcohol and breastfeeding

      Read time: 2 minutes

      Can I drink during feeding? How long should I wait after drinking to breastfeed? Here we have a short guide to answer your questions on breastfeeding and drinking.

      Wait 2-3 hours per drink before breastfeeding, as alcohol should be out of your breast milk by then1.

      An occasional social drink is fine to have while breastfeeding, if you allow it to leave your system before breastfeeding1.

      Can you drink alcohol when you’re breastfeeding?

      An occasional social drink is fine to have while breastfeeding, as long as you allow it to leave your system before breastfeeding. Ingesting alcohol can damage your baby’s developing liver or can cause other developmental issues. For example, mothers who breastfed their babies with alcohol in their system had babies with a lower IQ in a study looking at the relationship between breastfeeding and alcohol2. However, if you wait until you feed your baby following drinking, then your baby should not ingest any alcohol as it will be out of your system1. It is also extremely important to not share a bed with your baby if you have had a drink, as this is a strong risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome3.

      How long after drinking can you breastfeed again?

      Breast milk will contain the same amount of alcohol as is in your own bloodstream. Alcohol is processed differently depending on the person and so an exact time that the alcohol has left your system is hard to calculate. However, waiting about 2-3 hours per drink should allow the alcohol should be out of your system, both your bloodstream and your breast milk. Therefore, it is best to wait for 2-3 hours per drink before breastfeeding your baby, to avoid them ingesting any alcohol in your breast milk1.

      Do I need to pump and dump after drinking alcohol?

      You do not need to ‘pump and dump’ milk after drinking. However, you may wish to pump milk at this time and dispose of it as your breast may feel swollen from not feeding3.

      Helpful tips

      • Express some milk before a social drinking situation, then you have alcohol free milk to feed your baby during that time.
      • Binge drinking and breastfeeding: do not drink large amounts, as the alcohol will take a long time to leave your system and may cause you have to delay feeding for too long.
      • Alcohol should not decrease your milk supply, however if you often have a drink and therefore feeding less, then you will produce lower levels of milk and milk is produced on a ‘supply and demand’ basis. Ensuring you pump when drinking can keep up milk production if you drink often.
      1. Haastrup, M., Pottegard, A. and Damkier P. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol, 2014;114:168-173
      2. May, Philip A et al. Reproductive toxicology 2016;63:13-21.
      3. nhs.uk. (2020). Breastfeeding and drinking alcohol. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/breastfeeding-alcohol/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

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