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151. Alcohol While Breastfeeding 101: The Essential Guide

Can I drink alcohol while I'm breastfeeding? Find out in today's podcast episode.
Alcohol and breastfeeding Study

Alcohol Study- Jan 2022

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Read the full transcript here:

Welcome to the Breezy Babies podcast. This is episode 151. Alcohol While Breastfeeding 101, The Essential Guide. Could you use more confidence as a parent? Welcome to the happy place for boobs and babies. You're in good hands. Breezy babies is where we ease your transition into parenthood because it's a bumpy road. Am I right? I'm your host Bri the IBCLC. And if you'd like to make life as a parent more breezy, you're in the right place. I'm here to deliver small bite sized tips and tricks so you can crush your parenting and lactation goals. I'm honored to be on this journey with you. Let's go. Hello, my friends. So good to be with you today. Can you believe that this podcast just recently had 100,000 downloads and I am quickly approaching my three year anniversary. It's like the first week of July that I did my first episode on this podcast. I can't believe it. I have a lactation friend who just started a podcast and already she's like, This is exhausting. I think of you often. I don't know how you do this for so long. I don't know if I can keep it up. And I just told her. Honestly, I don't know sometimes how I do it either. But then I get great recommendations for podcast episodes through you. And it really just helps keep me going. keep me focused. And today's podcast episode is exactly that. It is a suggestion from a follower on Instagram. She said hey, I would like some help some guidance on alcohol and caffeine while breastfeeding. So when I first sat down to put together this podcast episode, I had both combined into one episode. And today when I sat down to record, and I looked over my 11 pages of notes, I was like, Oh, this is too much. This is too much for one podcast episode, I need to break it up a little bit into two different chunks. One episode about alcohol one episode about caffeine so that it's a little bit easier to digest because I know all of you are listening are probably moms like me and you only have so many hours in the day and also so many brain cells that you can put towards taking in information like this. So I just want to make it as short and succinct as possible. So before we get into that, I do want to tell you that today's podcast episode is brought to you by Amara a baby food company that does things differently. Amara is what I stock in my kitchen for when I need a grab and go meal or snacks for my 18 month old Amara is baby food is organic and it looks smells and tastes homemade. Plus, one cool thing is that you can rehydrate the powder with water or your breast milk. You know I love that option. If you could take a sneak peek into my pantry right now you see packets of their oats and berries, oatmeal them. Mila loves those but her absolute favorite is the mango carrot smoothie malts I throw them in my diaper bag for on the go snacks, no added sugar, just good clean ingredients. If you and your little one would like some of them are on your life. Then before you order let me show share a discount code with you go to Amara organic and use my affiliate discount code breezy 20 for 20% off. That's Amara organic and use code Bre z y 204 20% off. Okay, let's get back to our topic of alcohol breastfeeding 101 The Essential Guide. So in today's podcast episode, I am going to be referencing two studies. One is titled alcohol and breastfeeding. And the other is titled alcohol which you know leaves a lot to the imagination but that's what they're called. I will have them both linked in the show notes. If you want to go and look at these two specific studies yourself, the one that's titled alcohol is the newest and it's from January 2022. When it comes to any research done related to breastfeeding, we just take what we can get there's very limited research overall. And when there's something that's newer within the last couple of years that's really exciting for us as lactation consultant It's so again today we're talking about alcohol while breastfeeding. And like I explained in the beginning, when I originally put this podcast together, I also plan to talk about caffeine. But there was just too much information. I just, I felt it was too overwhelming to put into one episode. So you know what that means. It means that next week, that episode is going to be about caffeine while breastfeeding. So please be sure to subscribe so you don't miss it. And I also just want to say that when I say breastfeeding on this podcast that refers to both pumping and feeding directly at the breast by latching your baby. If I say nursing, that means just latching baby and feeding right at the breast doesn't include pumping. Everything I talked about today will apply to both latching and pumping. So I'm going to use the term breastfeeding. Some things may even apply to chest feeding. And you can plug that in, if that's applicable to you. But for the ease of speaking, I will say breastfeeding only on this episode because of what I explained before. And also the studies that I'm going to be referencing were done specifically on those who were breastfeeding, so it wouldn't be correct for me to use the words breastfeeding and chest feeding interchangeably. That would not be citing the studies