Breast-feeding and alcohol: Is it OK to drink?

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Breast-feeding and alcohol: Is it OK to drink?

Question

I'm breast-feeding. Is it OK to drink alcohol?

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Answer

Breast-feeding and alcohol don't mix well. There's no level of alcohol in breast milk that's considered safe for a baby to drink.

When you drink alcohol, it passes into your breast milk at concentrations similar to those found in your bloodstream. Although a breast-fed baby is exposed to just a fraction of the alcohol his or her mother drinks, a newborn eliminates alcohol from his or her body at only half the rate of an adult.

Research suggests that breast-fed babies who are exposed to one drink a day may have impaired motor development and that alcohol can cause changes in sleep patterns.

In addition, while folklore says that drinking alcohol improves milk production, studies show that alcohol actually decreases milk production and that the presence of alcohol in breast milk causes babies to drink about 20 percent less.

If you choose to drink, avoid breast-feeding until alcohol has completely cleared your breast milk. This typically takes two to three hours for 12 ounces (340 grams) of 5 percent beer, 5 ounces (142 grams) of 11 percent wine or 1.5 ounces (43 grams) of 40 percent liquor, depending on your body weight.

Pumping and dumping breast milk isn't necessary and doesn't speed the elimination of alcohol from your body.

Remember, breast-feeding is the optimal way to feed a newborn and is recommended until a baby is age 1. If you choose to drink, plan carefully to avoid exposing your baby to alcohol.

Last Updated: 2012-05-17
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