Find out all you need to know about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.
Just as drinking alcohol while pregnant can throw up lots of questions, drinking while breastfeeding comes with a similar dilemma.
Many will agree that there's nothing wrong with having the odd tipple, perhaps in celebration of the new arrival to your family, but how does this actually affect baby while you are breastfeeding?
What will happen if I have a drink?
If you drink while breastfeeding some of your alcohol intake will unavoidably pass to your milk. Studies suggest that the alcohol levels in your breast-milk reach their highest about 30-90 minutes after you have had a drink.
This means it might be best to leave having a drink until after the last feed of the day. Or, you may prefer to leave 2 hours or so between having a drink and feeding your baby, as this will give the alcohol time to go out of your bloodstream - and therefore out of your breast-milk.
However, as it can be difficult to time exactly when your baby will want his or her next feed, you may want to express milk beforehand if you are anticipating having a drink for a special occasion, for example.
If you do want to drink while breastfeeding you should try to be especially moderate when your baby is younger than 2 months, as his or her liver will have a harder time processing any amount of alcohol at this age.
It's also a good idea to make sure you're topped up with plenty of non-alcoholic fluids such as water if you're drinking alcohol, as this will keep you from getting dehydrated.
When is it too much?
Most experts agree that if you have a couple of units once or twice a week, this is unlikely to be harmful to your baby. A unit means roughly a glass of wine, half a pint of beer, or a single measure of spirit.
Drinking more than this however is not a good idea while breastfeeding, as it's possible your milk supply and baby's development may be affected. For example, drinking excessively while breastfeeding may slow your 'let-down' reflex (this is how milk is released to the nipple area).
You may want to simply strike off alcohol altogether while breastfeeding baby - this way you can know for sure that no alcohol is going from you through your breast-milk to your baby.
Generally speaking though drinking moderately while breastfeeding is not the end of the world, and as with all issues when it comes to your baby, you should do what you feel is right for you.
If you're concerned about your alcohol intake while breastfeeding, contact your healthcare practitioner for more advice.
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