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Holiday Parties and Breastfeeding: Debunking the pump-and-dump myths

Congratulations! You finally have your little one in your arms after 40 or so long weeks! You also get to celebrate holidays with family without having to watch the little things like caffeine and mercury... But what about alcohol?

For some, Christmas isn't complete without a glass of eggnog and don't even think about New Year's Eve without Champagne! You already went a year without an 'adult beverage' and you can't wait to let loose, but you're breastfeeding and don't know how alcohol affects your breastmilk. So now you are here, searching for answers and we are pleased to present them to you!

Breastfeeding and alcohol:

While breastfeeding, recommended alcohol consumption levels are thankfully significantly less strict than when pregnant. We have all heard the phrase "pump and dump"... however, studies are showing that dumping breastmilk after drinking may not be necessary if using precaution and being aware of your timing.

Because alcohol is water-soluble, alcohol leaves the breastmilk the same way it leaves the bloodstream. Therefore 'pumping and dumping' is wasting perfectly safe breastmilk if breastfeeding occurs after the alcohol has left the bloodstream. Moms can test their breastmilk with alcohol sensitive strips to see the true amount of alcohol in their breastmilk, but it may not be necessary.

How much alcohol is safe daily while breastfeeding?

According to the Institute of Medicine, current guidelines state that mothers can consume up to two alcoholic beverages a day while breastfeeding. Specifically 0.5 g of alcohol per kg of maternal body weight per day.

The recommendation from the National Institute of Health is: 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol; 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol; and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol.

Higher alcohol consumption while breastfeeding has been associated with shorter exclusive breastfeeding rates (meaning they are only ever given breastmilk--no formula). This could be due to mothers becoming less attentive (due to alcohol in their system), changes in lactation hormones, and missed feedings due to lessened recognition of the baby's hunger cues.

Fun fact:

Respecting the above guidelines while breastfeeding, mother's actually enjoying their alcoholic beverage while breastfeeding is recommended. This is so the alcohol does not have time to reach the breastmilk that is being 'actively let-down'. Then, by the time the baby wants to feed again, the alcohol will already be out of Mama's system.


Caffeine Intake During Pregnancy

The Lactation Counselor Training Course Notebook (2018)., Healthy Children Project, Center for Breastfeeding., p89

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)

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