Ahhh, the holidays! ‘Tis the season for friends, family, good food and good booze. Candles or a Christmas tree aren’t the only things getting lit this time of year!
Ok, maybe (hopefully) that’s an exaggeration, but there is no denying that alcohol sales soar this time of year. I personally enjoy a glass of wine with Christmas dinner or something to toast with on New Year’s Eve, but all us nursing moms better run out and get our sparkling apple cider or non-alcoholic beer because it’s not safe to drink while breastfeeding, right?
Well, I guess that depends on who you ask.
On one hand, the American Academy of Pediatrics says:
“Breastfeeding mothers should avoid the use of alcoholic beverages, because alcohol is concentrated in breast milk and its use can inhibit milk production. An occasional celebratory single, small alcoholic drink is acceptable, but breastfeeding should be avoided for 2 hours after the drink.”
To make it a little more confusing, the AAP also lists alcohol on a chart entitled “Maternal Medication Usually Compatible With Breastfeeding.”
On the other hand Dr. Jack Newman of the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute has this to say:
“Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is 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.”
Similarly, Dr. Thomas Hale PhD, author of Medications and Mother’s Milk says:
“Significant amounts of alcohol are secreted into breastmilk 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. Beer, but not ethanol, has been reported in a number of studies to stimulate prolactin levels and breastmilk production. Thus it is presumed that the polysaccharide from barley may be the prolactin-stimulating component of beer). Non-alcoholic beer is equally effective.”
Both Dr. Jack Newman and Dr. Thomas Hale are members of the La Leche League International Health Advisory Council.
So, exactly how much alcohol gets in to your breast milk? Well, your blood alcohol level directly correlates with the percentage of alcohol in your milk. If you are legally drunk and have a blood alcohol level of .08% then your milk alcohol level would also be at .08%. Likewise, just as your body filters the alcohol out of your blood, it filters it out of your milk. You do not need to pump and dump to get the alcohol out. (However, if you do decide to replace a nursing session with a bottle of previously expressed milk, you may still need to pump to maintain your milk supply.) Many moms (myself included) follow the basic rule of thumb that “If you’re ok to drive, you’re ok to nurse.” What you do is ultimately your decision.
There is a ton of information out there for nursing moms to read (For more, check out La Leche League International’s FAQ on Alcohol.) and I think that, as with many parenting decisions, two moms could read the exact same thing and come to two totally different conclusions.
So what’s yours? Do you indulge with the occasional drink while nursing or do you abstain completely?
A couple of friendly reminders regarding alcohol and children (regardless of how you feed them) that I probably don’t need to say, but will anyway:
Remember, safe bedsharing is ALWAYS done with sober adults. Please don’t drink and sleep with your baby.
In my experience, children are like walking (crawling?) examples of Murphy’s Law. Having a completely sober adult around (one able to make quick decisions and possibly drive to the E.R., etc.) is always a good idea.
Don’t drink and drive, especially not with your kids. Duh.