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Breast Feeding

Clearing breastmilk from alcohol

05/22/2000

Question:

If a breastfeeding mother were to have an alcoholic beverage while nursing, how long would it take for the alcohol to clear or what do we do to clear the supply and in the meantime supplement with formula.

Answer:

Alcohol enters and leaves breast milk (currently in the breasts) at about the same rate as it enters and leaves a woman`s blood stream (about 1 oz/hr). As alcohol is cleared from the mother`s system, it also is cleared from her milk. Therefore, it is not necessary to "pump and dump" breast milk if enough time has elapsed, since alcohol is not "stored" in breast milk.

An occasional "social" drink (by a mother) does not appear to be a risk for most breastfed babies, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) considers limited maternal consumption (less than 1g/kg daily) to be compatible with breastfeeding. Some experts believe the alcohol in breast milk from one drink is diluted when it enters the baby`s bloodstream and so does not pose a risk to a healthy infant. However, other experts advise mothers to wait about 2 hours after finishing a single beverage before breastfeeding again or to wait about two hours for each drink consumed if a woman has more than one alcoholic beverage in a sitting.

Some mothers express their own breast milk to keep bottles in the freezer for certain situations, such as when a baby wants to breastfeed before a mother returns from an outing or until an alcoholic beverage has cleared her system. Other mothers might leave a supplement of infant formula, but parents should be aware of the negative effects infant formula has in some infants when making that decision. Also, delaying breastfeeding for a period of several hours while waiting for the alcohol from more than a single drink to clear the maternal system may contribute to such maternal complaints as plugged ducts or mastitis.

No matter how a woman feeds her baby, her ability to safely care for an infant or child is affected when alcohol is overused in a single sitting or abused through regular overuse. However, when breastfeeding, alcohol abuse, moderate or excessive alcohol ingestion by a mother on a regular basis (more than 1 gm/kg daily/frequently), appears to have a negative effect on milk production and the let-down reflex. Maternal alcohol abuse also may affect an infant`s sucking reflex, weight gain and rate of development.

Karen Kerkhoff Gromada, MSN, RN, IBCLC

References:

Hale, T (1999). Medications and mothers` milk 1999-2000 (8th ed.). Amarillo, TX: Pharmasoft Medical Publishing.

Riordan, J & Auerbach, KG (1999). Breastfeeding and human lactation (2nd ed.). Boston: Jones & Bartlett.

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Response by:

Karen Kerkhoff Gromada, MSN, RN, IBCLC
Adjunct Clinical Instructor
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati