When you're pregnant, the world can sometimes seem like it's full of delicious things you can't actually consume: soft cheese, deli meat, sushi. Your second or third coffee of the day if you are hooked like I am. And while it may seem like giving birth would signal the end of those food and drink restrictions, for many breastfeeding moms, things like caffeine and alcohol continue to remain off-limits — most of the time, at least. If you've ever been a nursing mom looking forward to a much-needed night out, then you can probably relate to Pink's Instagram post about pumping breastmilk. Because as much as breast pumps can be the absolute worst sometimes, if you're in the mood for a glass of wine after the kids have gone down for the night, your breast pump can also be your best friend.
The world of celebrity motherhood can sometimes seem like a magical universe of picture-perfect designer nurseries, nannies, and bodies that somehow "bounce back" practically immediately after birth, but mom-of-two Pink has always been totally down to keep it real. And in her most recent Instagram post, the singer revealed her pumping-mom pro-tip for being able to have a drink or two when you're still breastfeeding: it's all about the timing.
In the post, Pink shared a pic of herself hooked up to a breast pump courtesy of a hands-free pumping bra (a pumping mom necessity!), holding up a soon-to-be-opened bottle of red wine. In the caption, she wrote, "When you're almost done pumping and you know what's next," and honestly, it's just one more reason why she seems like she'd be the ultimate celeb mom bestie.
Just as drinking while pregnant is considered a no-no (alcohol in the mother’s blood will pass through to the baby through the umbilical cord, according to the Centers for Disease Control), drinking while breastfeeding can also be an issue, since alcohol also passes through breastmilk. And although the actual amount of alcohol in the milk is much less than what the mother actually consumes, it takes twice as long for newborns to eliminate it from their bodies according to the Mayo Clinic, and there is no safe level at which alcohol in breast milk is considered to be safe.
That's kind of a bummer if you've managed to book a babysitter and have a date night planned, but the good news is that there is a way to navigate the risk. While the old advice used to recommend "pumping and dumping," based on the idea that it would get rid of any alcohol-containing milk, the reality is that alcohol exists in breastmilk in the same concentration as it does in your blood, according to Slate, peaking approximately 30-45 minutes after you've had a drink. In other words, in the same way that your blood alcohol level drops as you sober up, so does the alcohol level in your milk. Meaning that instead of throwing out your breastmilk (ack), all you really have to do is, well, wait.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it takes about two to three hours for 12 ounces of 5 percent beer to clear your system, and roughly the same among of time for 5 ounces of 11 percent wine or 1.5 ounces of 40 percent liquor, depending on the mother's body weight. According to similar data from the Motherisk program at The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, it takes the average 140-pound woman between 4 and 5 hours to clear two 5-ounce glasses of wine, so a breastfeeding mom who starts drinking at 8:00 p.m. Friday night should wait until after midnight before breastfeeding her baby, or pumping any breastmilk she intends to keep.
Waiting too long between pumping sessions can be pretty brutal though, so as Pink has so perfectly illustrated, the best option is make sure you pump right before you intend on having a drink. That should give you at least a few hours before you start feeling uncomfortable, at which point, you'll probably be in the clear.
Of course, given that there's no easy way to tell for sure exactly when your breast milk will become alcohol-free, the only fool-proof method would be to just abstain from alcohol completely. And there are other more general risks involved in drinking when you have a baby that need to be considered, too: accidentally falling asleep with your baby after a few drinks could pose a suffocation risk, according to The Guardian, and drinking alcohol can impair your ability to care for your infant, regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding.
As Pink's photo shows though, an occasional glass or two of wine doesn't have to automatically be off-limits just because you're breastfeeding. Pump strategically and watch the clock, and you should be just fine.