One side says “never” while the other side says yes, breastfeeding moms can drink alcohol. There have been no scientific link to yet define a safe amount of alcohol for the nursing baby to ingest, which leads many experts (and moms) to rule out alcohol while breastfeeding entirely. Well, that’s just not gonna work for me. Here’s the thing: I don’t always get to go on a date with my husband but when I do, I make sure I drink. It isn’t fair to remove a responsible choice to enjoy a drink (or two or three), if done moderately. Key word: “moderate.” Binge drinkers need not apply. Yes, you can still breastfeed your baby and drink your drank. Here’s some questions to ask yourself when you choose to drink while breastfeeding:
What does “moderate” mean to me? Many experts recommend against drinking more than 1-2 drinks per week. Moderate means differently to different people but you should know what “shit-faced” looks like for yourself and just don’t go there. I choose to drink only on special occasions and 2 drinks (small glass of wine or a beer) is plenty for me. Toto, we’re not in college anymore.
Do I need to pump? Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to ‘pump and dump’ to eliminate your so-called “tainted” breast milk. You can still nurse from the breast after consuming moderate amounts of alcohol. It all depends on your alcohol level and the amount of passing time. Personally, I only drink on occasion like date night and have pumped milk to according to the time I’m away from the baby. No one wants to fiddle with a breast pump after a drink or two anyway.
When was the last feed? If you do want to enjoy a beer, wine, or a cocktail, then it’s best to enjoy it immediately after or as close as possible to the last feed. Personally, I would not drink if I was still in the ’round-the-clock newborn nursing stage because … ’round the clock and the likelihood that you’d need to nurse is more frequent than the speed of elimination from your blood alcohol content. According to La Leche League’s FAQ on alcohol, it passes freely into breast milk and peaks “about 30 to 60 minutes after consumption, 60 to 90 minutes when taken with food.”
Where the food at? Snacks? Did someone say snacks? We all know how “hangry” we get while breastfeeding so this is clearly a given. Consuming food with alcohol decreases its absorption into your bloodstream so this is really important for both your Hulk hunger and alcohol tolerance.
How many drinks have I had? You know your body the best so if you know that you’ll be shit-faced after three glasses of wine then please be mindful to reach that limit. If you don’t think you know your body well, maybe consider waiting to consume alcohol until your child is older since older babies metabolize it faster than smaller babies. There is absolutely no harm in just one drink after a long day at home. Shit, nowadays one drink is is enough to forget about the day’s pee on the floor and Cheerios in my bed.
Can I manually operate a forklift? In general, if you’re sober enough to drive, you’re sober enough to breastfeed. If you feel “neurologically normal,” you can breastfeed after an ample amount of time has passed. If this is the case then I wouldn’t recommend actually testing out your nearest CAT diesel machine for a quickie sobriety test.
So, plan ahead and be mindful of the consequences (co-sleepers, I’m looking at you) so you can enjoy your favorite drink. As with all else in life and especially parenthood, moderation is your best friend. It isn’t fair to make breastfeeding any more restrictive than it already is. Something I consider is how the the risks outweigh the “benefits.” If I foresee a situation where it compromises feeding my child then it’s not even a consideration. Breastfeeding is a short amount of time and I can have all the Jell-O shots in the world once I’m done breastfeeding. Sometimes the pumping, the time apart, and the headache is not worth it as much as my children are.
*This does not replace professional and medical advice regarding breastfeeding and alcohol. I’m just here to let you know I’m a breastfeeding (and bed-sharing) mom that had a couple drinks that one time and lived to tell about it. Check my next post for tips on how to prevent hangovers.*