Drinking Alcohol While Breastfeeding

There are many questions women have on the effects of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. Learn what the real implications may be by reading this article.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Over fifty percent of women of childbearing age consume alcohol regularly. The amount of alcohol a pregnant woman can consume during pregnancy is unknown. Due to this, nearly all women that are pregnant tend to cut back on their alcohol intake. Women that drink regularly before pregnancy usually begin drinking again, shortly after the baby is born, while they are breast feeding.

Where is the Evidence?

During pregnancy, health care practitioners know there is no safe amount or safe time to consume alcohol. After the baby is born there is conflicting data related to the risks of alcohol consumption while breastfeeding. There are many myths that say the occasional drink for a breastfeeding mother is good for her and the baby. These myths have no merit and are sometimes adopted by healthcare practitioners. Healthcare practitioners have no evidence or research to back up the health benefits of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.

Postpartum Drinking: The Evidence

While there is no evidence showing the consumption of alcohol is beneficial for mother and baby; there is however, strong evidence that consuming alcohol while breastfeeding can harm the baby. Drinking alcohol before breastfeeding does not help the baby sleep better. The baby may fall asleep faster but will have a reduction in active sleep by 25 percent. It has been suggested and is popular opinion that drinking beer may help stimulate the production of breast milk, but actually, alcohol inhibits the production of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for signaling the body to produce breast milk. So alcohol will reduce the amount of breast milk produced.

Postpartum alcohol consumption has been shown to stunt rat pup growth and development. The effects were worse than that of malnutrition. A study conducted in Australia found that women who consume only two standard drinks per day were nearly twice as likely to discontinue breastfeeding within six months of breastfeeding. Since a standard drink can vary from country to county. Follow the CDC guidelines, a standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 8 ounces of malt liquor, and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.


It is unethical to expose infants and mothers to alcohol in studies, so most of the research comes either from real life experiences or animal studies. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the health benefits and superiority of breast milk far outweighs the occasional ingestion of alcohol. The WHO does advise lactating mothers to reduce or restrict alcohol intake.

If a mother is anticipating having a drink, it is important to pump and store the breast milk before she takes a drink. She needs to wait two hours after she has had a drink and then pump again. Throw out that breast milk and then continue on with the normal schedule.

Alcohol has a large influence in our daily lives and is a part of our society. While it may be hard to abstain from drinking while breasting, try to keep it down to the occasional single celebratory drink.