During the early stages of pregnancy, it’s not that hard to go without the occasional drink because you are so excited about being pregnant and everything is new. As the pregnancy moves along, you feel less and less able to socialize with other adults because you can’t drink and you get tired and your back aches. You can start to feel like you won’t ever be able to have fun again.
But, once you have given birth and you are parenting round-the-clock and breastfeeding, you might feel like a glass of wine would be a really great way to relax. Or, maybe, you just want to get away for a few hours and watch the game at a local sports bar with some friends while someone else watches your baby. There are plenty of totally healthy, normal reasons to want to grab a drink.
But, can you do it? If you look online, you will find a lot of answers. Yes. No. Sometimes. Sort of. Then, not really. This can leave you feeling completely confused and it’s just one more reason to doubt your ability as a mother during a really difficult time. Don’t worry. There are some guidelines you can keep in mind that will allow you to have a drink every once in a while and allow your baby to remain healthy and happy.
Do I Need to Time When I Drink?
Alcohol follows a consistent pattern. When it is in your blood, it is in your milk. According to La Leche League, the alcohol in your milk will hit its peak between 30 and 60 minutes after you drink it and 60 to 90 minutes if you drink with food. One serving of beer or wine should only take a 120-pound woman 2-3 hours to eliminate. But, a high-alcohol drink can take as much as 13 hours.
Because of this, moderation is very important and so is timing. To give their bodies as much time to process out the alcohol, many women have their drink while they are breastfeeding. Once the alcohol hits your blood stream, your baby will be done nursing and they won’t need to eat again for hours. This gives you a great window for letting the alcohol pass out of your milk.
Should I Pump and Dump?
A lot of women who drink while breast feeding participate in the pump and dump practice. They pump their milk after drinking and throw it away. The belief is that the milk has alcohol in it and pumping it will eliminate the tainted milk. But, alcohol remains in your milk as long as it remains in your blood stream, and then, it passes out. Even if you pump and dump but are still buzzed, your milk still has alcohol in it. However, you may want to pump and dump just to keep your body producing milk.
How Will I Know When It Is Safe to Breastfeed Again?
Generally, people compare themselves to the behavior they would look for before driving after drinking. If you would allow yourself to drive, you are probably good to nurse. If you still feel unsure, get some alcohol test strips from a drug store and check your milk before giving it to your baby. Over time, you will be better at telling when things are all clear.
What If My Baby Needs to Eat and There Is Still Alcohol in My System?
This is a great time to tap into your freezer and pull out some previously pumped milk. You can give your baby a bottle or finger feed him or her. Older babies and toddlers may be able to wait. But, they may end up needing to eat more at other times (like in the middle of the night) to make up for missed feeding time.
What If I Can’t Control My Drinking?
If you are unable to limit the amount of alcohol you are imbibing, that’s a sign that you may have an alcohol addiction. In that case, breastfeeding without passing this substance into your child’s system via breast milk may be impossible. For the good of your child and your own wellbeing, you should seek help determining whether you need help treat it if you do.