correctly. And of course, remember, this podcast is not medical advice. It is not a one size fits all. If you need advice that's specific to your situation, and your baby's situation, check for free consults at breezy Or connect with your local IBCLC or wick office as an intro to both this week's episode, and the next you need to know something about me personally, and that is that I don't drink caffeine. And I don't drink alcohol. You heard me right. i Maybe I'm just a rare unicorn. That doesn't drink either. But I helped many clients who do want to have the option to drink both these things. So I teach about it often. When the request came through on Instagram and in a direct message to talk about alcohol and caffeine while breastfeeding. I thought Wow, good idea. I can't believe I don't already have an episode on that yet, because it's a common theme for questions that I get. So yes, the girl who doesn't drink caffeine and doesn't drink alcohol, whether I'm breastfeeding or not, is going to teach you all you need to know on this topic. Now while I don't drink in this study, I'll be referencing today. They say approximately half of all lactating women in Western countries consume alcohol while breastfeeding. Chances are that you listening might be in that half. So by the end of this episode, you should have a solid understanding of the pros and cons and then be able to make the right decision for you and your baby. Okay, here we go. We're just gonna dive right in to tip number one. And that is drinking alcohol is not a necessity, but it is an option. I just had to start with this because I don't want this episode to come across as an ad for why you need to drink alcohol, not going to talk you into drinking alcohol. You might have personal health or religious reasons why you don't want to. That's totally fine. This is just here to educate you or maybe if you're listening in and you work with families who are asking these same questions, then this is going to provide great information for you. So let's look closer at some studies that were done specifically on alcohol and breastfeeding. These were all compiled on the Kelly mom website. They said first of all alcohol does not increase milk production. They go on to say from this study that was done in 1991 through 1999. They said in fact babies nurse more frequently but taking less milk in the three to four hours after mom has had a drink. And one study showed a 23% decrease in milk volume with one drink. Okay. So would you know that overall alcohol does not increase milk production and on top of that, two or more drinks of alcohol may stop your letdown. Okay, let down is what happens when the milk ducts inside your breast squeeze and that milk comes out and gets to your baby whether you're pumping or latching your baby at the breast.
So that's something to take into consideration as well, that let down is going to be slowed or maybe even stopped or halted if you've had two or more drinks. They go on to say that one study showed changes in the infant sleep wake pattern after short term exposure to small amounts of alcohol in breast milk. So basically, what that means is babies who had moms who were light drinkers slept less, that's what they found on one study done in 1998. They go on to say that daily consumption of alcohol has been shown in the research to increase the risk for slow weight gain in the infant. Okay, something else important to consider. And last, they say daily consumption of alcohol, one or more drinks per day has been associated with a decrease in gross motor development. That one's from a little bit of an older study done in 1989. Now, I want to read you some things that are from the La Leche League website, they start by saying that we still have more to learn on alcohol and breastfeeding, especially about the long term outcomes. We do know that alcohol is not safe in any amount while pregnant. That's what we know for sure. They go on to say that especially when alcohol is consumed in large amounts, it can cause drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness, and abnormal weight gain in the infant. There is also the possibility of decreased milk ejection reflex and the mother okay, we read that up above as well. No harmful effects to babies have been found when breastfeeding mothers drink no more than one drink a day. They go on to say that even a small to moderate amount of alcohol may impair milk production and the milk ejection reflex, some of the negative effects in the baby may be number one, sleep disturbances to increased crying, three increase startling for increased arousal, five increased REM sleep and the period from three and a half hours to 24 hours after exposure to alcohol. Six, decreased milk intake by baby and seven decreased weight gain. Okay, so those are all important things to consider, especially if you're noticing some of those with your baby specifically, you may want to look at your alcohol intake and take that into consideration. Okay, now I want to read you one of the studies that was done that I am referencing in the show notes if you want to go and look at your look at it your with your own eyes, or you can just hear me summarize it for you right now. They start by saying alcohol intake inhibits the milk ejection reflex. Okay, we know that it causes a temporary decrease in milk yield. They're going to say that alcohol concentrations in breast milk closely resemble those in maternal blood. So what does that mean? It