Alcohol and breastfeeding: is it safe?
(MadeForMums) - Sometimes, after a long day with your baby, it's just nice to sit down with a glass of wine or a chilled half a lager. But what if you're breastfeeding? Is it safe to drink alcohol and what could be the effects on your baby?
Firstly, is it safe?
Just for a change, there are a lot of differing opinions, but the most widely held view is that the occasional alcoholic drink when breastfeeding is fine.
The official advice from the NHS is that "moderation is key". The NHS website states: "Research shows that occasional drinking, such as 1-2 units once or twice a week, is not harmful to your baby while you're breastfeeding. However, drinking any more than this can cause problems, such as affecting the mother's 'let down' reflex (release of milk to the nipple area)."
You may find some GPs advising you to avoid alcohol, due to lack of clear evidence. GP Dr Una Duffy points out: “This is an area with lots of unknowns as it is hard to do ethical research on breastfeeding mums and their babies.”
However, she prescribes a sensible approach rather than total abstinence - if you like to have the occasional drink.
“On a practical level an occasional alcohol intake, for example 1-2 units per week, is unlikely to harm a breastfeeding baby,” reassures Dr Duffy.
And remember, 1 unit is the equivalent is half a pint of lower strength lager, beer or cider, a single small (25ml) measure of a spirit such as vodka, gin or whisky. Surprisingly a small glass of wine (125ml) glass of wine comes in at 1.5 units, a medium glass (175ml) is 2.1 units, and a large glass (250ml) is 3 units.
So, what's the safest way to drink alcohol when breastfeeding?
There are some steps you can take to reduce any risks.
1 Simple - don't drink excessively. Keep to the safe level of 1-2 units.
2 On average it takes around 2 hours for 1 unit of alcohol to leave your body's bloodstream. However, no one woman is average - everyone's metabolism is different. So, try to leae as long as possible between drinking and breastfeeding.
3 Express before you have a drink. You can store the milk and then use it when your baby next needs a feed.