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Ask an Expert: Alcohol and Breastfeeding

By Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA

Fan Question:

“How long after you consume alcohol should you pump and dump? Do you have to pump and dump if you consume water with said alcohol? How much water?”

As long as you drink moderately (1 or 2 glasses of beer or wine), there’s no reason to pump and dump. Occasional exposure to alcohol in your milk is not harmful to your baby. If you feel strongly that you don’t want your baby exposed to any alcohol, you can simply allow time for it to clear from your system. The alcohol from 1 glass of beer or wine is out of the milk of a 120 lb. woman within 2 to 3 hours. (In other words, if you have a drink right after nursing, there may be no alcohol in your milk by the time you nurse again.) You don’t need to pump for alcohol to pass out of your milk. Alcohol leaves your milk automatically as your blood alcohol levels go down. If you have a stronger drink or more than 1 glass of beer or wine, it takes longer for your milk to be completely free of alcohol. But keep in mind occasional exposure to alcohol is not a concern. Drinking water with the alcohol makes no difference. Obviously, if you’re really drunk, you shouldn’t be caring for your baby no matter how baby is fed.

unnamedNancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA is a board-certified lactation consultant in the Chicago area who has been helping breastfeeding families since 1982. Her books for professionals are used worldwide. Her books for parents include Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, which she co-authored with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, and her tiny problem-solving guide, Breastfeeding Solutions  In 2013, Nancy released her Breastfeeding Solutions smartphone app (available for Android and iPhones) to give mothers a quick, go-everywhere source of breastfeeding help. Nancy speaks at events around the world.