You’ve spent the last nine months abstaining from alcohol during your pregnancy. Your baby is finally born and now you can finally enjoy a nice glass of wine! However, if you plan on breastfeeding, you will probably need to be careful about when you enjoy an alcoholic drink.
Babies, even exposed to just a drink a day, may have impaired motor development and changes in their sleep patterns. And though it is only minute amounts of alcohol that enter into the breast milk, because babies are so small those trace amounts are enough to potentially harm them. To further escalate the situation for infants, their tiny bodies process alcohol twice as slowly as ours. So those trace amounts can add up at twice the rate it does for us.
This isn’t to say that you can’t drink at all. You just have to be careful about when you drink. For a typical 12 ounce serving of beer, 4 ounce serving of wine, or 1 mixed drink, it should take between 2-3 hours for it to clear your system completely. If you plan ahead and have ‘clean’ milk pumped and stored then this won’t be a problem. But if you plan to breastfeed later in the day plan to give yourself 3 hours per drink to be safe.
For example, if you have three drinks with dinner at 8:00pm and wrap up by 9:00pm you should be fine to pump out some breast milk by 6:00am the next morning for your baby with no worries at all.
So the moral of the story is that babies can get drunk and sick off of breast milk that is tainted with alcohol, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be completely abstain from drinking while you breastfeed. All that you have to do is be careful and time it correctly and both you and your baby can be happy and safe!