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Breastfeeding and Boozing

Breastfeeding & Boozing.

Great article link below looking at breastfeeding and alcohol - a question many ask during the festive season :)

Couple more key bits of information that may help:

What influence blood alcohol concentration and what else should I consider?

1. The amount of alcohol consumed

Obviously the amount of alcohol consumed will affect blood alcohol concentration. It's not the size of the glass that counts; it's the total amount and percentage of alcohol in the drink. 1 standard drink = 10 grams of alcohol. (See 'How to measure alcohol content in different drinks' further above.)

2. Length of time over which alcohol is consumed

Your liver is only able to metabolize (break down) a limited amount of alcohol per hour; therefore, consuming multiple drinks within a short space of time will increase your blood alcohol concentration to higher level than if drinks were consumed over a number of hours.

3. Food

The presence of food and the type of food in your gastrointestinal tract when alcohol is consumed, will affect how quickly alcohol is absorbed into your blood stream. Food, slows down the rate at which alcohol is absorbed from your intestines (in particular high-fat foods). The slower alcohol is absorbed the lower the blood alcohol concentration level reached.
When consumed on an empty stomach peak blood alcohol concentration from 1 drink may be reached in in as little as 30 to 40 minutes. When large quantities of food are eaten with the alcohol, it can take up to 90 minutes for peak levels to be reached. (The slower the absorption, the lower the level reached.)

4. Gender

Water content affects the rate at which alcohol is metabolized. The higher the water content the lower the alcohol concentration. The difference in blood alcohol concentration between women and men has been attributed to women's smaller amount of body water.

5. Body tissue

Different body tissues absorb alcohol at different rates e.g. muscle tissue absorbs alcohol more rapidly than fat tissue. The absorption into muscle tissue would mean there is less alcohol circulating in the blood stream. Since women generally have more body fat than men, a woman would have a higher blood alcohol concentration than would a man of the same weight.

6.  Body weight

The lighter you weigh the longer it will take your body to metabolize (break down) the same amount of alcohol e.g. if you weighted 100lb (45kgs) it will take approx 3.1 hours to metabolize 1 standard drink. If you weighed 160lb (72kgs) it will take approx 1.9 hours.

7. Hormonal changes

It has been claimed that a women's menstrual cycle can influence the rate of absorption of alcohol. Low levels of estrogen have been associated with a higher blood alcohol concentration. When a woman has stopped menstruating due to breastfeeding, her estrogen levels are low.
However, a Brazilian study which compared alcohol absorption in lactating and non-lactating women, demonstrated that even when matched for age, size and ethnic group, lactating women had slower absorption rates than non-lactating women.

8. Emotional state

Fear, anxiety or stress can all affect absorption and elimination rates.

9. Medications

Use of aspirin products can increase intoxication by interfering with the break down of alcohol.
WARNING: Additional care needs to be taken if you are currently taking any medications. Many medications react with alcohol. Protect yourself and your baby by avoiding alcohol if you are taking a medication and don't know its effect. Talk to your pharmacist or health care provider if you are currently taking medications, before you drink.

Written by Rowena Bennett RN, RM, RPN, CHN, Grad Dip Health Promotion.

The age and size of your baby is also a consideration - someone nursing a newborn needs to be much more aware than someone nursing a 12 month old.

Ethanol - the chemical name for alcohol - is approved by the American Academy of Pediatricians for use during lactation.

Hale (Dr Thoms Hale in Medications and Mothers Milk, international research based textbook) found that a mother needs to have a blood level of 300 mg alcohol per decilitre of blood before her infant shows significant side effects (mainly sedation).

The legal drink driving limit in the UK is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

100ml is a decilitre so this means you would have to have consumed between 3 and 4 times the legal limit for driving before the alcohol you were drinking had significant effects on your baby….and actually feeding at the time you were affected, too.

Alcohol reaches the breastmilk shortly after it reaches the bloodstream - so fairly quickly, but in dilute quantities. Hale says ‘the absolute amount transferred into milk is low’. It is estimated less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by the mother reaches her milk.

You can be sure your breastmilk is clear of alcohol when your bloodstream is clear of it, and the usual guide for this is that the body processes alcohol at a rate of one and a half to two hours per unit. Alcohol peaks in milk approximately 1/2-1 hour after drinking although of course this varies considerably from person to person (see below)

The La Leche League’s BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK (pp. 509-510) says,
“Occasional or light drinking of alcoholic beverages has not been found to be harmful to the breastfeeding baby. Moderate-to-heavy regular alcohol consumption by the breastfeeding mother may interfere with the let-down, or milk-ejection reflex, inhibit milk intake, affect infant motor development, slow weight gain, and cause other side effects in the baby.

Recommended Article: Breastfeeding and Boozing


  1. Dr Jack Newman (who is a brilliant breastfeeding expert) says in his breastfeeding myths information sheet "Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for breastfeeding mothers". I personally have always had a little glass of wine or two whilst breastfeeding & I think being relaxed about it makes it easier to breastfeed in the long term (obviously wouldn't condone heavy drinking, just think that all the fuss about not drinking whilst bf is overplayed and could contribute to early weaning with some people which would be a shame). Dr Newmans website, research etc. is world renowned and really interesting, also brilliant for information and treating nipple thrush!!

  2. Umm I know that drinking a lot of alcohol, can cause man boobs, but I never knew it could make them lactate!! Did I read correctly, that Dr Jack Newman drunk wine whilst HE was breastfeeding?

    Also is he aware that in Pakistan, where women are teetotal, the average mother breastfeeds for much longer than most British or North American mums?

  3. Sorry anonymous, just realized I misread your post.

  4. I'm sure there must be some error about the amount before it affects the baby, I had one small g&t when my oldest was small and she slept for 12 hours. I regularly found a glass or two affected her sleeping significantly, and I now can't drink at all as my youngest reacts to even a glass of wine with total insomnia. 300mg seems an awful lot to me....

  5. Hale says ‘the absolute amount transferred into milk is low’. It is estimated less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by the mother reaches her milk.

    All mums are unique and if it impacts more for you it's sensible to follow your baby.


  6. La Leche League have a leaflet about this

    I would also consider the impact of festive drinking on co-sleeping saftey for newborns especially.

  7. i have a friend who is breast feeding her 9 month old, and has been taking co-codomol and alcohol (not 1 glass, but say a bottle over an evening, during and after dinner), maybe once a week. Her baby is yellow tinged. She assures me that the doctor has said that this is all ok. she feeds her baby small jars of carrot veg mix, and so says that her baby is yellow because of that. her baby also has many allergies; anything from cow & eggs. what advice , if any, should i give her?she has excma

    1. Sounds like she may of introduced some foods to early? baby has allergies that young? I would tell the Mom to go off of the foods herself if her daughter is reacting. What we eat our babes eat.


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