by: Kimberly C. Bowman

At one time mothers were encouraged to drink beer when nursing to relax and increase milk supply. While there may have been a connection to the Brewer’s Yeast content and that ingredient’s galactagogue (milk increasing) effect, it was likely a weak one. More likely is that the doctor’s opinion was that mothers who drank the occasional beer made better patients.

Alcohol is considered a compatible drug during breastfeeding. This means that it is possible to drink alcohol and safely breastfeed, but there are recommendations to ensure this. Alcohol leaves breastmilk as it leaves blood. The alcohol content of your breastmilk will peak between 30-60 minutes after consumption depending on your body weight and whether or not you have eaten. While pumping and dumping is unnecessary, as it will not speed the elimination of alcohol from breastmilk, it is wise to wait approximately three hours before nursing. Obviously, the more alcohol you consume, the longer it will take for your body and therefore your breastmilk, to metabolize it efficiently. Mothers who abuse alcohol can ultimately decrease their milk-ejection reflex and the babies of these mothers will nurse more frequently but ingest less milk. Over time, this could lead to slow weight gain or even failure-to-thrive. Alcohol abuse by a nursing mother is categorized by the consumption of two or more drinks, daily.

Babies who consume alcohol via breastmilk will often fall asleep quickly. How lovely, you think. The celebration will be short lived however, as it has been shown that baby’s sleep cycles going forward are interrupted. Not so lovely. Much the same way our sleep’s quality is lessened by too much drink, baby will experience wakefulness as a result and this will be all the more difficult to deal with if you have been imbibing.

By treating alcohol the way we do chocolate we can avoid the potential downfalls. Relax with a glass of wine after baby goes to bed so you can enjoy the benefits while keeping your breastmilk alcohol-free by the time you need to nurse again.