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Holiday Drinking and Breastfeeding

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It’s certain the question will arise among breastfeeding moms over the holiday season. Can I drink? While most women are fairly content being teetotallers the rest of the year round, many would like to know if they can drink – even just a little – over Christmas and New Years.

You certainly can! The idea, as the Australian Breastfeeding Association states, is to plan ahead.

Alcohol stays in your breastmilk the same as it stays in your blood. In other words, your body metabolises it over time. As such, there’s no need to avoid breastfeeding or “pump and dump” after having a drink or two. The key is to realise how much you can drink and how long you should wait before breastfeeding.

The general rule is that it takes two hours to metabolise one drink, but for more specific rules dependent upon your weight and how many drinks you’ve had, follow this chart.

Of course, we all know that the best laid plans can sometimes go awry with a nursing baby. So what if you put baby down for the night – during which he typically sleeps six hours straight – and he wakes up an hour and a half after your glass of wine looking for some nursing? Most experts agree that a small amount of alcohol, occasionally, will not cause any harm to your nursing child. If your child will take a bottle, you can plan ahead for this by expressing and storing some milk before you drink, just in case. But if you’ve had a small amount of alcohol and feel “neurologically normal,” you can resume breastfeeding. Less than 2% of the alcohol you ingest will pass into your breastmilk.

Please be aware, though, that in very young infants, up to age 3 months, alcohol is metabolised at half the rate of adults, due to their immature liver. Exposing those very young infants to alcohol in breastmilk is not recommended. Nor, of course, is long-term heavy drinking.

Also, alcohol, especially more than two drinks, has been found to affect the let-down reflex and decrease milk supply. So if you’re facing challenges with supply you may want to avoid drinking or compensate with extra milk producing measures.

Plan ahead, express if possible, and drink moderately, though, and most mothers can sip champagne on New Year’s Eve without worry.

Holiday Drinking and Breastfeeding

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