Alcohol and Breastfeeding Effects, Health Risks, Can Alcohol Be Found in Breast Milk?
Breastfeeding and Alcohol Use
Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for breastfeeding mothers. Generally, moderate alcohol consumption by a breastfeeding mother (up to 1 standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the mother waits at least 2 hours after a single drink before nursing. However, exposure to alcoholism above moderate levels through breast milk could be damaging to an infant’s development, growth, and sleep patterns. Drinking alcohol and breastfeeding is not safe as alcohol does pass through breast milk to a baby.
Alcohol consumption above moderate levels may also impair a mother’s judgment and ability to safely care for her child. Drinking alcoholic beverages is not an indication to stop breastfeeding; however, consuming more than one drink per day is not recommended. 
What are the Effects of Drinking Alcohol and Breastfeeding
Moderate consumption of alcohol and breastfeeding (up to 1 standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the mother waits at least 2 hours before nursing. However, higher levels of alcohol consumption can interfere with the milk ejection reflex (letdown) while maternal alcohol levels are high.
Over time, excessive alcohol consumption could lead to shortened breastfeeding duration due to decreased milk production. Excessive alcohol and breastfeeding could also affect the infant’s sleep patterns and early development.
What are the Risks to the Baby?
Caring for an infant while intoxicated is not safe. Drinking alcohol and breastfeeding could impair a caregiver’s judgment and his or her ability to safely care for an infant. If a caregiver drinks excessively, he or she should arrange for a sober adult to care for the infant during this time. Binge drinking alcohol and breastfeeding, where you have more than 6 units of alcohol in 1 session, may make you less aware of your baby’s needs. If you do binge drink, your baby should be cared for by an adult who has not had any alcohol. You may want to express for comfort and to maintain your milk supply.
If you nurse your baby too soon after drinking, your baby will consume alcohol, too. And babies cannot metabolize alcohol as quickly as adults, so they have longer exposure to it. Even a small to moderate amount of alcohol may impair milk production and the milk ejection reflex. Some of the negative effects of drinking alcohol and breastfeeding on the baby may be:
- Sleep disturbances
- Increased crying
- Increased startling
- Increased arousal
- Increased REM sleep in the period from 3.5 hours to 24 hours after exposure to alcohol
- Decreased milk intake by baby
- Decreased weight gain
ALCOHOL AND BREASTFEEDING IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS
- Your baby’s age
- A newborn has an immature liver, and will be more affected by alcohol
- Up until around three months of age, infants metabolize alcohol at about half the rate of adults
- An older baby can metabolize alcohol more quickly than a young infant but still not as well as an adult
- Your weight
- A person’s size has an impact on how quickly they metabolize alcohol
- A heavier person can metabolize alcohol more quickly than a lighter person
- Amount of alcohol
- Know what constitutes a “standard drink”
- The effect of alcohol and breastfeeding on the baby is directly related to the amount of alcohol that is consumed
- The more alcohol consumed, the longer it takes to clear the body. The CDC state “Alcohol from 1 drink can be detected in breast milk for about 2-3 hours, alcohol from 2 drinks can be detected for about 4-5 hours, and alcohol from 3 drinks can be detected for about 6-8 hours, and so on.”
Can Alcohol Be Found in Breast Milk?
Yes. Alcohol levels are usually highest in breast milk 30-60 minutes after an alcoholic beverage is consumed, and can be generally detected in breast milk for about 2-3 hours per drink after it is consumed. However, the length of time alcohol can be detected in breast milk will increase the more alcohol a mother consumes. For example, alcohol from 1 drink can be detected in breast milk for about 2-3 hours, alcohol from 2 drinks can be detected for about 4-5 hours, and alcohol from 3 drinks can be detected for about 6-8 hours, and so on.
However, blood alcohol levels and the length of time alcohol can be detected in breast milk after drinking will depend on a number of factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed, how fast the alcohol is consumed, whether it is consumed with food, how much a mother weighs, and how fast alcohol is broken down in a mother’s body. 
Breastfeeding While Drunk
Can expressing/pumping breast milk after consuming alcohol reduce the alcohol in the mother’s milk? No. The alcohol level in breast milk is essentially the same as the alcohol level in a mother’s bloodstream. Expressing or pumping milk after drinking alcohol, and then discarding it (“pumping and dumping”), does NOT reduce the amount of alcohol present in the mother’s milk more quickly. As the mother’s alcohol blood level falls over time, the level of alcohol in her breast milk will also decrease.
A mother may choose to express or pump milk after consuming alcohol to ease her physical discomfort or adhere to her milk expression schedule. If a mother decides to express or pump milk within two hours (per drink) of consuming alcohol, the mother may choose to discard the expressed milk. If a mother has consumed more than a moderate amount of alcohol, she may choose to wait 2 hours (per drink) to breastfeed her child or feed her infant with milk that had been previously expressed when she had not been drinking, to reduce her infant’s exposure to alcohol. Breast milk continues to contain alcohol as long as alcohol is still in the mother’s bloodstream.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Also known as alcohol counseling, behavioral treatments involve working with a health professional to identify and help change the behaviors that lead to heavy drinking. Behavioral therapies for alcohol treatment share certain features and safer options for mothers who have problems with alcohol and breastfeeding, this program can include:
– Developing the skills needed to stop or reduce drinking
– Helping to build a strong social support system
– Working to set reachable goals
– Coping with or avoiding the triggers that might cause relapse
Types of Behavioral Treatments for Alcohol Treatment
- Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy: The type of therapy that can take place one-on-one with a therapist or in small groups. This form of therapy is focused on identifying the feelings and situations (called “cues”) that lead to heavy drinking and managing stress that can lead to relapse. The goal is to change the thought processes that lead to alcohol misuse and to develop the skills necessary to cope with situations that might trigger problem drinking.
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy: It is conducted over a short period of time to build and strengthen motivation to change drinking behavior. The therapy focuses on identifying the pros and cons of seeking alcohol treatment, forming a plan for making changes in one’s drinking, building confidence, and developing the skills needed to stick to the plan.
- Marital and Family Counseling: This therapy for alcohol treatment incorporates spouses and other family members in the treatment process and can play an important role in repairing and improving family relationships. Studies show that strong family support through family therapy increases the chances of maintaining abstinence, compared with clients undergoing individual counseling.
- Brief Interventions: These are short, one-on-one, or small-group counseling sessions that are time-limited. The counselor provides information about the individual’s drinking pattern and potential risks. After the client receives personalized feedback, the counselor will work with him or her to set goals and provide ideas for helping to make a change.
If you are an alcoholic, your very first step in recovery should be to medical alcohol detox in a safe and medically supervised setting.  We Level Up TX drug addiction and alcohol treatment center medically assists clients to clear their systems of addictive substances. For anyone who suffers from addiction, just the thought of having to stop drinking alcohol can cause severe mental distress. But, with the help of a medical detox center, the medical detox process is managed.
A comprehensive team prescribing medications can alleviate your withdrawal pains while monitoring your health 24 hours. Assuring both your safety and comfort. We Level Up TX’s thorough approach to rehabilitation supports several levels of care to ensure the best possible outcome for every client who enters our doors. From an intensive and more supportive atmosphere for those in the early days of recovery to a comfortable residential-style living dynamic upon completion of detox, we are here to help guide you down the safe and results-based path to your sobriety.
Are you ready to overcome alcoholism? We Level Up Texas treatment center is here to partner with you on your journey to recovery success. There is no better time than today! Get started with a phone call for more information about drinking alcohol and breastfeeding.
[1-2] Alcohol – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
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