means that whatever percentage of alcohol in is in your blood that is very close to the amount of alcohol that is in your breast milk, they line up very closely and they match up. So they go on to say the amount of alcohol presented to nursing infants through breast milk is approximately five to 6% of the weight adjusted maternal dose. And even in a theoretical case of binge drinking, the children would not be subjected to clinically relevant amounts of alcohol. Newborns metabolize alcohol at approximately half the rate of adults. They go on to say that behavioral changes and infants exposed to alcohol containing milk had been reported. But they they found some contradictory, contradictory results. They say any long term consequences for the children of alcohol abusing mothers are yet unknown, but occasional drinking while breastfeeding has not been convincingly shown to adversely affect nursing infants. In conclusion, special recommendations aimed at lactating women are not warranted. Okay. So basically the end there. They're saying that occasional drinking has not been found to cause problems when it comes to breastfeeding your baby. So you should still breastfeed your baby, if you have the occasional drink. The newer study that I am going to link in the show notes the one from January 2022, that's named alcohol says beer may increase serum prolactin levels during nursing because of polysaccharides from barley and hops. Okay, maybe you've heard that before. Maybe you've heard that drinking beer can help increase your supply. So they are saying here that yes, it can increase your prolactin levels because of the polysaccharides from the barley and hops. They go on to say the after ingestion of nano Coholic bear the antioxidant capacity of milk is increased but alcohol levels and milk are negligible. women with a family history of alcoholism have a blunted prolactin response following breast breast stimulation and tend to breastfeed more frequently to compensate. They again say here that your your breast milk alcohol levels are closely tied to your blood alcohol levels. They also give us a little bit more details by saying the highest alcohol levels and milk occur 30 to 60 minutes after an alcoholic beverage. But food if you have food in your stomach that delays the time of peak alcohol levels. Nursing after one to two drinks including bear can decrease the infant's milk intake by 20 to 23% and cause infant agitation and poor sleep patterns. nursing or pumping within one hour before adjusting. Ingesting alcohol may slightly reduced the subsequent amounts of alcohol in breast milk. They go on to say that casual use of alcohol such as one glass of wine or beer per day is unlikely to cause either short term or long term problems in the nursing infant, especially if the mother waits two to two and a half hours per drink before nursing and does not appear to affect breastfeeding duration. Daily heavy use of alcohol on the other hand, which is two or more drinks per day appears to decrease the length of time that mothers breastfeed their infants. The long term effects of daily use of alcohol on the infant are unclear. Okay, so there's still a lot that we don't know. Some evidence indicates the infant growth and motor function may be negatively affected by one drink or more daily. But other studies have not confirmed these findings. Heavy maternal use may cause excessive sedation, fluid retention and hormone imbalances and breastfed infants. Greater or riskier alcohol consumption by nursing mothers may affect their children's academic performance negatively in school. Preliminary data fail to find an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among the infants whose mothers used alcohol during breastfeeding. The use of alcohol based hand sanitizers this was kind of interesting little part they added in the use of alcohol based hand sanitizers do not appear to result in clinically relevant alcohol levels in breast milk. I know that was a lot of information and a lot to read. But it just was such a good study, and helps give us so much insight into what exactly we do know, when it comes to alcohol and breastfeeding and some of the things that we've seen long term and also some of the things that maybe we don't know quite yet. So we've learned here, no alcohol in large amounts. So now we have to talk about what would be considered a reasonable amount of alcohol and occasional one to two drinks. Occasional means no more than once per week, perhaps. But what is considered one serving, here's what the American Academy of Pediatrics says, is considered one serving of alcohol. They say no more than point five grams of alcohol per kilogram body weight, which for a 60 kilogram mother, okay, I converted that to pounds because that's a little bit easier for my mind. So they say for 132 pound mother, that is approximately two ounces of liquor, eight ounces of wine or two beers. Okay. So what we do know is that nursing should take place two hours or longer after the alcohol intake to minimize its concentration in the ingested milk. That is what the American Academy of Pediatric suggests came. So I think that will take us nicely into Tip number two, and that is moderation. Does eating healthy nutrient dense food matter while breastfeeding? Yes, it does. Remember that you're nourishing and fueling both you and your baby. When you eat what you eat matters. Your car will not run well. If you put junk fuel into the tank, right? Same for your body. Food is fuel. We want to put good fuel in the tank. When you do you feel better your body functions work better. All those good nutrients go through to your baby to now what is good fuel. nutrient dense food is great not processed foods. But exactly what foods will look different from from person to person. If eating dairy or gluten or soy doesn't sit well with you or your baby, then that will not be great fuel for your body. For someone else. Those
