It’s New Year’s! 2016 has a lot of us feeling like we need a drink stat. New Year’s parties come with their own traditions, and depending on the party, popping open some champagne or knocking back a couple of beers will almost certainly be one of them.
If you’re getting a babysitter and heading out this New Year’s, you might be wondering if it’s safe to have a drink while breastfeeding. There’s so much conflicting information available. Never drink, your mom says. Pump and dump, says your friend. But what does the evidence say?
The typical rule of thumb here is if you’re sober enough to drive, you’re sober enough to breastfeed. Evidence suggests there are no ill effects associated with infrequent, low to moderate alcohol intake while breastfeeding (usually defined as about two drinks once a week). The concentration of alcohol in your breastmilk will correlate directly with the amount of alcohol in your blood. If you’re feeling impaired, wait and reassess in two hour intervals. If you don’t feel impaired, you’re likely good to go.
Dr Jack Newman states “Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.”
He’s got a point. Drinking and breastfeeding is a criminally understudied topic. We know that alcohol concentration in breastmilk is quite low. We also know healthy babies over three months old process very small amounts of alcohols without major difficulties. Recommendations ere on the side of caution here, as they should. But there’s no need to become a prohibitionist while nursing.
What if you drink a little too much? Pumping and dumping is unnecessary, unless you need to pump for comfort while impaired. The only way to remove alcohol from breastmilk is to wait. Pumping and throwing away milk while impaired will just result in more milk with the same concentration of alcohol taking it’s place.
So what should you do with this information? Have that glass of champagne at the New Year’s party. A glass or two will not limit your ability to breastfeed in any way. If you’re planning on drinking more, consider pumping beforehand and feeding your baby that expressed milk while you’re feeling tipsy. You’re an adult, and it’s well within your rights to drink a little more than recommended. That being said, do not attempt to feed your baby while significantly impaired. Risks of SIDS and smothering go up significantly when a baby is sleeping with an impaired parent. There’s a fall risk should you lose consciousness during a feeding, and the quantity of alcohol in your milk may exceed safety standards.
It all comes down to common sense. If you feel like you’re capable of feeding your baby, you almost certainly are. If you don’t, you likely shouldn’t. Motherhood doesn’t mean becoming a nun. Have fun, and let your hair down if you’d like. Happy New Year’s to you and yours!