PP -  alcohol and breastfeeding
PP - alcohol and breastfeeding

You’ve just spent nine months on the wagon and now you’re being told that even though you’ve given birth, you still have to abstain from all alcohol. Surely there’s some wiggle room for the occasional bevvy? Yes, there is.

Research nutritionist Dr Roslyn Giglia, of WA’s Curtin University of Technology, has conducted extensive research into alcohol consumption and breastfeeding. She says if lactating mums want to have a drink that it’s all about planning and timing.

“You don’t have to stop breastfeeding to have a social life,” she insists. “It’s about planning ahead for you’re alcohol consumption”

From tipple to nipple
Alcohol gets into breastmilk from the blood, moving freely in and out – and it will be in the milk within an hour of consumption.

Dr Giglia says it’s important for mums to know that the amount of alcohol in the blood is exactly the same as the amount in their breastmilk. How much gets in can be influenced by the strength of alcohol consumed, how much the mum has eaten before and during consumption, the weight of the mum and the speed of consumption.

Timing and planning
Dr Giglia suggests some measures to take if planning a drink.

1. Breastfeed your baby before you start drinking, while being aware that you may need to feed again in a few hours.
2. Eat before and while drinking.
3. Alternate the alcoholic with non-alcoholic drinks.
4. If you think you may drink more than usual express some milk ahead of your night out, freezing some just in case.
5. If you miss a feed while drinking and your breasts become uncomfortable, express and DISCARD the milk.
6. Arrange for a non-drinking person to look after your baby.

If you do drink while lactating, you may find that your milk flow is not as strong, and it will take longer for your breasts to empty. If your baby ingests some alcohol in your breastmilk he may not sleep as well, falling asleep quicker but waking sooner.

And only time will reduce the amount of alcohol in the blood. Expressing milk and throwing it away will not reduce the alcohol content.

How long until it’s gone?
It will take two hours for an average-sized woman to get rid of the alcohol from just one standard alcoholic drink, and four hours for two drinks.

Example 1: For a 59kg woman has had three standard drinks, one after the other, it would take five hours and 33 minutes from when she started drinking for there to be no alcohol in her breastmilk. For a 70kg woman drinking the same amount, it would take five hours and five minutes.

Example 2: For an 84kg woman drinking two standard drinks starting at 8pm, there would be zero alcohol in her breastmilk three hours and four minutes later.

Source: Giglia & Binns 2006; ABA Alcohol and breastfeeding: a guide for mothers

The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) has published a guide on alcohol and breastfeeding for mums, in association with Dr Giglia. www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/ABA_Alchohol_BF.pdf

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