Whether it's parties, BBQs, family get-togethers or celebrations; alcohol is often served at social gatherings. But if you’re breastfeeding, there’s no wine for you. Or is there?
If you want to, you can enjoy a glass of wine, a beer or whatever it is that you choose to drink. The key is to plan ahead so your baby can have breastmilk that is free from alcohol.
The concentration of alcohol in your milk closely follows the concentration of alcohol in your blood.
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 to 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 be free 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 can help you work out these times more accurately.
To know when your breastmilk is free of alcohol, download and use the Feed Safe app.
Only time will reduce the amount of alcohol in the milk in your breasts
Once you stop drinking, and the amount of alcohol in your blood drops, the amount in the milk in your breasts will drop too.
‘Pumping and dumping’ (expressing breastmilk and throwing it away) will not reduce the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk. You also don't need to do this once the alcohol has passed through your system – alcohol is not ‘stored’ in the milk in your breasts, just as it doesn’t remain in your blood. Once the alcohol is out of your blood, it will be out of your breastmilk.
If you express while your breastmilk contains alcohol, that expressed breastmilk will continue to contain alcohol.
Plan ahead - express some milk
The safest option when breastfeeding is to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.
However, if you are planning to have a glass, it's good to think ahead. You could express some milk before you have a drink. While you're waiting for the amount of alcohol in your milk to drop, your baby can have your expressed milk.
If things don't quite go to plan, you might wonder if it's safe to breastfeed your baby. Perhaps you had a little more alcohol than you planned to, or your baby needs to feed sooner than you thought they would. Call the Breastfeeding Helpline to talk to a breastfeeding counsellor about your situation. They can help you to work out a new plan.
When a person has too much to drink, they may not be able to make very safe decisions about caring for a baby including where the baby sleeps. It’s important to plan ahead and make sure you always have a safe sleeping space for your baby. Never sleep with your baby if you've been drinking alcohol.
More resources for you
Feed safe app
Planning on having a drink?
Get the right information to keep your baby safe.
Download the Feed Safe app.
Feed Safe is a collaboration between the Australian Breastfeeding Association, Reach Health Promotion Innovations and Curtin University.
Alcohol and breastfeeding: a guide for mothers
How much alcohol gets into my breastmilk?
Can I have a drink and still breastfeed?
These and more commonly asked questions are answered in this easy-to-read 7-page brochure.