How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Breast Milk? Experts Explain
It's longer than you might think.
You went nine long, long months without sipping a single drop of your chardonnay. But now that baby is here, you might want to start feeling like yourself again and pour yourself a glass of wine to cheers with your gal pals. Thing is, if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need to know how much booze you can imbibe without it affecting your baby. That’s why it’s important to understand how long alcohol stays in breast milk for, so that it’s safe for your little sweetie... and really, you, too.
Winding down with a nice glass of white wine might sound wonderful after a long day of diaper changes, but you definitely don’t want any alcohol to wind up in your breast milk, either. Unfortunately, the answer to understanding how long alcohol stays in breast milk isn’t so straightforward, according to Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC, LCCE, a certified lactation consultant. “There are many factors to consider when advising about breastfeeding and alcohol consumption,” she says. “We must consider the height and weight of the breastfeeding parent, what they have eaten with the alcohol, and we need to consider the age of the baby.”
Should You Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding Your Baby?
All things considered, staying away from the hard stuff is the best option for breastfeeding moms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And here’s why: “New mothers will need time for their bodies to heal,” Liza Janda, a certified lactation educator counselor, tells Romper. “They will be sleep-deprived and adding alcohol to the mix can alter them neurologically, ultimately leading to possible impaired judgment and the ability to properly care for her baby.”
And that’s not all. “A baby under three months of age has a very immature liver and will have a more challenging time metabolizing the alcohol,” O’Connor explains. That’s why, if possible, you should wait until your baby is at least three months old so that their itty bitty bodies are better able to process the alcohol that might be in your breast milk.
How Much Alcohol Is Safe To Drink When You’re Breastfeeding?
There’s no hard and fast rule on how many Moscow mules you can have without it affecting your breast milk. That said, per the CDC, it’s not advised to have more than one drink per day if you’re nursing. So what counts as a drink? “What is considered safe is approximately one drink: meaning 1 ounce of liquor, 5 ounces of wine, or about 12 ounces of beer,” says O’Connor. Basically, it’s enough to wet your whistle, but not to get you intoxicated, either.
Here’s How Long It Takes For Alcohol To Appear In Your Breast Milk
So here’s the good news: alcohol doesn’t automatically appear in your breast milk. In fact, alcohol (whether it’s wine, beer, or hard liquor) typically takes a bit of time to work its way into your system, which gives you some leeway when it comes to the adult beverages you’d like to consume. In the aptly named study “Alcohol,” researchers found that alcohol levels peak in breast milk between 30-60 minutes after drinking. Once you know how long it takes for alcohol to enter into your bloodstream (and thus, your breast milk), you can figure out a nursing schedule that allows you to have a drink but that won’t affect your baby.
Here’s How Long Alcohol Stays In Breast Milk
If you thought that alcohol evaporates from your breast milk as quickly as it appears, think again. “If you drink a glass of wine, it will stay in your system for one hour,” Darcy Sauers, a doula, tells Romper. “One glass of wine is the same as one beer or one ounce of hard liquor.” That’s when you need to break out your math skills to ensure that you don’t give your baby a margarita-infused feeding. For example, if you drink a daiquiri at 7:00 p.m., the alcoholic effects will show up in your breast milk by about 7:30-8:00 p.m. Add on another hour as it lingers in your liquid gold, and by 9:00 p.m., your breast milk should be safe for baby to consume once again.
Do You Need To Pump And Dump After Drinking Alcohol?
Well, that depends on how much you actually drink — and how. “Breastfeeding moms do not need to pump and dump if they have one drink at least one hour before feeding,” says Sauers. “Your body naturally metabolizes one drink in that time.” And that’s assuming that you drank a glass of wine or had a shot without eating anything. If you had an ice-cold beer with that beef and bean burrito, you might not have to dump all your liquid gold out. “If a person is well hydrated and has consumed alcohol with a meal, it is less problematic,” says O’Connor. While it can take 30-60 minutes for an alcoholic drink to pass into breast milk, it can take even longer (60-90 minutes) if the drink is taken with food, La Leche League reported.
That said, if you’re slurring your words and feel buzzed, you might want to think twice about bringing baby to your breast. “If a person feels sober enough to drive, there is no need to pump and dump,” says O’Connor. “If by chance a person gets a little wild and overdoes it, they should pump, primarily for comfort and to keep up milk production, and avoid nursing or using the milk until they feel sober.”
So if you’re wondering when it will ever be wine o’clock again, just know that you can drink limited quantities of alcohol while breastfeeding. Of course, you’ll need to take extra precautions to time your drinking to your baby’s feeding schedule. That way, you’ll be able to safely raise a glass to breastfeeding, motherhood — and delish adult beverages.
“Alcohol” 2006, Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed), Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine
Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC, LCCE, a certified lactation consultant
Liza Janda, a certified lactation educator counselor
Darcy Sauers, a doula