Breastfeeding and Alcohol

Ministry of Health Guidelines

Avoiding alcohol while breastfeeding

You should avoid drinking alcohol while you’re breastfeeding. This is particularly important during the first month, when breastfeeding is being established.

If it isn’t possible to abstain altogether, your limit should be one to two standard drinks occasionally. Don’t binge drink.

What to do if you are drinking alcohol

There is no good evidence that alcohol increases breast-milk supply.

You can avoid exposing your baby to alcohol by waiting for the alcohol levels in your breast milk to drop before you feed your baby.

The time this takes varies between women – for example:

  • If a 61 kg woman consumes one standard drink, it will take one hour and 40 minutes until the zero alcohol level in her milk is reached.

It’s recommended you wait 2–3 hours before resuming breastfeeding.

What to do if your baby needs a feed

If your baby needs feeding during this time, you can give them expressed breast milk that’s free from alcohol.

Milk vs blood levels

  • If you drink moderate to high amounts of alcohol, the alcohol levels will be higher in your breast milk than they are in your blood.
  • If you have a lower alcohol intake, your blood and breast milk levels will be similar.
Is stout good for nursing mothers?
Some people think that stout is a good iron source for breastfeeding mothers – this isn’t true.

The level of alcohol in the blood and breast milk peaks after about 30–60 minutes after a drink.

Alcohol returns from breast milk to your blood supply over time – you don’t have to empty your breasts. ‘Pumping and dumping’ doesn’t get rid of alcohol from the breast milk (or body as a whole) any faster.

Keeping your baby safe if you’re drinking

  • If you’re drinking alcohol, your baby could be at risk of accidents, such as being dropped or rolled on if you put them to sleep in the same bed as you.
  • Longer term, they could be at risk of developing nutritional deficiencies.