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Consuming Alcohol and Breastfeeding

After nine months of putting their baby’s needs first, many new mothers are curious as to whether it is safe to consume alcohol while breastfeeding. As with most things in life, it is suggested that consumption of alcohol while breastfeeding is done in “moderation” – which is true but very vague. You must consider the size of your newborn baby, and how small their liver is – it is suggested that baby’s metabolise alcohol half as effectively as adults. The level of alcohol in breast milk remains close to that found in the mother’s bloodstream. After around thirty to ninety minutes after consumption, alcohol levels will be at their highest. While alcohol in small doses will not do significant damage to your baby, it can upset the baby’s sleeping patterns and lead to an agitated baby. Studies have shown that babies who are being breastfed milk, after the mother’s consumed alcohol, will consume less than normal. This results in the need for more frequent feedings.

How much can I drink (and how often) before I harm my baby? 
It is best to leave drinking to social occasions. It is suggested that you wait two-to-three hours, after consuming a unit of alcohol, before breastfeeding. If you consume more than two standard drinks, it would be advisable to increase the time you wait to four-to-six hours. If you find yourself drunk or feeling like you may vomit then it is suggested to avoid breastfeeding for at least twelve hours. Alcohol doesn’t bind to the breast milk, so it does not need to be pumped and discarded after a few drinks. As your body clears out your blood, your breast milk will also be filtered. If you have consumed a substantial amount of alcohol and are waiting an appropriate time before resuming breastfeeding, you may like to pump some of your milk to avoid discomfort, but this is not necessary.

The most important thing is to learn your own boundaries. If you are planning to drink a lot of alcohol for a special occasion, consider pre-pumping some breast milk so you can feed that to your baby while your body metabolises all the alcohol you’ve consumed. Try to start drinking soon after a baby’s feed. Always try to consume alcohol with a meal, as this will help your own body process it faster and all your breast milk to be suitable sooner. As a mother your priority should be your baby’s health, however, It is important that you allow yourself some time to relax and be social. Some mother’s are particularly cautious and feel that it is better to bottle feed with formula after consuming alcohol – this is not correct. Breast milk that contains small traces of alcohol, from just a few standard drinks, is substantially more beneficial for baby. It contains all the immunological and special properties that make it so valuable for a nursing baby.

What other problems can arise after alcohol consumption?
Alcohol consumption can make you dehydrated, which is of particular concern to breastfeeding mothers. It is essential that you take enough extra water so that your body can continue to produce enough milk. A good rule to follow is an extra glass of water per standard drink. This will also help your body metabolise the alcohol faster. There are other risks depending on how much you are consuming; if you are getting drunk then it will be more difficult for you to care for your baby. It is not recommended to drink excessively unless you have organised someone else to care for your baby. In addition, co-sleeping is particularly dangerous when the mother is intoxicated. Alcohol consumption can impair your ability to hear your baby cry and could make you less aware of your baby’s presence in your bed. This could be fatal and should be of serious concern to mothers. Under no circumstance should you co-sleep with your baby after consuming more than a couple of drinks.


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