I think a lot of nursing moms are under the false impression that you can’t drink while breastfeeding. I’ve heard a lot of different opinions on the subject, but I have yet to hear a medical professional say absolutely no alcohol while breastfeeding. Putting those kind of restrictions on breastfeeding moms will make more moms quit before they would otherwise and that is the exact opposite of what we’re trying to do.
There are obviously stipulations with drinking while breastfeeding. First off, “pumping and dumping”—the idea of pumping your breasts and throwing the expressed milk away after drinking to get rid of the alcohol—doesn’t work. You may want to pump to get rid of milk so you don’t get engorged, but it won’t make it safe for baby to eat afterwards because alcohol will stay in your breast milk until it leaves your whole system.
Really, it’s probably safe for baby to eat afterwards anyway. I’ll explain the logic.
Breast milk alcohol levels mimic blood alcohol levels. So if I were really, really, really drunk, like shouldn’t be taking care of a child anyway drunk, like probably going to die soon drunk, my blood alcohol level would be something like .2%. That means that when my nursling drinks my breast milk, it would be 2% alcohol. The hard lemonade that I have in my fridge right now is 5.5%. So she’s drinking the equivalent of something 1/25th as potent as the weakest alcohol on the market.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning getting drunk and breastfeeding all the time, but a glass of wine is unlikely to adversely effect your child. Of course every child is different and therefore handles your drinking different so you should start off slow and monitor your child. Even in small doses, you probably shouldn’t drink really frequently because prolonged exposure is more likely to hurt your nursling (not to mention your milk supply).
Baby’s age is an important factor too. Newborns are obviously less able to handle your drinking than a toddler. It’s also good to try to drink right after your nursling eats so that you have the most amount of time for the alcohol to get out of your system before nursing again. I also sleep on the couch for the beginning of the night when I’ve been drinking because co-sleeping isn’t safe when you’re impaired.
Really, there are a lot of little things you can do to ensure the least amount of risk when drinking and breastfeeding. Just because you’re breastfeeding doesn’t mean you can’t have a drink. If anything, I would say that relaxing with a glass of wine after a rough day with Peanut—like recently when her sleeping schedule when all out of wack from being sick and she decided to not nap all day—makes me a better mother because that relaxing enables me to wake up the next morning and handle her grumpiness all over again.