What Happens If A Baby Drinks Breast Milk With Alcohol

Each time the topic “What happens if a baby drinks breast milk with alcohol” is discussed, you’ll likely hear a mixed bag of opinions on how safe it is, how it affects breast milk supply, and when and how you should resume breastfeeding after consuming alcohol.

While several warnings are often stated not to consume alcohol during pregnancy due to evidence that it could cause damage to an unborn child, the risks of consuming alcohol while breastfeeding have not received as much research attention.

As a breastfeeding mom, your milk is the best food for your baby as it contains nutrients needed for your baby’s growth and development. This is why you must know every fact about alcohol and breastfeeding.

Can A Breastfeeding Mother Drink Alcohol?

While frequent, excessive drinking is not advised, there is nothing wrong with drinking alcoholic beverages occasionally. Nursing mothers can drink as long as they drink responsibly.

A good way to put a number on “drinking responsibly” is limiting drinking to a single beverage once a week. So you can enjoy a glass of wine or beer now and then without feeling any type of way.

Can Alcohol Be Found In Breast Milk?

signs of alcohol in breastfed baby

The answer is yes! Alcohol levels are usually high in breast milk 30-60 minutes after an alcoholic beverage is consumed. It can be detected in breast milk for about 2-3 hours per drink after it is consumed.

However, the more alcohol a mother consumes, the more the duration of time it is for the alcohol to be detected in breast milk.

For example, a single bottle of alcoholic drink can be detected in breast milk for about 2-3 hours. Likewise, alcohol from 2 bottles can be detected for about 4-5 hours, alcohol from 3 bottles can be detected for about 6-8 hours, and so on.

However, blood alcohol levels and the duration of time alcohol can be detected in breast milk after consumption depends on several factors, and this includes the amount of alcohol consumed, how fast the alcohol is consumed, whether the alcohol is consumed with food, the mother’s body weighs, and how fast alcohol is broken down in a mother’s body.

Is It Safe For A Mother To Breastfeed Baby After Consuming Alcohol?

Abstaining entirely from alcohol is the safest way for breastfeeding mothers. Although, mild alcohol consumption by a breastfeeding mother (up to 1 standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the mother waits at least 2 hours after a single drink before breastfeeding the baby.

However, high consumption of alcohol above moderate levels through breast milk can damage an infant’s development, growth, and sleeping patterns. It can also impair a mother’s judgment and ability to safely care for her child.

Drinking alcoholic beverages is not a good reason to stop breastfeeding; however, consuming more than one drink per day is not recommended.

What Happens If A Baby Drinks Breast Milk With Alcohol?

what happens if baby drinks breast milk with alcohol

As a breastfeeding mother, moderate consumption of alcohol (up to 1 standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the mother waits at least 2 hours before nursing.

High consumption of alcohol can interfere with the milk ejection reflex (letdown), while maternal alcohol levels are high. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can affect your baby’s sleep pattern and shorten breastfeeding duration due to decreased milk production.

Studies had shown that baby’s breastfed by women who had consumed a high level of alcohol before nursing consumed approximately 20% less milk in the first 4 hours after maternal alcohol consumption than women who did not drink.

However, a subsequent study reported that if mothers did not drink alcohol, babies tended to breastfeed more and consume larger amounts of milk in the 8 to 12 hours after maternal alcohol consumption.

Although some have speculated that changes in the milk taste may cause this reduction in a baby’s milk consumption, it is probably more related to a decrease in milk production.

What Are The Possible Risks?

Depending on how much alcohol you consume and when you feed your baby after consumption, your baby may experience several effects from the alcohol in your milk.

Even a small consumption of alcohol may impair milk production and the milk ejection reflex. Some of the adverse effects on the baby may be:

  • Sleep disturbances include shorter sleep periods, frequent wakefulness, and less total active and REM sleep in the 3-hour-period after alcohol consumption
  • The baby tends to cry often
  • Increased startling
  • Increased arousal
  • Increased REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep in the period from 3 hours to 24 hours after exposure to alcohol
  • The baby tends to feed less
  • Growth retardation
  • Impaired immune function
  • Delay of motor development
  • Potential impairment of cognitive development
  • Reduction in the ability for abstract reasoning at school age (6-7 years)

Read Also: What Happens If Baby Drinks Spoiled Breast Milk?

Can Expressing/Pumping Breast Milk After Consuming Alcohol Reduce Alcohol Content In The Mother’s Milk?

No. Expressing or pumping milk after consuming alcohol and discarding it does not reduce the amount of alcohol in the mother’s milk more quickly. As you may know, the alcohol level in breast milk is the same as the alcohol level in a mother’s bloodstream.

As the alcohol blood level in a mother falls over time, the level of alcohol in her breast milk also decreases. A mother may want to express or pump milk after consuming alcohol to relieve her physical discomfort or adhere to her milk expression schedule.

If a mother decides to express or pump her milk within 2 hours (per drink) of consuming alcohol, the mother may choose to discard the expressed milk.

Suppose a mother has consumed more than a moderate amount of alcohol. In that case, it is best advised she wait for 2 hours (per drink) to breastfeed her child or feed her baby with milk that had been previously expressed when she had not been drinking to reduce her child’s exposure to alcohol.

As long as alcohol is still in the mother’s bloodstream, breast milk will always contain alcohol.

Read Also: Will Drinking Prune Juice While Breastfeeding Help My Baby Poop?

How Long Does It Take For Alcohol To Leave Breast Milk?

The time it takes for alcohol to leave your breast milk depends on your body weight, the alcoholic content of the beverage you consumed, how many ounces you drank, and the amount of time it took to drink the alcohol.

Waiting at least two hours after a single drink before you breastfeed is the best course of action. If you can safely and legally drive your car without concern of a DUI (Driving under the influence of alcohol), you are most likely sober enough to breastfeed your baby.

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Take-Home

I hope this article has given an in-depth discussion to answer the question of what happens if a baby drinks breast milk with alcohol and the risks involved when the baby is fed after the mother has consumed a high level of alcohol.

As a breastfeeding mother, you do not have to avoid alcohol entirely. Still, you can find a good balance between drinking safely and responsibly without affecting your baby’s health or milk supply.

Also, remember these safety tips; as a nursing mother, drink responsibly and try not to go overboard. If you have been drinking, you should never co-sleep, and finally, your breast milk will be safer for your baby to drink if you give your body enough time for the alcohol to leave your system naturally.