Are you drinking that? I thought you were breastfeeding!

‘Tis the season for holiday gatherings, celebrations and festivities. For breastfeeding mothers it often feels like a really gray area – breastfeeding and alcohol consumption. Champagne toasts, festive cocktails, egg nog, hot toddies, wine with dinner or appetizers, whatever you like to indulge in during the season it all comes into question when we are now breastfeeding a new or even an older baby. What are you supposed to do? Pump and dump? Supplement? Breastfeed as usual? It's all so confusing!


Let the doulas and the lactation professionals ease your mind a little bit.

Current research shows that the occasional use of alcohol does not appear to be harmful to breastfed babies (1-2 drinks) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that no more than 0.5 g alcohol per kg of body weight – SAY WHAT? 

Here's the breakdown -  a woman weighting about 60 kg (132 lbs) can have approximately 2 oz liquor, 8 oz wine (two 4 oz glasses) or 2 beers (two 12 oz beers). They recommend that nursing should take place 2 or more hours after the alcohol intake to “minimize its concentration in the ingested milk”. But when it comes to pumping and dumping breast milk, let's use our judgement and consider all the facts: 

  • Less than 2% of the alcohol you drink actually reaches your blood and milk and alcohol peaks in your system ½ - 1 hour after ingestion (of course variables include whether you've eaten or not, your body weight, percentage of body fat, etc.).
  • There is nothing that shows it speeds the elimination of the alcohol from the breastmilk. 
  • Alcohol does not hydrate you, in fact it does the opposite so it will not increase your milk supply
  • Alcohol can also slow the milk ejection reflex or “let down” process so it may take longer to let down during your post alcoholic beverage nursing session.
  • Alcohol does not accumulate in breastmilk.


What does that look like to the breastfeeding mother at a holiday party? 

One option might be to nurse your baby before the alcoholic beverage and, if it makes you feel comfortable, wait two hours after the beverage to nurse the baby again.

Fairly simple, right? 

With all the information out there, and guidelines available, the bottom line is use your best judgment: if you don't feel able to drive, you should not breastfeed your baby. 

We hope this eases your mind a little to enjoy a beverage or two at your festivities this holiday season. 

Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Our contributor today is the lovely Alison Vanderburgh; CLC, and birth & postpartum doula. She is mom to son, Luke, 4, as well as two step-daughters. Her passion for breastfeeding education and support was ignited when her son was born and she hasn’t looked back! It is her goal: 

to support mothers and partners through this incredibly life changing time.  To help mom bring her baby earth side in a peaceful, loving, supportive manner.  To help support mom transitioning to a new normal in the postpartum period and facilitate feeding assistance and education when needed.  I am honored to be chosen by you and consider this time very sacred.

You can reach her at or 207.446.0276.