In time for St. Patty’s Day, I’ve asked the experts over at the Pump Station to give us the truth about drinking beer while breastfeeding – does it help production? Or is it just a bad idea? Read below to find out more…and don’t miss the end where you can find out more about how the Pump Station is fueling MomPrep classes in Santa Monica!
St.Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and your Irish roots are calling you down to your local Irish pub for a mug or two of delicious green beer. Just as your enthusiasm builds in anticipation of a fun-filled evening, you suddenly remember that you are breastfeeding. Hmmm…what to do? Oh wait; didn’t you hear something about beer increasing breastmilk production? This is great. You can enjoy yourself and make more milk. Or can you?
What is the real truth behind alcohol consumption while breastfeeding? Is alcohol safe for an infant? Do you need to abstain completely while breastfeeding? Does beer really increase milk production?
What does alcohol consumption do to your milk supply?
The first thing to consider is that alcohol is a drug which passes into the mother’s blood stream and then into her milk. As alcohol passes quickly in and out of the milk, essentially the mother’s blood alcohol level is equivalent to her milk alcohol level. As the liver clears the blood of alcohol it clears the milk as well. Any alcohol that reaches the milk will peak in about 30-60 minutes if the mother drinks without food. Assuming the mom has one serving (12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, or 1.5 oz hard liquor) the alcohol should have cleared her milk with 3 hours of consumption.
If a mother chooses to drink more than one serving within a 2-4 hour period she should plan ahead and leave pumped milk in bottles for her baby. How long a mother needs to wait before safely resuming breastfeeding depends on how much alcohol the woman consumes and in what time frame, and lastly how much she weighs. There is a nifty little calculator at www.obfocus.com where one can plug in body weight and number of drinks consumed. The site will tell you when it is safe to resume breastfeeding. Or, a mom can purchase a smart little product called “Milkscreen.” Place a drop of milk on the test stripe and voila! The strip will indicate whether or not it is safe to resume breastfeeding.
What does alcohol do to babies?
Initially, it tends to make them sleepy. Before you jump and say “yeah, I want that at night” remember that this also causes the baby to eat less. Infants have small, immature livers that don’t function as well as an adult. The younger the baby, the more vulnerable they are to alcohol. The Little study, published in Pediatrics 2002, found that babies who were exposed to a serving of alcohol on a daily basis in the 1st 3 moths were found to have a significant delay in their gross motor skills at 10 months of age.
What about milk production?
Urban legend has it that the hops and grains in beer increase production. There is no clinical data to support the notion that any alcoholic beverage will increase your milk supply. Further, alcohol acts as a diuretic and tends to decrease the Oxytocin let-down response.
Most websites, books and blogs suggest that occasional alcohol consumption will not harm your baby. If you choose to enjoy an alcoholic beverage, consider the following:
1) Allow time for the alcohol to leave your system before resuming breastfeeding (2-3 hours per serving).
2) Pump and store milk if you plan to consume more than 1 drink in a 3 hour period
3) Do not sleep with your infant while under the influence of alcohol
4) Drink a glass of water along with your alcoholic beverage
5) Eating food will help diminish the amount of alcohol that is absorbed into your blood stream and therefore into your milk
6) The less you weigh, the greater the amount of alcohol that will end up in your breast milk.
7) Pumping does not remove the alcohol from your breastmilk. Only time does this.
So off you go to your local pub and raise a mug of the green suds. Drink moderately, use common sense, and try to enjoy yourself. Oh, and don’t be surprised to find that the green food coloring may gave a slight greenish tint to your breastmilk. St.Patrick would be so proud!
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