Can I Have A Drink If I'm Breastfeeding?

Coming up to the silly season, I get asked the same question over and over again... Is it ok for me to have a glass of wine when I'm breastfeeding? Should I pump and dump? 

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There is a general consensus amongst experts that it is safe to have a drink whilst breastfeeding. Research shows that a mother can have one or two standard drinks occasionally and it will not harm her breastfed baby.

(I'm not the expert, read more herehere and here.)

But somehow this hasn't permeated popular culture. Ask online or at a mums group and you will likely be told that you shouldn't drink and breastfeed, ever. And that if you do drink, you should pump and dump.

Pump and dump is just a catchy way of saying that after you drink alcohol you should express milk and throw it away in order to reduce the alcohol level in your breastmilk. But in fact, the only thing that will decrease the alcohol level in your milk is time. And the only reason you need to pump is in case you need to maintain your milk supply whilst you are waiting. 

It's possible many cultural phenomena converge on this topic to perpetuate the pump and dump myth. It probably helps sell breast pumps. It could be related to our general attitudes towards women, harshly judging any mother who is having too much fun. Or perhaps it's something to do with our mistrust of women's bodies, preferring machines and bottles and formula.

Pumping and dumping will not reduce the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk. Plus it's inconvenient, confusing and makes a mother worry unnecessarily. The last thing we need is another barrier to breastfeeding!! And it's probably still better to breastfeed after having a drink than introduce formula.

As a general rule, if you only have 1 or 2 drinks on special occasions, like Christmas, you have nothing to worry about.

If you are still worried, breastfeed your baby whilst you drink - this is especially fun if you do it in public! But seriously, it takes about 30-60 minutes for alcohol to enter your bloodstream (and therefore your milk) and then roughly two hours per standard drink for the alcohol to leave your milk. Have some expressed milk or formula ready in case your baby needs to feed again earlier than that.

Drinking three or more standard drinks every day may be a problem for your health and your babies health, so it might be worth exploring other ways of making your life more enjoyable.

But for most sensible and smart mothers, the fact that you are worried about this probably means you are already a awesome mum. Go ahead and enjoy one or two drinks this holiday season.