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Alcohol and Breastfeeding – All Questions Answered

Is Breastfeeding and Alcohol Consumption Safe Together?

In moderation, yes.

Only about 2% of the alcohol that’s consumed ever reaches a breastfeeding mother’s milk. That means if you have a margarita that has 2 ounces of tequila in it, only 1/25 of an ounce (about a quarter of a teaspoon) will reach your milk. Additionally alcohol leaves the milk supply in the same way and in the same timeframe that it leaves the bloodstream.

Abstaining from alcohol is the only sure way to avoid passing alcohol to your breastfeeding baby, however a single drink, or possibly two, should have no negative effects provided you avoid breastfeeding when alcohol concentrations are highest in breast milk and you take into account baby’s age.

Basically if you are a responsible drinker and take some simple precautions, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the occasional glass of wine, beer or cocktail while breastfeeding. If you are not a responsible drinker, you should avoid all alcoholic beverages.

When Is Alcohol Strongest In Breast Milk?

For breastfeeding mothers, the concentration of alcohol is strongest in breast milk 60 to 90 minutes after the alcoholic beverage is consumed. This timeframe can be decreased by:

  • Consuming the alcoholic drink quickly
  • Drinking on an empty stomach
  • Below average body weight

The 60 to 90 minute timeframe can be increased by

  • Consuming the alcoholic drink slowly
  • Having the alcohol along with a lot of food
  • Above average body weight

To pass along the least amount of alcohol to your breastfeeding baby, it is best to avoid breastfeeding (or pumping) during this timeframe as much as possible.

What Is The Best Timing For Breastfeeding And Alcohol Consumption?

The best timing of breastfeeding is any time outside the 60 to 90 minute timeframe when alcohol concentration is greatest in breast milk. As odd as it may sound, one of the best times to breastfeed is while you are drinking the first alcoholic beverage. The alcohol will not have had enough time to reach your milk supply and breastfeeding now will fill baby so that baby will not need to breastfeed during the highest alcohol concentration timeframe.

Of course sipping a martini while breastfeeding is sure to get some questioning looks, but it is good timing.

What is an Easy Rule Of Thumb For Breastfeeding And Alcohol?

Because alcohol leaves breast milk at the same time that it leaves the bloodstream you can tell how much alcohol is in your breast milk by how you feel. If you feel sober and feel confident you could drive a bulldozer or car, then you are safe to resume breastfeeding.

What Is Moderation When It Comes To Breastfeeding And Alcohol?

The expert consensus is that moderation for the breastfeeding mother is no more than two alcohol drinks per day and no more than two days per week when alcohol is consumed.

Does The Type Of Alcohol Matter?

In general, there is no difference between hard alcohol and wines and beers. There is roughly the same amount of alcohol in one cocktail, one beer and one glass of wine.

Do You Have To “Pump And Dump” To Be Safe?

Provided you are drinking alcohol in moderation, no. Because only 2% of alcohol consumed ever reaches breast milk and because the body will naturally and automatically remove alcohol from breast milk it is never “contaminated.” Just be sure to wait until you feel sober, before resuming breastfeeding.

How Does Baby’s Age Affect Breastfeeding And Alcohol Consumption?

Baby’s are born with immature livers (the organ that removes alcohol from the body) and until baby is over three months old the baby can’t remove alcohol as quickly from its body as an adult can. Therefore be extra cautious with alcohol while the breastfeeding baby is younger than three months old.

What Are The Risks Of Alcohol Consumption When Breastfeeding?

Provided alcohol is consumed in moderation there are no significant risks to the breastfeeding mother or her baby. However if alcohol is not consumed in moderation there are many risks to baby and mother including, slow weight gain, lower milk production, developmental problems and delays, poor sleeping and so on.

Breastfeeding and alcohol can go together provided the mother is responsible and is knowledgeable about the factors in this article.

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27 Causes of Low Milk Supply

There are two types of causes of low milk supply. Either a woman had a good milk supply that has dropped or she never had good supply to begin with. Lactiful has written a series of articles covering each type. First let’s start the first group of causes of low milk supply (good supply that dropped). Feel free to skip or skim this section if it doesn’t apply to you.

Causes of low milk supply: When a good supply drops.

If you’re a mom who had a good supply that has been tapering off gradually or took a dramatic turn for the worse this section is for you. The good news is that there is probably something that caused the drop in milk supply and once that something is discovered it should be fairly straight forward to get your supply back up!

What follows is a potpourri of common problems that derail milk supply. It’s likely that one of these will have affected you and if so, you’ll have that, “Ah-Ha” moment, where you realize, “That’s what happened!” However if none of these common problems strikes a cord with you, all is not lost. You can use your newfound understanding of the kinds of things that derail milk supply to diagnose what happened around the time when your supply dropped.

Causes of low milk supply: Never started with a good supply.

The previous section covered moms who had a good milk supply that suddenly dropped. This section covers moms who never started with a good supply.

Mom’s like me.

I hemorrhaged badly with the birth of my first child and the resulting blood loss set me up for low milk supply right from the beginning. It was a tough uphill climb but I eventually got my supply where it needed to be and successfully nursed my little boy until he was 2 years old.

Milk supply that starts off low is often difficult to correct and sometimes impossible to correct. In those cases where supply issues can’t be corrected, take heart, you can still have a good nursing relationship. See our article for coping with chronic low milk supply [LINK COMING SOON].

