I love wine. It's easily one of my top three drinks of choice, right behind tea and coffee. Going without the elixir of the gods for the full 40 weeks of pregnancy was absolute torture for me, and it's no wonder that I couldn't wait for the first sip of cabernet or shiraz after giving birth. However, I've always breastfed exclusively, and I wonder if my nightly glass of wine adversely affected my experience. Does drinking wine affect milk supply? Did my favorite way to relax impact how I fed my children?
Wine, just like any alcohol, is a dehydrating beverage. While normally this isn't a problem if you remember to continue to drink water while you imbibe your evening send-off, it may prove problematic if you're breastfeeding, according to Human Nutrition. Healthy hydration is a key factor in an abundant milk supply, and any aberration to the normal processes, such as drinking a glass of pinot, may result in decreased or slowed production for the period of time in which the alcohol remains present in your system.
Having a glass of wine while breastfeeding isn't necessarily harmful, as per the guidance of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), but it can have other effects on your milk unrelated to supply. For example, it might change the flavor of the milk to the point where your baby might not find your milk quite so magical as they did before. In this case, sour grapes might mean sour boobs. It's also not the safest activity depending on how much you drink. It takes about two hours for the effects of one serving of alcohol to process in your body, according to Basic Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology. Contrary to popular belief, pumping and dumping has no benefit — the booze just needs to run its course in your blood system. If you're sober enough to drive, you're sober enough to breastfeed.
There are old wives' tales out there that advocate for the consumption of red wine as a galactagogue, which is a substance that increases your breast milk supply. Unfortunately, that seems to be utter hogwash as the science just doesn't pan out. Trust me, there was no one more hopeful for a different result to the question of wine affecting your milk supply than me. Alas, I cannot make it true by hoping. I wanted the answer to be more along the lines of "Yes, it makes it better, stronger, faster. It will give your baby superpowers. Your milk will be abundant and your breasts are a fine '80s vintage, making it well-rounded and full-bodied." Instead, it's more likely you'll end up with slightly less empty breasts — it's incredibly unfair.
There are aspects of some alcoholic beverages that are galactagogues, however, which is probably why the old wives' tales exist. Brewer's yeast, which is found in beer, is a known galactagogue, according to Breastfeeding Basics. While there is yeast involved in the wine making process, the strain of yeast is different, and doesn't have the same positive effect on your breast milk supply that beer yeast has. But that doesn't mean that beer will increase your supply, either. The same truth about the dehydrating effects of alcohol in wine are also true in beer.
I know, I'm just raining all over everyone's hopes and dreams, here.
There are some ways you could possibly boost your supply and, in turn, possibly mitigate the effects of a glass of wine at the end of the evening though. These can include, but are not limited to, feeding your baby on demand, drinking plenty of water, getting adequate rest, and maintaining a healthy diet, according to Kelly Mom.
If you're looking to increase your supply and relax in the evening, you might want to try one of the myriad recipes on the internet for lactation cookies. They contain the galactagogues oats and brewer's yeast, and are purported to help your supply. I will admit, I ate tons of these when I was breastfeeding, and my supply was pretty good. (Although I'm not sure if it was from the cookies or just good luck.) But, the cookies also have chocolate, fat, and sugar, and they taste a treat, so really, what's the harm in trying a few dozen?
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.