What Are Side Effects Of Alcohol In Breastmilk?

alcohol in breastmilk image1So there is your new family member. After 9 months of waiting, your life will become very different now. And of course, you want to do as many things right as you possibly can (nobody can do everything right, so don’t worry). What you can do, is to not put your baby in unnecessary health risks. And one of those risks can be potential side effects of alcohol in breastmilk.

So what’s the fuzz about? Are there actually any side effects, if a mother consumes alcohol during the time when she is breastfeeding her baby? Does alcohol go into breastmilk?

Here is what you should know:

Consuming alcohol has an effect on breastmilk. Although the amount of alcohol consumed through the breastmilk won’t be high enough to be a serious risk for a baby, studies have found that it has negative effects on its sleep, as well as the amount of breastmilk produced by the mother.

But there is much more to find out about this and more questions come up that you might ask yourself now. Hopefully, this article will answer everything you need to know about alcohol and breastmilk.

Consuming Alcohol While Breastfeeding

Generally, experts recommend breastfeeding moms to avoid alcohol in the first 3 months after the baby is born. During those first months, the bay’s liver is so immature, that even small doses of alcohol could be more harmful than later on in its life.

At around 3 months of age, an infant detoxifies alcohol just at around half the rate of an adult.

alcohol in breastmilk image4

Can I Have One Beer Or Drink Wine While Breastfeeding?

As mentioned before, there are studies that connect alcohol consumption to negative effects, such as a decreased production of milk in the mammary gland.
In addition to this, another study came to the conclusion that babies, who consumed alcohol via breast milk, slept about 25% less than those who didn’t.

Therefore, it is advisable to really wait for those 3 months at least, until you might slowly sip on your first cold beer or whine. Which makes it a total of 12 months without alcohol if you want to play it safe for your newborn.
Sorry, mom! But it will be for your baby’s health.

Plus, the longer you wait for that first drink, the more you will appreciate it!

So what after those first 3 months of life? How will it go together, drinking and breastfeeding?

How Long Should You Actually Breastfeed Your Baby?

First of all, if you are a total newbie to this topic just as I was before my research, you might ask yourself for how long you should give breastmilk to your little one.

It is generally common and proven, to exclusively breastfeed (which means no other drinks or foods) during the first 6 months after a baby is born.
After those 6 months, you will start to introduce your little one to baby food, but you can still breastfeed alongside.

This can go on as long as you and your baby wish and you feel good with it. Breastmilk from the mother will never be harmful to a baby. Health organizations recommend that you slowly wean off your infant after 1 to 2 years of age.


Despite the proven benefits and recommendations of doctors,
only an estimated 38% of babies worldwide are breastfed exclusively
for the first six months. 
In the US this number drops only 24% nowadays.

What Can Alcohol Do To A Baby?

One of the dangerous effects of alcohol for a child or even baby can be low blood sugar. The brain won’t get enough glucose and this, in turn, can cause seizures and coma.

These can be results if a baby would directly consume alcohol.

Can Those Serious Side Effects Of Alcohol Come From Breastmilk?

It is most unlikely that this could be caused via the breastmilk of a mother, who was drinking alcohol before breastfeeding.

Nevertheless, the other reasons and possible consequences that are mentioned in this post should be reason enough to make responsible decisions when it comes to the health of your baby. Don’t risk it.

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How Much Alcohol Goes In And Passes Through Breast Milk?

Nine months of no drinks, no smoke, no workout and other things you have to renounce.
Depending on your habits, that might be no problem for you. Other people enjoy their glass of wine after a long day quite frequently. So after they (hopefully) stop to do that during a pregnancy, they might be happy to have their first drink again after a long time.

But if you don’t want to put your newborn at risk, but at the same time are planning to breastfeed it, how much alcohol will actually be passed on to the baby?

If you get alcohol in your system, the same percentage goes into your breastmilk and your blood.
So for example, if you Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) is 0,04%, it means that you have 0,04 grams of alcohol in 100 grams of an individual’s blood (0,4% permille). Therefore, the same calculation is valid for your breastmilk.

So, now that we know this, how long will the alcohol stay in your system?

How Long Does It Take For Alcohol To Leave The Breast Milk?

Just as with the alcohol in your blood, the percentage of alcohol in your breastmilk will drop naturally over time again.
The rule of thumb is, that about 0.015 percent BAC will naturally be metabolized per hour by your liver. This, of course, will depend on your gender, health, what food you ate and other factors.
Therefore, there is no ultimate answer to how much drinks you could have or how long you would have to wait until it is safe to breastfeed your baby.

So there are no real ‘drinking and breastfeeding guidelines’, but there is a suggestion to reduce the possibility of danger.

When Can I Breastfeed After Drinking? How Long Should I Wait?

Doctors recommend that a mother should wait for 3 to 4 hours for the next breastfeeding session, after consuming alcohol.

Here is a very informative chart for you, that might help you out a bit:

breastmilk alcohol chart2

So could you maybe plan ahead? Pump milk for later, then have a drink and you will have enough time to sober up before you directly feed your baby again?

But then the question comes up if you actually can store breast milk and reuse it later on again. So here is what I found out after doing some research on that.

If You Want To Be Sure – Here Is The Solution

Here is something for you, if you really want to make sure that you don’t put your baby at an unnecassary risk, after you enjoyed one glass of whine, beer or whatever you like.

Maybe you forgot to check the time that passed since the drink, or maybe you are unsure how much BAC is in your system now.

This can help you out:

Some smart people actually invented a convenient and easy way to make sure everything is fine and that there is no alcohol in your breast milk. Test Strips can make sure, that there is no risk.
Better safe than sorry! Your mind will be at ease and your baby will be happy.

Can I Reuse And Rewarm Breast Milk?

The opinions on this one differ widely. I should probably make an own post about this topic. So check this site again later if you want to know more :).
For now, I try to sum up what I found out.

Through various forums, parents ask this question. While it is common to pump some breast milk and store it in the fridge for later, most parents agree that once you rewarm the milk, you should finish it.

Refrigerate it more than once is an unnecessary risk and you are probably better off by dividing the original amount of milk into smaller portions. This way, you might need more baby bottles, but you are on the safe path.
While there are the antibodies and immunological properties in your breast milk that are known to destroy bacteria, there is still no scientific data that would release you from the risk of making your baby sick by rewarming pumped milk more than once.

Most parents also agree on the rule that once the baby’s mouth has touched the milk-bottle, and therefore saliva might have mixed with the milk, you should use this portion of milk within 1 hour.

Here is a chart for you with suggestions:

alcohol in breastmilk chart2

Can Beer Increase Breastmilk Production

During my research, I stumbled upon the urban belief that a beer could even increase the breastmilk production and therefore, could be beneficial for mother and child.

But as you read before in this article, the opposite is the case and it can actually decrease the production.
So this one just goes in the category úrban legends’ and a funny idea, but not true at all.

Closing Words

In this article, you hopefully learned everything you questioned about side effects of alcohol in breastmilk.

Don’t forget the main suggestions of this article:
– no alcohol within the first 3 months of breastfeeding
– after that time very responsibly have a drink if you have to, but wait around 4 hours before you breastfeed your baby
– if you want to be on the safe side, use the Breastmilk Alcohol Test Strips, to test your breast milk

Follow these steps, and you and your little one will be on the safe side.

Check out our other articles and especially our fantastic funny baby onesies, that will make you, as well as your family and friends, laugh for sure!

See you in the next article!