4 Shocking Impacts of Alcohol on Breastfeeding Mothers

A mother breastfeeding her baby while sipping a glass of wine is always met with disgruntled giggles and disapproving stares. Some people may even scold her for it. The concept of breastfeeding mums drinking is always a contagious one with very conflicting views. Indeed to some extent, mothers should not drink while breastfeeding, just think about your bundle of joy and the effects that the alcohol you consume could have on her if by any chance the alcohol gets its way into your milk.

Most expectant mothers know that drinking during pregnancy causes defects plus disabilities in their unborn babies. The case is different for drinking after birth as there is no official communication and warnings about the dangers of drinking. Nevertheless, if you have to drink while breastfeeding, why don’t you store some milk on some sterilized milk storage bottles before some hours before taking alcohol and feed it to the baby after you have consumed alcohol? This will really demonstrate that you care for your baby and would not like her to consume the alcohol indirectly from your breast milk just immediately after you have taken alcohol.

What are the misconceptions regading drinking and breastfeeding?

Over the recent years, there have been lots of practices and beliefs in various cultures of breastfeeding mothers to drink alcoholic drinks to boost their milk supply. This has however been disapproved and has remained that way, a folklore. There are however about 4 impacts of alcohol on breastfeeding mothers that I am going to focus on today.

Recent studies have disapproved this theory that claims that when you drink alcohol, it gets into the blood stream and the milk stream at almost equal concentrations. The baby who breastfeeds will, in turn, get the same concentration of alcohol as the mother.

How much is enough?

There are so many conflicting points of views which make it very hard for mothers to make informed decisions on whether to quit drinking, continue drinking or moderate the amounts that they drink. Whichever way you look at the coin, what is common is that alcohol’s effects on breastfeeding babies have a direct proportionality to the amount of alcohol the mother takes.

Research has it that occasional drinking of between 1 and 2 drinks does not harm the baby being nursed. The ingestion of alcohol should be limited to not more than 0.5 g of alcohol per kilogramme of body weight.

What ever the case is, as a loving mother, always keep in mind the age of the baby when you want to consider drinking as you breastfeed. The baby’s vital organs i.e. the liver is not fully grown and would not cope very well with the alcoholic burden. The liver is able to detoxify the alcohol at half the rate of a full-grown adult.

How does alcohol impact on breastfeeding and the baby?

Alcohol has various effects on breastfeeding mothers which in turn affects the babies indirectly. Even though the effects of alcohol on the breastfeeding mother are not only limited to 4, I am going to dwell mostly on the 4 most adverse effects. Without further ado, here we go.

1. Sleep-wake patterns

Studies done on the changes in babies’ sleep-wake patterns revealed that babies with drinking mums spent less time sleeping probably due to the exposure to alcohol laden milk.

2. Decreased motor development

Infants who are exposed to alcohol from their mother’s milk have altered motor development, which is significant than those whose mothers do not drink or have less than a drink per day. The mental development is however not affected by alcohol exposure.

3. Decreased milk supply

No research has proven the perception that drinking alcohol increases the milk supply. Alcohol is known to dehydrate the body, depriving you of much-needed fluids to replenish breast milk supply. A researcher I once talked to informed me that alcohol decreased the levels of oxytocin (this is the hormone responsible for letting down milk). It makes it harder for the baby to lactate when there is no milk being let out.

4. Decreased milk intake

When a study was done on mums who talk alcohol and were breastfeeding at the same time, it was concluded that the babies lactated more frequently but consumed less milk during the 3-4 hours when the mother was intoxicated.

Factors affecting the severity of the impacts

  • a.The baby’s age: very young babies do not detoxify the alcohol in time and are the most affected. When they get older, their organs mature and cope up with the alcohol levels.
  • b.How much you weigh: heavy people have the ability to detoxify alcohol much faster than light people. This is important when determining the time lapse between nursing and taking a drink.
  • c.The quantity of alcohol taken: The more the amount of alcohol you take, the more of it will get into your baby’s bloodstream. It is recommended that taking1 or 2 drinks once in a while is not so bad.
  • d.Empty/full stomach: When you take alcohol on an empty stomach, the rate at which it is absorbed in the body increases.

Precautions to take

Although the impacts of alcohol on breastfed babies are a little sketchy, potentially risking the life of a young due to addiction is being very cruel to the little one. If you are not able to stop the addiction, it is advisable that you take the following precautionary measures.

  • Drink with moderation: the maximum allowable amount of alcohol to take is about 1-2 drinks per day but not for every day.
  • Consider pumping some milk and storing the milk before you decide to take that drink. There is no need to worry about milk and bottle contamination as sterilising bottles breast milk is still a viable option
  • Breastfeed your baby before you take any alcoholic drinks and wait for close to 4 hours when the body will have gotten rid of most of the alcohol contents.
  • Eat! Eat! Taking alcohol on an empty stomach increases the concentrations in your body.
  • When you drink moderately, continue breastfeeding your baby. The nutritious benefits would outweigh the effects of alcohol. It is also still more beneficial than feeding your baby on formula.

Wrapping up

Specific effects of alcohol on infants who are nursed by drinking mothers are not very clear and so is dealing with the situations. The most viable step I tell most of my friends to take is quit drinking just for the baby.

You can as well moderate on the drinking but this is very vague as the determination of moderate drinking is kind of ambiguous. I hope this article has informed you on some of the impacts alcohol has on breastfeeding mothers and their infants. I welcome any questions and comments.

Kristi Cathey

Hi everyone! My name is Kristi Cathey and I’m glad you found your way to my blog. I am a mother of 3 beautiful angels. This blog was created in order to share my personal experiences in baby care and general health care for pregnant women. If you'd like to get in touch with me, please contact me by sending me an email via kristicathey.intelligentmother@gmail.com. Welcome to Intelligentmother.com

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