'Tis the season to be jolly!
This time of year, everywhere you go, there seems to be alcohol available. And the question is, as a breastfeeding mother, can you enjoy? Is it okay to indulge?
If you google this question, you can find posts that say it's okay and other that say not a chance. So what's the real answer?
Lets look at the do's and dont's when it comes to alcohol and breastfeeding.
DO: Drink. It's okay. Enjoy an occasional drink and know that its considered safe with breastfeeding. If you look at all the 'big names' (people that study this stuff) no one says that you need to stop breastfeeding if you have a drink.
DON'T: Have so much to drink that you can't take care of your baby. Since alcohol does cross into your breastmilk, your baby will get some when they nurse after you drink. That's not really the biggest issue though. What you need to do is keep your baby safe. A good rule of thumb, if you can't take care of your baby you probably shouldn't feed them.
DO: Know that the amount of time it takes for the alcohol to leave your system depends on a number of factors. Alcohol will leave your milk at the same rate it will leave your blood. It depends on your size, whether your are eating at the same time and how much you ate during the day so there's no real way to know exactly how long it takes to leave. Alcohol also crosses into and out of the milk (this osmosis) so that it's concentration is the same in the boood and the milk- so it will leave your milk and blood together over time.
DON'T: Pump and Dump. Alcohol will leave your system at the same time it will leave your blood. Just like you can't drain your blood to help the alcohol leave your system faster, you can't pump your milk to get it out of your system faster. If you are out for a night or away from your baby for an extended period of time, pump like you would under any other circumstance.
DO: Have a drink to celebrate your babies birth, if you want to.
DON'T: Drink a beer assuming it will 'help your milk come in'. Or drink a beer a day trying to increase your milk production. The process of your milk changing from colostrum to mature milk is one that is regulated by hormones. You can't speed it up by drinking a beer. In fact, studies have shown that drinking can actually cut down your milk production and inhibit your let-down reflex.
DO: Use extra caution if your baby is pre-term, or ill at all. Babies that have been exposed to alcohol have been shown to be sleepier and any baby that is already dealing with complications don't need extra to deal with.
DON'T: Rely on the test strips to tell you anything besides 'there is alcohol in your milk'. They are designed to identify that there is alcohol at all in your system. It can still be very safe for you to feed your baby, but the test strip will say no because they just identify alcohol period.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Very little of the alcohol that you consume actually gets into your milk. If you feel comfortable driving, you are probably okay to feed your baby. So enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or have some champagne to celebrate something and then care for your baby.
Have other questions about breastfeeding myths? Join one of our classes to find out more.