# How Much Alcohol Really Gets Into Breastmilk?

By Naomi |

Recently, I got a comment on one of my older posts on drinking and breastfeeding. The post was specifically about drinking Guinness and about whether or not the rumor that Guinness helped to make more milk was true. In the post, I also talk about other affects of drinking alcohol while nursing, specifically sleep. The commenter seemed agitated (although I could be misreading) when she said:

You shouldn’t drink ANY alcohol while you’re nursing. Everything you put into your body is consumed by your baby. They even taste it. If you wouldn’t feed it, then don’t eat it.

Hmmm. I’ve now nursed a combined 26 months (and counting) and as long as I’ve been nursing, I’ve had one beer OR one glass of wine most nights. The day has been long. Both my babies are in bed. It’s my time, and I’d like to relax. I’ve been told by my doctor that 1-2 drinks a night is not a problem when it comes to nursing but I decided to look into more information on the subject.
La Leche League has a whole page devoted to this topic with lots of interesting information, which I encourage you to check out. There seems to be a general consensus that yes, alcohol does get into your breast milk, although most of their sources say it’s not harmful.

Regardless, my husband, T, being the science Ph.D. snob that he is, does not trust one iota of information on LLL’s page as factually scientific. So, we (he) decided to do a little math computation to figure out exactly how much alcohol was really getting into the blood stream and thus the milk. See his results below:

Alcohol appears in mother’s milk at about the same concentration that alcohol is in the mother’s blood (one informal but convincingly scientific post found it to be much less). So, one drink (consumed quickly) will typically give us a Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) of 0.03%. This means that there is 0.03grams of alcohol in each 100mL of our blood. So, if your baby has about 4-5 ounces of milk (100mL), he/she will ingest about 0.03grams of alcohol.

For comparison, a standard drink (one beer, a glass of wine) has about 14 grams of alcohol in it. So, the baby is drinking the equivalent of 1/175th of a beer. This is like having a beer the size of a marble. Babies typically weigh about 1/10th of an adult (17lb baby, 170lb adult), so the effect on their system will be magnified. Very young infants metabolize alcohol at about half the rate of an adult, but soon the rates are similar to adults.

So, your baby’s BAC will be about 5% of yours. This seems like an insignificant amount, but there may be be some developmental impact on babies that don’t apply to adults. One major example of this is low weight gain. If my baby had weight gain issues (and I was a female who breastfed), I would eliminate alcohol just to take it out of the list of possible causes.

One last and important point: everything above assumed that you fed your baby right after slamming the beer. If you have one beer and wait a few hours to feed, your BAC and the risk to your baby are basically zero. Instead, feed baby, have a beer, wait a few hours, feed baby again. Check out this useful graph. Also note that having many beers is much worse than having one beer, since the window of peak BAC is much wider.

So, there you have it. Look, even with this math and science and all the information available about breastfeeding and alcohol, we all have to make our own choices. We’ve made ours.

Image Credit: Flickr/Jenny Downing

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Naomi

Naomi Odes Aytur is a blogger who contributed to the Parenting channels on Babble. She chronicles her experiences of being a new mom on her personal website, I Am Still Awake.

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## 13 thoughts on “How Much Alcohol Really Gets Into Breastmilk?”

1. Naomi says:

One additional important point: The amount of alcohol in your breastmilk diminishes over time, just like in your bloodstream.

2. Katie says:

Thanks for this post. I know so many people who abstain completely while nursing. To me, that is just one more hurdle for women trying so hard to bf and be happy. My ped told me that alcohol in moderation is perfectly acceptable. A drink to a drink and a half every night or so is more than enough to satisfy my cravings and I have never been concerned about how that impacts my baby. I wish more women would give themselves a break.

3. Dawn (nursing mommy of a baby girl) says:

Wow…I never really looked at it like that….That was right down to the point and very very informational..I have not touched a drink since before i became pregnant and my baby will be 8 months old and nursing. This really opens the window to alot of the unknown..Thank you!

4. Steph says:

That is the information I got from Australian sources – that it’s pretty much equivalent to drinking and driving. It enters your milk but then it goes again. If you drink and wouldn’t drive, then don’t breastfeed your baby. As you say, wait a little while and you’re good to go.

5. Jacinda says:

great info!

6. Julie says:

Hooray for the non-paranoid people out there! I have had to explain so many times to people, “No really, I CAN have this one drink. I’m not feeding my son for a few hours.” They all want to act horrified and tell me I have to pump and dump, and it’s like, NO I DON’T. So nice to see somebody else who gets this too.

7. Roni says:

As a nursing mom who just enjoyed a shot of baileys in my cup of hot cocoa I say hear hear! Great post! It was one shot, if that, more of splash.

8. theresa says:

All good stuff. I wish this math info was in all of the preggers books. I too love the wine glass after a long day and never have thought it was a problem. I also consume about two or three cups of coffee in the morning after feeding and my babes is not in the least effected!

9. Sam says:

The official guidelines in the UK – again, not advocating it, but advising that occasional moderate drinking is unlikely to be a problem, thus enabling us to make our own choice! http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-and-you/family/alcohol-and-breastfeeding

10. Naomi says:

Thanks, everyone!

11. Motherofone says:

It doesn’t surprise me how self centered people are today. One can explain away anything if one wants something bad enough. Do you remember how badly you wanted that baby in the first place? So bad you would give or give up anything? I guess not …. never gamble with another life …. especially a child that has no choice.

12. Mary Joiner says:

I didn’t drink when I was breast feeding, but if I had wanted a single glass of wine or beer that would have been okay if I had just fed the baby and didn’t need to feed the baby for several hours.

However, I’m 5’9″ and weigh 150. If you are a petite 5’2″ and weigh about 100 pounds then it would take you much longer to clear the alcohol from your system than it does me. If you are tiny, then your body takes longer for the alcohol to go away and it takes less alcohol for your blood alcohol to get to the “legal” limit.

You can bypass this problem by pumping your milk beforehand and give that to baby after you drink.

Btw, because there is no set amount of alcohol a person can consume before their baby is born with fetal alcohol syndrome, drinking WHILE you are pregnant is a totally different ballgame but even then most experts say a glass of wine occasionally won’t hurt you – and in Europe it is actually encouraged…..