If your milk supply issue is correctable, it may be a long and difficult road and it’ll require equal measures of courage and patience. I’m sure you’ll agree that the rewards of giving your baby the best start in life are worth the effort! Let’s get started.

What Else?

If your milk supply had been good but has recently dropped and none of the above scenarios seem to fit, try to think what was occurring around the time when your supply dropped. Sometimes the answer is as simple as a growth spurt. A baby that is breastfeeding all the time and complaining that he’s not getting enough milk can make any mother feel like she has low milk supply, but in reality, baby wants as many calories as he can get.

If you can’t think of any reason for your recent drop in milk supply, the best thing is to treat the low milk supply directly. See our article on the 11 ways to increase milk supply.

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Breastfeeding and Caffeine

Does A Typical Amount Of Caffeine Affect A Breastfeeding Baby?

In most cases, one or two cups of coffee or an equivalent amount of caffeine will not affect a breastfeeding baby in any way.

How Much Caffeine Is Transferred To Breast Milk?

About 1% of the caffeine a breastfeeding mother drinks is transferred to her breast milk. So if a mother drinks coffee with 300 mg of caffeine in it about 3mg of caffeine will end up in her breast milk during the peak timeframe. That’s about the same amount of caffeine in a 4oz glass of chocolate milk.

When Does Caffeine Peak In Breast Milk?

Caffeine concentrations peak in a breastfeeding mothers milk about 60 to 90 minutes after drinking the caffeinated beverage. This time can be shortened by:

  • Consuming the caffeinated beverage quickly
  • Drinking caffeine on an empty stomach
  • Below average body weight

The 60 to 90 minute timeframe can be increased by

  • Consuming the caffeinated beverage slowly
  • Having the caffeinated beverage along with a lot of food
  • Above average body weight

About half of the caffeine is removed from the mother’s body after 4 hours has passed.

When Breastfeeding, What Is The Best Time To Have Caffeine?

Because caffeine does not have a noticeable effect on breastfeeding babies, it is not crucial to carefully schedule breastfeeding around caffeine consumption. However if you want to minimize the amount of caffeine that is passed along to your breastfeeding baby, avoid breastfeeding for several hours starting one hour after you have the caffeinated beverage.

The best time to have caffeine when breastfeeding is while breastfeeding! Be sure to keep hot liquids well away from baby, but drinking your morning cup of coffee or tea while breastfeeding does not give the caffeine a chance to get into your breast milk and it fills baby so that baby is less likely to want to breastfeed during the following time when the concentration of caffeine will be the highest in the breast milk.

How Can I Tell If Caffeine Is Affecting My Breastfeeding Baby?

Watch for these warning signs that your breastfeeding baby may be sensitive to caffeine:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Restless sleeping / frequently waking up
  • Wide eyed and very alert
  • Fidgety or jittery
  • Fussiness

These symptoms can occur at any time during the day because a baby’s digestive system is immature and can not breakdown caffeine as quickly as an adult.

How Long Will Caffeine Stay In My Breastfeeding Baby’s System?

While the mother can remove half of the caffeine she consumed in as little as 3 hours, newborns can take up to 5 days to remove half the caffeine from their bodies they received through breastfeeding! By the age of three months, a baby can remove half the caffeine in about 14 hours and by the age of 6 months they can remove half the caffeine in about as quickly as an adult can.

What To Do If You Suspect Caffeine Is Affecting Your Breastfeeding Baby.

If you have caffeine at a specific time, only once each day, you can try to schedule your breastfeeding so that you are breastfeeding while you are drinking caffeine. Then try to go as long as possible before breastfeeding again, however you may need to pump for comfort or to maintain breast milk production.

Pumped milk should not be given to baby (since it likely contains caffeine) however it can be frozen and saved until baby is older and less likely to be affected by caffeine.

The other option is to abstain from caffeine and see what happens. Be aware that you may be withdrawal symptoms such as: headache, tiredness and fatigue.

The amount of time you will need to wait for the caffeine to clear from baby’s system depends on the age of the baby.

Time to clear caffeine from a breastfeeding baby’s body:

  • Newborns to 1 month olds: 20 days
  • 1 to 2 month olds: 14 days
  • 2 to 3 month olds: 8 days
  • 3 to 5 month olds: 3 days
  • Older than 5 months: 2 days

After the required amount of time has passed reevaluate baby. If baby is no different then it is likely caffeine is not the cause of the symptoms. If baby’s symptoms are improved, caffeine may be the cause. Wait for baby to get older (especially older than 3 months) and then try caffeine again and watch how baby reacts. Often as a breastfeeding baby’s digestive system matures, caffeine posses less of a problem.

What Are The Common Sources For Caffeine?

  • Caffeine is not just found in coffee! Check your diet against these common sources of caffeine:
  • Coffee (percolated, drip, instant, espresso, etc)
  • Tea (Black, green, etc, but usually not herbal)
  • Chocolate (Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate milk, etc)
  • Soda (Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Jolt, etc)
  • Energy Drinks (Red Bull, Monster, Full Throttle, etc)
  • Certain medications (Excedrin, Day Time formulas, weight loss pills, NoDoz, etc)

Have a question about breastfeeding and caffeine? Post it in the comments!