Breast feeding is important for a baby’s physical growth, emotional and mental development. Breast feeding and alcohol don’t mix well. There is no level of alcohol in breast milk that can be considered safe for a baby to drink. A newborn has an immature liver .Infant babies under 3 months of age metabolise alcohol at about half the rate than adults. Hence impact of alcohol is more in this age group. High concentration of alcohol in breast milk may lead to drowsiness, alteration in sleep pattern, weakness, decrease in linear growth and impaired motor development of infant.
Consumption of alcohol in high amount affects milk let down. It results in breast engorgement and limits the availability of milk to the infant. High consumption of alcohol by mother may put baby at risk because of poor judgmental capacity during intoxicated state. There is report of increase incidence of sudden infant death( SIDS ) in baby of mother taking alcohol more frequently.
Alcohol and its effects:
Effects of alcohol in breastfeeding baby are directly related to the amount of alcohol the mother consumes .The alcohol passes in and out of the mother’s milk freely depending on the alcohol level in the mother’s body. It has been found to peak in 30-60 min after starting consumption. Alcohol absorption is delayed if the same is taken with food – by 60-90 minutes.
Breast milk and how alcohol can affect it:
As a general rule it takes 2 hours for an average woman to get rid of alcohol from 1 standard alcohol drink, 4 hours for 2 standard drinks and around 4 hours for 3 standard drinks and so on. Alcohol level in milk drops gradually after one stops drinking. Pumping and dumping of expressed milk will not reduce amount of alcohol in the breast milk. Alcohol level in breast milk decline as blood alcohol levels falls with time.
Alcohol consumption is not a absolute contraindication to breast feeding. If a mother decides to have alcohol, she should adhere to certain advises to minimize impact on baby as well as own health-
- If possible delay alcohol consumption till infant turns at least 3 months old.
- Can take 1-2 standard drinks in a day.
- Breastfeed your baby before taking alcohol and delay breastfeeding at least for 3-4 hours after drinking.
- Eat before and while drinking alcohol as it helps in checking surge of blood alcohol level. Never take 3 or more drinks a day as it may put your baby and your own health at risk.
If you have an issue in controlling your alcohol intake, it is best that you consult a doctor.