Alcohol and Breastfeeding

Archived Q&A and Reviews

How long should I wait after I have a drink?

Is there a rule of thumb about how long a nursing mother should wait after drinking an alcoholic beverage before she nurses her child?
The advice I was given by an IBCLC is that your milk will have the same alcohol content as they would find in your blood if they were to test you. So if you wait as long as you would to be legally allowed to drive a car... that is a safe amount of time.
Like another reader who cited IBCLC as a source, I have been told that the alcohol in your child's blood reaches the same level as in yours. The other thing that my pediatrician told me was that the alcohol stays in the child's blood for twice as long. Also, in a much smaller individual who is in the throes of early development (brain cells connecting to eachother, etc), the effect of that alcohol blood level may have very different effects and consequences than it does in a grown adult. Ask yourself this: would you mind if your infant consumed alcohol, even a little bit? If the answer is no, you wouldn't mind, then think about how much alcohol you'd like your infant to drink, and time nursing accordingly. If the answer is yes, you would mind even if it was just a little bit, then just stop drinking until you're ready to discontinue nursing. Unless you have a problem with alcohol, that shouldn't be too much trouble.
The advice that I have received regarding this is that very little of the alcohol shows up in the milk (like less than one-tenth of a percent), and that a glass or two of wine is not a problem at all. I recently was hanging out with three doctor friends, all moms of babies under a year and they concurred that a drink or two every few hours would not negatively affect the baby. In fact, one of them cited her brother (a pediatric gastroenterologist) who said that even less gets in the milk if the mom nurses first before having a drink. Maybe there are other sources before jumping on the pregnancy/nursing diet police bandwagon?