Breastfeeding Myth #1 - Wine!
There are so many myths surrounding breastfeeding, and many have been around for years - despite research demonstrating that they are untrue. So I’m starting a little series of posts to bust some of the breastfeeding myths - as many of them can put off or discourage breastfeeding or make women feel in some way crap. And that is definitely something I do not want!
Number one is perhaps the most important - the myth that you cannot drink alcohol when you’re breastfeeding. Utter rubbish….read on to learn some basics and rules that allow you to enjoy a glass (if you want to).
Pregnancy probably meant that you were more sober and substance free than at any other time in your adult life. Although wine may not be top of your wish list in those first days after birth, you might start thinking about it soon after. As with all things pregancy/birth/parenting is good to know the actual facts, so you can make choices that are right for you (the crux of my Hypnobirthing & Birth Preparation courses). So here’s the info you need on alcohol and breastmilk.
The amount of alcohol that passes into breastmilk is a microscopic fraction of that consumed by the mother. The level of alcohol peaks in blood and breastmilk approximately 30 minutes to an hour after drinking it, and does not accumulate over time.
Alcohol leaves breastmilk as it leaves the blood. Dr Jack Newman a Canadian Paediatrician and breastfeeding specialist has written:
“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 can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers”
Carlos Gonzalez, a Spanish paediatrician and breastfeeding specialist agrees, saying:
“The legal driving limit in the UK is 0.08 %. If your blood alcohol level is higher than 0.15 % you are unmistakably drunk. If it goes above 0.55% you simply drop dead! Therefore, it’s absolutely impossible for breastmilk to contain more than 0.55% alcohol. Alcohol free beer can legally contain nearly double this - up to 1% alcohol. Consequently, even the breastmilk of a completely inebriated mother could be bottled and labled as ‘alcohol free’
Because alcohol doesn’t stay in your system, its metabolized and just like it leaves your bloodstream it leaves your milk too.. Alcohol leaves the bloodstream at a rate of roughly one unit per hour, so once it’s left your bloodstream it will have left your milk too. Therefore ‘pumping and dumping’ (expressing milk and throwing it away) is pointless - unless for comfort - as the new milk will contain the same alcohol concentration as is in your bloodstream.
A side note is that it takes around 30 to 90 minutes (or 60 to 90 if drinking while eating) for alcohol to peak in your bloodstream. So drinking while actually breastfeeding probably gives you the most time until your baby next feeds. And as breastfeeding doesn’t require two hands like bottle feeding does…..cheers!
Of course it must absolutely be stressed that regular heavy drinking and breastfeeding isn’t advisable, but then heavy drinking and parenting also isn’t advisable. A breastfeeding mother having a glass or two of wine is unlikely to be a problem, but if you are planning to get rip roaring drunk it’s probably not safe to be holding or caring for a baby, whether you breastfeed or formula feed. You also must NOT co-sleep with your baby of you have been drinking any alcohol at all. More information on co-sleeping guidelines here at Lullaby Trust.
It’s reassuring to know that The NHS says that one or two units once or twice a week is absolutely fine.
Some limited research has even shown that drinking a small amount of beer can stimulate milk supply (thought to be to do with the barley stimulating prolactin levels, although non alcoholic beer works too)
Of course you may may decide not to drink alcohol at all, or you really might not fancy it (however out of character that may seem!) and that’s all fine too. Your baby, your body, your choice.
Why Breastfeeding Matters by Charlotte Young
The Positive Breastfeeding Book by Amy Brown.