Breastfeeding mothers are constantly told what they should and shouldn’t do.
With all this conflicting information and advice, it’s no wonder many breastfeeding mothers feel confused.
Fortunately, recent research suggests there’s one thing breastfeeding mothers might not need to worry about: consuming the occasional alcoholic drink.
Breastfeeding And Alcohol – Study Says Moderate Alcohol Consumption Is Ok
Australia’s leading health organisation, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) indicates the safest option for breastfeeding mothers is to not consume alcohol.
However, the NHMRC also says breastfeeding mothers who choose to consume alcohol should refrain from doing so in the first month postpartum.
They should also be informed about:
- Recommended maximum levels of consumption (e.g. two standard drinks or less in any one day)
- Length of time alcohol is excreted in the breastmilk
- Optimal timing of breastfeeding in relation to intake of alcohol
- Option of expressing before consuming alcohol.
So, how does the new research fit with these guidelines?
Occasional Alcohol Consumption Appears Safe For Breastfeeding Mothers
In this new study, researchers obtained data about alcohol consumption from a group of Australian breastfeeding mothers – at eight weeks and 12 months postpartum. About two thirds of breastfeeding mothers reported the use of alcohol at each of these time points.
The study found occasional alcohol consumption by breastfeeding mothers was not linked with shorter breastfeeding duration. Neither was it linked with any adverse developmental outcomes in infants up to 12 months of age.
In fact, the study found only one significant association: babies whose mothers consumed alcohol at eight weeks postpartum had more favourable results for personal-social development at 12 months, compared with those whose mothers abstained.
This is clearly good news for breastfeeding mothers who wish to consume alcohol.
However, it’s important to note most of the mothers consumed alcohol at low levels. That means fewer than 14 standard drinks each week, and fewer than three drinks on each occasion.
Most mothers also used strategies to minimise the amount of alcohol that could be passed on to their babies through their breastmilk.
Here are 3 strategies breastfeeding mothers can use when consuming alcohol to help prevent alcohol reaching their babies through their breastmilk:
#1: Limit Alcohol Intake
As per the NHMRC guidelines, breastfeeding mothers should limit alcohol intake to no more than two standard drinks a day. They should also avoid drinking alcohol immediately before breastfeeding.
#2: Expressing Breastmilk In Advance
If you intend to drink more than a couple of standard drinks of alcohol, it is a good idea to plan ahead. Express your breastmilk in advance. That way, your baby can consume breastmilk that contains zero alcohol while you wait for the alcohol content of your blood and breastmilk to dissipate.
#3: Download The Australian Breastfeeding Association Feedsafe App
This excellent app will provide you with some useful information about alcohol consumption and breastfeeding. It will also help you work out how long to wait after taking a drink, so your breastmilk no longer contains any alcohol.