Alcohol and breastfeeding

Can I drink alcohol if I am breastfeeding?

Whether it's parties, BBQs, family get-togethers or celebrations; alcohol is often served at most social gatherings. But if you’re breastfeeding, there’s no wine for you. Or is there?

If you want to, you absolutely CAN enjoy a glass of wine, a beer or whatever it is that takes your fancy, as a breastfeeding mum. The key is to plan ahead.

The amount of alcohol in your blood is the amount of alcohol in your milk.

Alcohol gets into your breastmilk from your blood, moving freely from the blood to the breastmilk (and back out again).

Alcohol will be in your breastmilk 30–60 minutes after you start drinking.

A number of factors affect how much alcohol gets into your breastmilk, including:

  • the strength and amount of alcohol in your drink
  • what and how much you’ve eaten
  • how much you weigh
  • how quickly you are drinking.

As a general rule, it takes 2 hours for an average woman to get rid of the alcohol from 1 standard alcoholic drink and therefore 4 hours for 2 drinks, 6 hours for 3 drinks and so on. The time is taken from the start of drinking. The Feed Safe app or the PDF document that can be downloaded at the end of this article can help you work out these times more accurately.

Only time will reduce the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk.

Once you stop drinking, and the amount of alcohol in your blood drops, the amount in your milk will too.  ‘Pumping and dumping’ (expressing breastmilk and throwing it away) will not reduce the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk. You also do not need to do this once the alcohol has passed through your system – alcohol is not ‘stored’ in your milk, just as it doesn’t remain in your blood.

Alcohol and breastfeeding appPlan ahead

The safest option when breastfeeding is to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.

However, planning ahead can allow you to express some milk for your baby ahead of time. Your baby can have this milk if you miss a feed while drinking, or while you are waiting for the amount of alcohol in your milk to drop.

If you are breastfeeding and plan to consume alcohol, it is best to plan ahead. However, if, on a single occasion, you have a little more alcohol than you had planned to or if your baby needs to feed sooner than you had anticipated and you don't have any previously expressed breastmilk, it is OK to breastfeed your baby, even if your breastmilk has a small amount of alcohol in it. There is no need to use formula.

For more information:

  • Download the free Feed Safe Alcohol and Breastfeeding app for iPhone, iPad and IPod Touch (a collaboration between ABA, Reach Health Promotion Innovations and Curtin University).
  • Read our brochure Alcohol and breastfeeding: a guide for mothers (a free copy of which can be downloaded below in pdf format).
  • Call a breastfeeding counsellor on the Breastfeeding Helpline 1800 686 268 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

© Australian Breastfeeding Association Revised February 2014