Alcohol and breastfeeding

How much is safe to have? What is pumping and dumping? Our in house expert Molly Petersen, Certified Lactation Counselor, answers your questions!


What do I need to know about drinking and breastfeeding? 

For most moms having an occasional drink while breastfeeding is okay, especially after you’ve gone nine months without a drink. It’s generally recommend to limit alcohol intake to one or two drinks per week at a maximum. Additionally, counter to what you may have heard drinking can actually decrease your breastmilk supply. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it reduces the amount of water in your system. As most breastfeeding moms know, you need to drink a lot of fluids to stay hydrated when you are breastfeeding. So it’s important to keep that in mind before you order a drink.


How much do I have to drink before I  pump and dump?

The whole idea of pumping and dumping is a bit of a myth. The breastmilk in your body when you have a drink will have alcohol in it until your body metabolizes it out of your system. For most women it takes around 2-3 hours to metabolize one alcoholic drink. As your body metabolizes the alcohol out of your blood it will also metabolize it out of your breastmilk. That means that you don’t need to pump and dump, unless you have a drink and it’s right before a time when you would normally breastfeed or pump.  You will want to pump and dump that milk. This will allow your body to keep receiving the signals to make milk on the schedule your baby has established.


Should I use those alcohol test strips for breastmilk? 

If testing breastmilk for alcohol makes a mom feel more secure, then by all means I feel she should go ahead and use them. But as long as mom is drinking in moderation and allowing enough time for her body to metabolize the alcohol before breastfeeding or pumping, then they aren’t really necessary.


How is drinking while breastfeeding different than drinking while pregnant? 

If mom drinks while she’s pregnant there is no way for her to avoid baby being exposed the alcohol she consumes. As it is metabolized, it is passed directly to the baby. However with breastfeeding mom is able to time when she has a drink to allow the alcohol to clear here system before she feeds or pumps.


How easily does alcohol get into the breast milk? Is it easily transferred to my baby? 

Alcohol transfers into the breastmilk at that same rate that it transfers to our blood. So if you were tested for your blood alcohol level, the amount in your breastmilk would be the same. If you were to breastfeed or feed your baby expressed breastmilk, they would receive whatever amount of alcohol is in your system at that time. That’s why it’s important to time your drink when you won’t need to breastfeed or pump for a couple of hours. Baby’s livers aren’t completely mature when they are born and they aren’t able to metabolize alcohol as well as an adult.