First published on www.facebook.com/breastfeedingtogether on 12/2/2019 as part of the Topic Tuesday series.
So, no one wants to be the mum who puts her hand up in an antenatal workshop and asks about how many gins* you can have whilst breastfeeding! We fear being judged for wanting to end our pregnancy prohibition as soon as possible, truth is the majority of mums want the answer to this question!
There’s also a lot of conflicting information out there and old fashioned ideas about what mums should or shouldn’t do whilst breastfeeding.
The information that’s given regarding alcohol is given to all new mothers, regardless of how they are feeding their babies, and that is, that it’s probably best avoided in the very early days to ensure you can stay responsive to your baby’s needs.
Long term, breastfeeding mothers need not avoid alcohol completely. Very small amounts of alcohol do pass into the breastmilk, (think a shot of vodka in a swimming pool kind of concentration) but baby has their own liver and kidneys to process this and occasional/moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to have no ill effects on babies. Alcohol peaks in the breastmilk after around 90 minutes then reduces down again. There is no need to ‘pump and dump’ your milk to try to get rid of the alcohol, your body does it itself!
Breastfeeding and pregnancy are two separate things. The placenta and the breasts work very differently, so the foods and drinks you were avoiding during pregnancy can now be enjoyed whilst breastfeeding- rare steak and wine anyone?!
If you are choosing to have a drink there are some considerations:
• Have someone who hasn’t had a drink with you- especially for that first postnatal drink. If you’ve had a dry 9 months- half a cider could put you on your back! So make sure someone sober is there to look after baby.
• Never bring baby into bed with you if you’ve had anything to drink. We become less responsive, and therefore alcohol consumption can be a risk factor associated with SUDI.
• If it’s a night out drinking, you’ll probably need to express for your own comfort if your separated from baby, we’d probably say discard that milk, not because it’s alcoholic, but because the likelihood is its been expressed in the pub toilets and has been sloshing round your hand bag all night- not optimal storage!
• If you are passing out or vomiting drunk, it’s then unsafe to feed your baby.
So mums absolutely can enjoy a drink whilst continuing to breastfeed, so long as they follow all the safe sleep guidelines.
As for the first hangover with a baby…… well that’s something else to worry about!!
(*Insert alcoholic beverage of your choice!)