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Can You Drink Wine While Breastfeeding?

Can You Drink Wine While Breastfeeding?


8 minute read

The safest course of action for breastfeeding mothers is abstaining from alcohol altogether. That said, there are ways to enjoy the occasional glass of wine responsibly with your baby’s health in mind.

The most important thing to consider is moderation while breastfeeding

How much wine is safe while breastfeeding?

Simply put, much like alcohol during pregnancy, there is no amount of wine in breast milk that is safe for a breastfed baby. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid alcohol entirely while breastfeeding.   

How much alcohol can I drink while breastfeeding? You can likely drink a modest amount of alcohol while breastfeeding and keep your baby safe as long as you wait at least 2 hours after drinking before breastfeeding. 

Many healthcare groups recommend 3 hours as a minimum wait period between that glass of wine and breastfeeding. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol is detectable in your system for about 2 hours after a drink. If you have more than one drink, you should double the amount of time you wait before breastfeeding at a minimum. 

Other factors include your body weight, how quickly you drank the alcoholic beverage, and even what you had to eat before drinking alcohol. What you’re drinking matters, too, including the size of your alcoholic drink of choice.

What is the alcohol content in a glass of wine? The alcohol content in a standard glass of wine is about 12% alcohol by volume (ABV). 

The stronger the wine, the less you should be drinking, whether breastfeeding or just trying to follow moderation guidelines. 

The CDC defines moderate alcohol consumption as one standard drink per day. That’s about 5 ounces of wine or a can of beer with an ABV of 5%. Keep in mind that there are about 5 glasses of wine per bottle, so a deeper pour of wine will dramatically increase your wait time.

Anything beyond moderate drinking levels will not only affect the health of mom and baby, but a breastfeeding mother's milk production, as well.

Can I have a glass of wine when breastfeeding? You can have an occasional glass of wine when breastfeeding, but there are a few precautions to follow. Only drink one glass, and wait 3 hours to breastfeed.

How Alcohol Affects Milk Production

There’s a lot of outdated belief that alcohol improves a mother’s milk supply and makes it easier for women to breastfeed. The opposite is actually true: alcohol and breastfeeding don’t mix. While wine certainly can have a relaxing effect on a new mom, the adverse effects of alcohol on milk production have been studied extensively.

Does alcohol affect breast milk? Alcohol does affect breast milk in a few different ways, from how much milk a mother produces to a baby’s milk intake. 

Let’s take a closer look:

  • Decreased milk production: Drinking alcohol affects hormones like oxytocin and prolactin. Both stimulate milk production and milk flow.
  • Lactation and the milk ejection reflex, or the letdown reflex: This reflex is your body’s natural response to a baby latching. Obstacles to that reflex can make it more difficult for milk to flow to the baby. 
  • Baby’s milk intake: Less milk produced can affect a baby’s weight gain, bowel movements, and how fussy they are throughout the day. 

Experts have even seen a link between prolactin levels and new mothers with a family history of alcoholism. Prolactin is what allows postpartum women to produce milk. Levels stay low until childbirth and then increase dramatically post-pregnancy. 

Will alcohol from breast milk affect the baby?

The amount of alcohol in breast milk is highest within the first hour after alcohol intake. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that even a moderate level of drinking can result in alcohol passed to the baby through breast milk. This is especially true if you don’t give the alcohol time to work through your system. 

The result is potentially exposing your body to alcohol. 

While newborns only get a fraction of alcohol that the mother has consumed, they also metabolize alcohol much slower. That means the alcohol stays in their system much longer than the mother’s. Babies’ metabolism improves as they age, but it’s still important to be extra cautious during infancy.

Excessive alcohol use and binge drinking while breastfeeding can have several impacts on a newborn baby. While the research suggests most effects are likely short-term, none suggests it’s safe to drink beyond recommended amounts while breastfeeding.

Here are the most significant potential effects alcohol may have on a newborn:

  • Motor development issues: Growth motor deficits are a common marker of alcohol use during pregnancy, but drinking during breastfeeding can also lead to motor delays. That means delays in the hallmarks parents look for in the early years.
  • Sleep problems: Alcohol exposure can affect sleep patterns and make it difficult for babies to nap. This can lead to obstacles to solid motor development down the line and add to the parental stress of caring for a newborn.
  • Cognitive delays: Alcohol passed to a newborn can affect cognitive outcomes, particularly for young children. Nicotine use by breastfeeding mothers has a similar effect.

More serious cognitive deficits and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are typically linked to cases where a mother drank throughout her pregnancy. However, some studies show that heavy drinking during breastfeeding alone can lead to neurological deficits, especially when the mother drinks daily.

On top of the effects on babies, heavy drinking can also impair the breastfeeding mother’s judgment and slow down reaction times. This can make it difficult to handle new mom responsibilities. 

Pumping & Dumping

If you’ve spent any time with breastfeeding moms, you’ve likely heard the phrase “pump and dump.” It refers to the practice of pumping rather than breastfeeding to avoid feeding that milk to a nursing baby.

Do I have to pump and dump if I drink wine? You do not have to pump and dump if you drink wine. It doesn’t speed up making your milk safe for your baby to drink and doesn’t reduce the amount of alcohol in your breast milk.

Time is more important when deciding whether it’s safe to breastfeed. 

However, a lactation consultant will tell you that the practice is helpful for other reasons. Expressed milk can help with a new mom’s comfort level when she’s away from her baby. The method helps alleviate the pain from engorgement and keeps breast milk production at healthier levels.

It just doesn’t do anything for the amount of alcohol in your breast milk.

Alternatives for Wine While Breastfeeding

There aren’t any known benefits to drinking wine while you’re breastfeeding. If you’re a new mom who enjoys the occasional drink but would rather abstain from alcohol, there are non-alcoholic options that will keep everyone happy and healthy. 

Note: Make sure you talk to your doctor before adding any new beverages to your diet, just to make sure you’re good to go.

The mocktails of today taste great, and they’re better for you and your baby. If it’s wine that you’re after, the best non-alcoholic wine is made just like the real thing, with the alcohol removed at the end. 

Non-alcoholic wine from Surely comes in at less than 0.5% ABV, below the threshold for warning labels from the Surgeon General for pregnant women.

From sparkling rosé to cabernet sauvignon, Surely wines are a delicious way to enjoy that glass of wine without stress. 

Sources

  1. Alcohol’s Effects on Lactation
  2. Drugs and Lactation Database
  3. Alcohol and breastfeeding
  4. Pulque intake during pregnancy and lactation in rural Mexico: alcohol and child growth from 1 to 57 months
  5. Factors associated with the level of prolactin in patients under remission from Alcohol Use Disorder: A gender perspective
  6. Breastfeeding and maternal alcohol use: Prevalence and effects on child outcomes and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  7. Drinking or Smoking While Breastfeeding and Later Cognition in Children 

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