If there's one thing guaranteed to get everyone excited about Valentine's Day, it's the idea that it's totally acceptable to eat chocolate and drink champagne on a weeknight. For breastfeeding moms, all that chocolate will come in handy while you're cluster feeding your baby three minutes after finishing a romantic dinner, but how much champagne is safe for breastfeeding moms? Can you indulge in some bubbly and still nurse your little one, or should you stick to the sparkling apple cider. (Collective groan.)
There's a lot of conflicting information out there concerning alcohol and breastfeeding. Some moms think that they can't have any alcohol, while others think that every sip means you have to pump and dump your hard-earned breast milk. But that's not actually the case and this Valentine's Day, plenty of breastfeeding moms can enjoy champagne without worrying about their milk supply. The trick is knowing what's the right amount.
"If moms feel tipsy then they shouldn't breastfeed," International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Lori Atkins of Oh, Baby Lactation Care tells Romper. "If you're 'nursing' a glass of wine or beer over a period of time — over dinner or a movie — you're fine. Anything more frequent, and there is concern not only for transfer of alcohol into milk, but for safe care taking, handling, and quick response to your baby."
Kristin Gourley of Lactation Link notes similar guidelines. "The American Academy of Pediatrics section on breastfeeding recommends that mothers limit their alcohol intake while breastfeeding, and ingest no more than 2 ounces of liquor, 8 ounces of wine, or two beers, as well as abstain from breastfeeding for about two hours after drinking to further minimize any alcohol in breast milk," Gourley says. "Alcohol can also inhibit or slow down your let-down, which may make baby fussy or make them nurse less."
This is where you have to make a decision about your drinking environment. Are you having a glass of champagne over dinner? Are you going to be nursing your baby within the next two hours? If a babysitter is watching your baby throughout the night, you could enjoy more than a glass or two, especially if you won't be breastfeeding again for several hours. IBCLC Lindsay Greenfield gives a simple guideline: "Safe to drive, safe to breastfeed."
IBCLC Angie Natero says that after a drink or two (she considers this moderate drinking), she advises moms to wait to return infant to the breast as nobody truly knows what is a safe amount. "If they feel intoxicated at all, it's a safer bet to just wait as it's not safe to breastfeed a baby intoxicated or to care for them in that state. Planning ahead is key," Natero says. "Alcohol does transfer to the milk, though modestly, and the only way to remove that alcohol is time, as alcohol will leave the milk like it leaves mom's blood. Breastfeeding doesn't mean you can never drink, but research and then plan ahead."
Good news: once you're sober, you're OK to breastfeed. Atkins says the only time she ever discusses pumping and dumping milk is if a mom is planning on drinking heavily, like at a wedding or other event. And don't worry about the morning either. "As for a hangover, moms should be fine to nurse," Atkins says. "Hydrate, hydrate. You might have a headache, but your milk will be OK for baby."
So as long as you aren't breastfeeding your little one while you're tipsy or drunk, you can enjoy a glass or two of champagne. The actual amount depends on how long it's going to be until you nurse your baby again. Just remember, the alcohol will leave your blood stream which means it will leave your milk. Just because you had four glasses of champagne at 8 p.m. doesn't mean you can't nurse at 8 a.m. if you no longer feel tipsy or drunk. Use your best judgment and remember to hydrate — that bubbly can be a killer come 6 a.m. when your baby sounds off like an alarm.