Can You Drink Beer While Breastfeeding?
Drinking beer while breastfeeding is a controversial issue. Some people think that there’s no risk involved, as long as it’s done in moderation, whereas others think that no amount of alcohol is safe at this stage.
It’s a fact that alcohol, in any amount, passes into breast milk and, consequently, reaches the baby. At the moment, there’s no research to show that drinking beer while breastfeeding affects the baby, but there’s no research that denies this either.
Although this type of beverage has a low alcoholic content, the fact of the matter is that there’s no agreement, nor is there conclusive evidence on the amount of alcohol that could be risky. Therefore, it’s wise to be very cautious when drinking beer while breastfeeding.
Drinking beer while breastfeeding
Some specialists suggest that it is best to drink beer while breastfeeding in very small quantities. In their opinion, it’s advisable not to drink more than 12 ounces of this beverage per day, as long as it doesn’t have a concentration of more than 10 degrees or 5% alcohol.
This is equivalent to 8 ounces of malt liquor at 7%, 5 ounces of wine at 12% or 1.5 ounces of any liquor at 40%. In all these cases, there are 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. Proponents of not restricting alcohol consumption at all think that the important thing is not to breastfeed within two hours of drinking.
There’s no evidence that even a low alcohol consumption poses “zero” risk to the baby. In this regard, there are two problematic issues. The first is that information on the amount of alcohol in a drink isn’t always accurate. The second is that the health status and conditions of each baby are different.
The safety of the baby
Alcohol passes directly into breast milk. The levels of this substance are highest in the first 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion. However, in some cases, it’s present up to two to three hours after consumption.
However, the greater the amount of alcohol consumed, the longer it remains in the body and, therefore, the more likely it will be present in breast milk for more hours. At the moment, there are no reports that drinking a 5% beer causes harm to a nursing baby.
The factors that affect the permanence of alcohol in the body are, in addition to the amount, the speed with which it’s ingested, the mother’s weight and whether it’s consumed with food or not. All these factors should be taken into account when drinking beer during breastfeeding.
On another tack, it’s important to take into account that alcohol consumption can affect the judgment of the person caring for a baby. This can put the safety of the little one at risk.
Alleged benefits of drinking beer while breastfeeding
There are many myths and rumors about the alleged benefits of drinking beer while breastfeeding. One of the most widespread is that some components of this drink, such as barley and hops, increase breast milk production. However, there’s no evidence of this.
On the contrary, there is evidence that excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with the milk ejection reflex, which is also called “milk let-down”. Drinking inhibits oxytocin production and this reduces breast milk production by 10 to 25%.
This myth probably comes from a verifiable fact – that alcohol increases prolactin levels. However, this increase is negligible and doesn’t go nearly far enough to increase breast milk production.
Risks and precautions
It’s best for each mother to consult with her physician about the appropriateness of drinking beer while breastfeeding. This may be risky or even dangerous in a premature or medically vulnerable baby.
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It’s important to keep in mind that the level of alcohol in the mother’s bloodstream is the same as that in breast milk. If, however, a mother decides to drink beer while breastfeeding, it’s advisable to take into account some recommendations:
- Moderate drinking. It’s recommended not to drink more than one beer a day, or its equivalent, as explained at the beginning.
- Wait two hours. It’s advisable to breastfeed before drinking a beer, or two hours after doing so. Otherwise, unnecessary risks may be incurred.
- The mother’s weight. Heavier mothers should wait two and a half to three hours to breastfeed their baby. The heavier the person, the longer it takes for the alcohol to be eliminated from the body.
- Avoid co-sleeping. Don’t share a bed with your baby after drinking alcohol. This has been associated with sudden infant death syndrome.
- Express milk beforehand. A good option for drinking beer while breastfeeding is to express milk before drinking. In this way, the expressed milk can be fed to the baby until the alcohol has left the mother’s body and she can breastfeed again.
- Alcohol isn’t released when expressing milk. There is a belief that expressing milk after drinking alcohol will lower the level of alcohol in the body. This isn’t correct. Always wait two to three hours.
- The discomfort of full breasts. If you experience discomfort in the breasts and need to express milk before the recommended waiting time after alcohol, then the correct thing to do is to discard it and not give it to the baby.
- An alternative caregiver. It’s wise to choose someone who can care for the baby if the mother is not available to do so because she has decided to drink beer while breastfeeding.
Consult your doctor about the risks of drinking beer while breastfeeding
The alcohol that the baby ingests through breast milk can have many side effects. Among them, psychomotor retardation, lower cognitive performance, sedation, irritability, drowsiness, etc. Therefore, it’s very important to be careful when drinking beer while breastfeeding.
The best option isn’t to completely avoid drinking beer while you’re breastfeeding, but to do so responsibly. This means drinking only very occasionally, in moderate amounts, and following safe breastfeeding guidelines.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Pérez Medina, T., Argila Fernández-Durán, N. D., Pereira Sánchez, A., & Serrano González, L. (2015). Beneficios del consumo moderado de cerveza en las diferentes etapas de la vida de la mujer. Nutrición Hospitalaria.
- Sterling Clarren.(1990), International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics. Maternal alcohol use during breast-feeding and infant mental and motor development at one year.
- Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 2014, 114, 168–173. Alcohol and Breastfeeding.