Alcohol and Breastfeeding: Effects on the Nursing Baby

Breastfeeding moms know that what they eat affects the breast milk they produce. It means that they produce better quality milk when they eat healthy food. That said, alcohol should be avoided at all costs. Nursing moms should bear in mind that alcohol and breastfeeding should not go together. 

Length of time alcohol is present in breast milk

A breastfeeding mother passes the alcohol freely to the infant through her breast milk. Alcohol levels found in breast milk are the same as those in maternal blood. Its peak is at 30 to 60 minutes after drinking alcohol. Usually, an infant ingests about five to six percent of the adjusted weight of the nursing mom. 

Alcohol can be found in breast milk two to three hours after a mom drinks the beverage. But you should note that the higher the amount of alcohol intake the longer the length of time it is present in the milk. 

Alcohol and Breastfeeding: Effects on the Nursing Baby
(Photo: unsplash/Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz)

See also: How to Lose Weight While Breastfeeding: 8 Effective Ways

Effects on milk production

In the early 1900s, beer companies sold low alcohol tonics for nursing women. They believed that it increases their strength and enhances breast milk production. 

Barley is used to making beers. It contains a polysaccharide that increases prolactin, the hormone that causes breast milk to produce. But do note that alcohol decreases milk production. It inhibits oxytocin production. 

Effects on nursing babies

The CDC stated that moderate alcohol consumption by the breastfeeding mom should not have bad effects on the baby. Usually, one standard drink is safe for moms, but the safest is not drinking any at all. 

Alcohol and Breastfeeding: Effects on the Nursing Baby
(Photo: unsplash/Adam Wilson)

See also: World Breastfeeding Week: Facts Every Mom Should Know

In a study, they found that an infant became restless and sleepless for many days but that was due to a large amount of alcohol intake by the mom. One infant had pseudo-Cushing syndrome because her mom had chronic alcohol use. The mother reportedly drank 50 cans of beer weekly and drank many other alcoholic drinks to increase her milk supply. 

The research team saw the long-term effects of alcohol ingestion in nursing babies. They found that there is a decrease in motor function development at one year old. They did not find any effect on mental development. They did a follow-up and found no detrimental effects on the performance of an 18-month-old baby. 

See also: COVID-19: Can I Continue Breastfeeding After Getting the Disease?

What to do if you want to drink alcohol

A nurse practitioner at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Beth Conover, shared her advice. She said that if you plan to have a drink or two, make sure that you have a stash of breast milk for your little one. You could pump days earlier so you could enjoy a night at a bar. 

She explained that you could "pump and dump" to relieve breast pain that happens when you skip a feeding. She shared that they get lots of calls on holidays asking if nursing moms could enjoy a glass or two. For her, they are responsible parents because they think about the safety of their babies first, before they indulge. 

Moderation is the key to have a healthy baby and a happy mommy. 

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