Monday, December 15, 2014

Spiked Milk? Drinking & Breastfeeding

Beer & Breastfeeding?
It's the holiday season & that means more parties, more get-togethers with family, & probably more drinking. For those of you breastfeeding mamas out there, this might be a bit stressful. If you want to indulge in a little rum & eggnog or maybe some mulled wine, you might have some questions.

How much can I safely drink while breastfeeding? Should I abstain completely just to be safe? Can I pump & dump to get the alcohol out of my milk? 

I should start by saying right off that I'm not a medical professional or a researcher of any kind, but I do pride myself on making decisions based on science. A few years back, probably just before Linnaeus' first Christmas, I started googling to find the facts on drinking alcohol & breastfeeding.

I found a short article on Motherisk: Drinking Alcohol While Breastfeeding: Will it Harm My Baby? It's worth pointing out that the recommendations in the Motherisk piece are for newborns, because "infants detoxify alcohol in their first weeks of life at only half the rate of adults." If your baby is older than that, you may not want to be so conservative.

If you just skim the article, you might be scared away from drinking at all. However, the chart that follows the article is pretty useful. You can assess how long it'll take your body to clear the alcohol from your milk by your weight. For the average mom, that'll be two or two & a half hours for one drink.

If you have a nursing baby that's older than a few weeks, you might be wondering if you really have to wait two or three hours after drinking to feed them. As the Motherisk article mentions, there is no established safe threshold of alcohol for babies. That said, it's worth mentioning that your milk will have around the same amount of alcohol in it as your blood. It all depends on the strength of the drink, & your size, but if you have just one drink, most likely your blood alcohol level (& thus milk alcohol level) will be less than 0.1%. The drink you had was probably 40 or 50 times that strong--it's very diluted in your milk.

If you had a drink with 0.1% alcohol in it, it's likely you'd never notice. Or, maybe I should say, when you've had a drink with 0.1% alcohol, because you probably have. A glass of orange juice could have that much alcohol. Ripe fruit, or fermented foods like miso, kefir, kombucha, pickles, may have more alcohol than your breastmilk after one drink. (source) Have you ever given your baby fruit juice or ripe fruit? I don't say this to freak you out, but just to say that alcohol is actually in a lot of foods that we & our children safely eat all the time.

La Leche League has an FAQ on alcohol & breastfeeding as well, with even more information from diverse sources.

I hope this has been useful to you & gives you a little peace of mind, whether you choose to abstain, wait to nurse until your system is clear of alcohol, or drink moderately while nursing. Enjoy the holidays!

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