options can be a great fit. So yes, consider food allergies, food allergies I'm finding are far more common than you might think. Those are all things to come center. And overall when it comes to alcohol and breastfeeding moderation also applies. Okay, tip number three is there is no need to pump and dump. In general, if you're sober enough to drive and find your baby to breastfeed, then you can breastfeed, the amount of alcohol in your blood, again is equal to the amount of alcohol in your breast milk. When your alcohol blood levels go down, the alcohol levels in your breast milk also goes down to of course, if you're too drunk to too drunk to drive or breastfeed, then please make sure our responsible adults is caring for your baby. I know if you're listening to this podcast and care to learn, then I'm sure you'd be someone to make sure that someone is caring for your baby, but still important for me to mention. Now, back to the amount of alcohol and your breast milk, you might be wondering if you should pump and dump probably not. We know that pumping will not remove the alcohol any faster. So don't do it for that reason. But if you're away from your baby for a while, and you need to pump for comfort, and for your milk supply, then go ahead and pump and you can dump it if you'd like. Chances are if you're sober enough to pump then the milk is fine for your baby. But if that doesn't sit well with you, then you can have that milk to either feed to your baby or you can dump it or you can save it for a milk bath or something else. Also one more safety concern I have to mention because I believe strongly in good education. Do not go sleep with your baby. If you have been drinking alcohol. Am I against co sleeping? No. In fact, if you go clean back to Episode Six teen Can you believe that episode one 616 I talk about co sleeping and how to do it safely. One of the rules do not co sleep if you've been drinking alcohol or taking any medications that make you sleepy for that matter. So there you have it again my top three tips for you today when it comes to alcohol while breastfeeding one on one. Number one tip number one is drinking alcohol is not a necessity, but it is an option. Tip number two is moderation. And tip number three was there's usually no need to pump and dump. I hope you found this podcast episode helpful if you know of another mom on your life who is asking questions about alcohol and breastfeeding Will you do me a favor and share this podcast episode with her? Come back next week. Again, we're gonna be talking about caffeine and breastfeeding. It's going to be good. I can't wait to see you there. And of course I'm going to leave you with You're strong. You're smart, you are beautiful. You're a good friend to all buy. If you would like more help, check us out at It's the happy place for boobs and babies, where you can take an online workshop on topics from breastfeeding to baby gas. Learn baby massage, get a pumping plan before returning to work and even get one on one lactation help from our IBCLCs we meet with families both in home and also all over the world via secure video and guess what? These lactation consultations might even be covered by your insurance. Click the link in the show notes or visit breezy to see if you qualify. Also connect with us at breezy babies on Instagram and YouTube.



  • Intro to the show. 0:00
    • Welcome to the breezy babies podcast.
  • Breaking up the podcast into episodes. 1:56
    • Breaking down a podcast into two parts.
    • Today's podcast is brought to you by Amara.
  • Introduction to alcohol and breastfeeding. 4:01
    • Introduction to the topic of alcohol and breastfeeding.
    • breastfeeding 101, the essential guide.
  • Caffeine and alcohol while breastfeeding. 6:31
    • This podcast is not medical advice.
    • Drinking alcohol is not a necessity, but an option.
  • Alcohol does not increase milk production. 9:01
    • Alcohol does not increase milk production.
    • Daily consumption of alcohol is associated with slow weight gain.
  • Alcohol intake and breastfeeding. 10:57
    • Alcohol and breastfeeding. Le Leche league website.
    • Alcohol effects on babies and mothers.
  • Alcohol levels in breastmilk and breastfeeding. 12:54
    • Alcohol concentrations in breast milk closely resemble maternal blood.
    • Beer may increase serum prolactin levels during nursing.
  • High alcohol levels in breastmilk. 15:28
    • High alcohol levels and milk occur 30-60 minutes after an alcoholic beverage.
    • Nursing after one to two drinks.
  • How much alcohol should I drink? 17:31
    • No alcohol in large amounts.
    • Nursing should take place two hours after the alcohol intake.
  • Does eating healthy nutrient dense food matter while breastfeeding? 19:01
    • Eating healthy, nutrient-dense food while breastfeeding.
    • No need to pump and dump.
    • Do not co-sleep with your baby if drinking alcohol.
    • Three tips for alcohol while breastfeeding.

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