The guidelines for drinking alcohol while pregnant are pretty clear, but what happens after the baby arrives? Sometimes mama just wants to unwind with a splash of merlot. So here’s everything you need to know about drinking wine while nursing, according to a group healthcare professionals including a lactation consultant, as well as medical doctors with specialties in pediatrics and OB/GYN care.
It’s also worth noting that although many moms can (and do) enjoy wine responsibly, there are also some understandable concerns about “mom wine culture” overall.
How much wine can I drink while breastfeeding?
“Remember that the best recommendation is to not drink and breastfeed ideally, but there is a lower risk to your baby if you stick to just one serving size,” N. Bande Mangaliso Virgil, MD, FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician and newborn hospitalist, tells Romper in an email. “It's important for breastfeeding mothers to know that drinking while nursing requires a commitment to understanding standard serving sizes for wine. I find that so many of us love our oversized wine glasses, and may not always remember that a serving is considered 4-5 ounces.” It may feel a little odd to measure wine before pouring it into your glass, sure, but it’s the safest way to imbibe.
Does it make a difference if I'm drinking white, red, or rosé ?
“It does not matter if it is white, red or rosé, as they all have about 12-14% abv,” Jennie Hauschka, MD, FACOG, an OB/GYN, tells Romper. Because the alcohol content is similar, sticking to a single serving of wine is generally a good choice.
How long should I wait after I've had a glass of wine to breastfeed or pump?
Knowing how long wine stays in the system is another key piece of info. “The alcohol content passed to the baby is 5-6% of what the mother takes in and the alcohol is cleared from the blood in 2 hours,” says Dr. Hauschka. “So, if a mom wants to have a glass of wine and not have any exposure of her baby to alcohol, wait 2 hours after drinking the glass before nursing or giving the baby pumped milk. For each additional glass, add another 2 hours for complete clearance.”
Does wine affect supply?
“Drinking does not have a direct effect on milk supply,” Ashley Georgakopoulos, Motif Medical Lactation Director & IBCLC, tells Romper. “However intoxication/need creation may affect cognitive ability to remember to feed as often as one should, and with enough time to metabolize, so exercise caution. Long periods of time tells the body the milk is not needed and will stunt the milk supply potentially.” Occasional, casual consumption of wine appears to be okay, though.
Higher levels of alcohol consumption could potentially affect your supply, however. Consuming 5 or more drinks can decrease milk letdown and disrupt nursing, according to a study in the Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). In addition, heavier alcohol use is associated with less time breastfeeding, according to the study.
Also, wine may affect your body’s ability to nurse. “Alcohol blunts the response that a mom's body has to suckling,” as Noha Polack, MD, FAAP, pediatrician at Progressive Pediatrics, tells Romper. “Usually once a baby starts to nurse a hormone called prolactin is released and signals to the body to continue to make breast milk. Alcohol blunts the body's prolactin release so it can decrease the breast milk supply.” If you’re concerned about wine (or anything else) affecting your supply of breastmilk, then discuss it with your doctor.
How often should you drink wine while nursing?
“The frequency of drinking should be no more than once per week,” says Dr. Polack. In addition, it’s recommended that people who are nursing do not consume more than one standard drink per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sipping a single serving of wine every week or so, and waiting about two hours before breastfeeding or pumping, looks like the safest way to enjoy wine while lactating.
What else should you know about wine and nursing?
That first postpartum glass of vino may have more of a kick than you expect. Not only can pregnancy change your tastes and preferences, but you may also be more of a lightweight after not drinking for nine months. You may not need a full glass to start feeling the effects.
Lastly, there’s a very practical thing to keep in mind. “Remember that if you get tipsy, that 3:00 am wake up call for a hungry baby is going to suck a lot more!” says Dr. Hauschka.
If you're at all concerned about your relationship with alcohol, don't hesitate to reach out for help. For immediate assistance, please contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Ashley Georgakopoulos, Motif Medical Lactation Director & IBCLC
Jennie Hauschka, MD, FACOG, an OB/GYN
N. Bande Mangaliso Virgil, MD, FAAP, Pediatric Hospitalist, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Author, and Board Certified Pediatrician
Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006–. Alcohol. 2021 May 17. PMID: 30000529.