Breastfeeding & alcohol – the facts

June 17, 2010, 9:29 am Research nutritionist Dr Roslyn Giglia practicalparenting

While official guidelines recommend mums stay alcohol-free while breastfeeding, Fiona Baker finds out if responsible drinking is okay.

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.

Related Links
* Is the odd bottle of formula ok?

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  1. Sar02:49pm Monday 12th July 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    Thisn artticle is tottaly missleading as to the times people should wait before breastfeeding. It's the same as deciding when to drive after a drink. Your bodies abbility to process alcohol is dependant on so many factors such as if you have eaten, if you are on medication, how tired you are, if you are emotional or stressed etc. o put a figure such as 5 hours 33 minutes is irresponsible and wrong.

  2. Sar02:42pm Monday 12th July 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    I am a qualified Drug and Alcohol assessor who also happens to currently be pregnant and I can tell all you mothers out there reading this article that the facts and figures quoted here are B.S! Every person irrelevant of age, size, etc processes alcohol at a different rate and different alcohols get processed at different rates by most people. For instance from my experience red wine is slower to be processed that beer or spirits.

  3. HAYLEY B06:39pm Monday 21st June 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    Angie, there are plenty of women who struggle to or are unable to breastfeed and yes formula is a POSSIBLE alternative and a woman may consider if if she wishes to treat herself to a drink. I am very aware that there are plenty of ways to enjoy life without drink, but then enjoying A GLASS of good quality wine with an excellent meal is not a luxury I imagine many women would want to forgo for possibly years at a time. Good for you if you have made that decision, but I don't think you have the right to criticize women who have different opinions.

  4. Mumof204:33am Sunday 20th June 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    Moderation is definitely key. Deciding to breastfeed your child should be encouraged and congratulated; no finger-wagging about a glass of wine in the evening thank you!. You don't need to turn into a martyr, and can still be 'normal'. Just thoughtfully time your drinks. Goodness knows we give up sleep, income, and lots more for babies - Mothers tend to do the best they can! I have a 12 mth old still feeding at night, and a 3yo who fed for a year. With the odd nightly glass of wine, and a few well-deserved big nights out with the girls, everyone (ie me too) is still happy and I don't resent feeding them for a minute. Thankfully I was only ever encouranged, not freaked out by extreme views.

  5. Simon03:40am Sunday 20th June 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    "it would take five hours and 33 minutes" WTF?? are you serious? judging by the general commentary here, some young mothers may actually set their watches to this. Factors like metabolism and the consumption time would weigh in heavily. Now I am no pregnant mother (just got fed this page as "news" after logging out of email, and then got agitated at the bs that abounds us) but even I can see issues with delivering statistics like this.. You may ask why I care so much? The fact is everyone should worry about what a popular site tells us, especially in the comments section.

  6. Simon03:17am Sunday 20th June 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    So you are worried about your babies health? Rightly so. However please read some other info too. It could be said, that it generally accepted that fluoride (a name loosely given to a mix of chemicals) is really good for us. Hmm, go have a drink of real water and wake up! ( but please do your own research on both sides of the argument, and do not rely on my ramblings. (they may not have a fancy govt. funded site but that doesn't mean we can automatically dismiss the info.) Do you think your booze isn't made of mostly water? And what about the bath you may lie you child in? (skin absorbs moisture and that includes water) This alcohol breast-feeding/pregnancy debate is yet another media distraction along with countless others. Just moderate yourselves so that others don't have to. Common sense should prevail. There are so many other important topics to be concerned with in life, and at the rate we are going, and the general lack of literacy I have witnessed here on this forum, it looks like most of the respondents have been truly 'fed' instead of consciously consuming. Good Luck to Everyone here. And oh yeah.. "In the morning" to anyone at "noagendastream" 

  7. Maria Trimboli02:03am Sunday 20th June 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    This article is quite appropriate for Australia where NO socializing can be down without an alcoholic drink in hand so this article is for mum's that want to breast feed but STILL have a aussie aussie aussie social life!

  8. Simon01:57am Sunday 20th June 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    and to #"Alison" - drinking does not generally equate to binging.. harsh words, use them wisely Social Darwinism is key here.. People were banned from drinking in the 1920/30's (or sometime back then), that makes most 80/90 year old's potential candidates for clean womb-time, do we have anyone from that age group to comment? i am a product of the 70's, a free thinker, and love the fact our parents were not bridled by useless commentary and a consistent nanny state.

  9. Simon01:45am Sunday 20th June 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    #Garfield "If you can't give up alcohol for your child's welfare, then you shouldn't be allowed to have kids. Just more child abuse, something we definately need to destroy in this world." Your use of the word "destroy" raises severe questions about your own mental and social stability. Perhaps your parents drank and breast-fed you the "Kool-aid" instead.. .

  10. Simon01:29am Sunday 20th June 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    We get scared out of doing everything these days, think for yourselves. Moderation is key. just be scared of codex alimentarius - soon they will be taxing vitaminC et al, if we still allowed to buy it. Interesting times ahead..


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