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Can You Remove Alcohol From Breast Milk? Here's What You Need To Know

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No matter what you're celebrating (or not celebrating), there's a good chance there will be alcohol around you. Heck, in my house, if it's a Friday (or a Tuesday) and it's after 5 p.m., there's a glass of wine. (But not anywhere near the heavier drinking associated with parties.) If you're a breastfeeding mom, you might worry about the quality of your milk after you've had a drink or two. Is there a way to mitigate the booze in your milk? Can you remove alcohol from breast milk somehow?

Human breast milk is a remarkable substance. It's a renewable product that acts in a similar fashion to your bloodstream when substances are introduced. The rule of thumb is that however long the product lingers in your blood, it lingers in your milk, according to Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology. However, the level of alcohol transferred to the breast milk is much lower, noted the journal. The amount found in the milk is about 5 or 6 percent of the total maternal dose, adjusted for weight. So the common thought is that if you're sober enough to drive, you're sober enough to breastfeed, and that pumping and dumping does not speed this process along. Also, there is no way to cleanse your milk of the alcohol consumed, as popular internet theories would have you believe. Freezing does not "dissipate" the alcohol, and the amount of time it would take to burn off via boiling would destroy much of what makes breast milk so valuable, according to the Journal of Perinatology.

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I can understand the logic and desire to boil breast milk to reduce or eliminate the alcohol that remains in the pumped milk. Pumping is hard — heck, parenting is hard — and the inability to nurse your child or pump and feed your child just because you had a few beers seems impossibly unfair. You just spent 10 months of your life unable to have a glass of wine with dinner or a vodka tonic at an art reception, and you just wanted some champagne while you watched Oprah drag every guy within six miles of access to the television or the internet. That sort of inspiration deserves a bit of bubbly.

Unfortunately, your body is a total school marm that keeps records of every sip, and your milk is a delicate balance of microflora and nutrients that don't appreciate the sort of high temperature heating that is required to burn off the alcohol from its contents. Studies have shown heating affects the fat, the flora, and the folate in the milk, and all three of those are crucial aspects of the "liquid gold" quality of the breast milk.

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As for freezing the milk, it has no impact on the alcohol in the milk, other than making your bag of milk cold. Have you ever thrown a bottle of gin or tequila into the freezer the night before you threw a party? It gets thicker, and really lovely, but when you pour that into your cocktails at the party? It's just as potent. The alcohol remains liquid, and the water in the spirit freezes. The more solid a spirit freezes, the more water content in the liquid. This is why your PawPaw's moonshine barely gets any thicker, but those wine smoothies get to be the perfect texture of slushy goodness. Alcohol content.

Can you remove alcohol from breast milk any other way? The only way to do it is by leaving it in your boobs until you're sober, and then going for it. While recent literature suggests that even fairly drunk women show very little alcohol in their milk, it's better to be safe than sorry.

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