Unwind with Wine: Alcohol and Breastfeeding

As a 20-something mother with a full-time job and several other non-job related activities, I like a glass of wine with supper every now and then to help me rewind. If supper happens to be out at a restaurant, say on a Saturday night, I get many funny or horrified looks as I sip my glass of wine and nurse my child, who is 18 months old for a double whammy, at the same time.

STOP! Before you start judging, hear me out.

  1. Alcohol in moderation while nursing is not a bad thing! And here’s why: The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs considers alcohol compatible with breastfeeding. Yes, there are side effects if consumed in large amounts (my one glass of wine or one beer is not large amounts), that include drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness, and abnormal weight gain in babies. There is also the possibility of decreased milk-ejection reflex in the mother. But, in smaller quantities, these effects are seldom to none and allow the mother to still nurse                                                                                                                                                                                                                                *note: Mother’s should never nurse if large amounts of alcohol have been                                      ingested. There is a limit.                                                                                               
  2. According to Jack Newman, member of LLLI Health Advisory Council, in his handout titled “More Breastfeeding Myths,” Reasonable alcohol intakes shouldn’t be discouraged because “as the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.” And I would add to that, younger mothers want to be able to drink a glass of wine with dinner, a beer with friends, or sip a margarita at a small gathering while still tending to the needs of their child.                                            
  3. Another member of the LLLI Heath Advisory Council, Thomas W. Hale, R.Ph. Ph.D., in his book Medications and Mothers’ Milk (12th ed.), says that “Significant amounts of alcohol are secreted into breast milk although it is not considered harmful to the infant if the amount and duration are limited. The absolute amount of alcohol transferred into milk is generally low.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    So, my one glass of wine and sip of my mom’s drink last night while sitting outside with the neighbors as the hamburgers cooked was fine. Yes, ladies, FINE! I nursed Diva without any problems. She didn’t have any problems then or later. And guess what? The best part is that I got to feel included with the other women drinking and talking, and it helped me unwind after a long day at the office.                                               
  4. Other alcohol and breastfeeding facts:
  • “Alcohol transfers readily into human milk. Alcohol is not stored in milk; rather it enters and exits according to blood alcohol level. Levels of alcohol in milk peak at approximately 30 to 60 minutes following ingestion, then decline rapidly if no more is ingested.”
  • “If you choose to have one drink while nursing, it should not be metabolized before your next nursing session.”
  • “Because alcohol is not stored in milk, there is no need to pump and dump to rid your milk of alcohol. However, nursing mothers may need to express milk for comfort and to avoid milk stasis while too intoxicated to nurse. This milk can be used for a milk bath or diluted with milk that doesn’t contain alcohol and fed at another time.”

Read more about Alcohol and Your Body here!

So, there you have it. You, as a breastfeeding mom, are allowed a drink. You deserve a drink! Lord know there are some days after coming home from the job, picking up the house, and dealing with my other responsibilities, then dealing with a screaming baby, I need a drink. You probably do, too, and you shouldn’t feel bad about nursing while sipping an adult beverage.


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