When breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for the health of your baby.
We want to give our babies the best start in life – and to help them be well-fed, settled, and healthy. That’s why, when breastfeeding, it’s important to make sure the breastmilk your baby drinks is alcohol-free.
Information about alcohol and breastfeeding
If you drink alcohol, it enters your breastmilk from your blood. While there is alcohol in your blood, it is also in your breastmilk.
Even small amounts of alcohol can disrupt your baby’s sleep and make feeding more difficult due to reductions in milk supply and the flow of milk.
Infant brains, which continue to develop after birth, are more vulnerable to alcohol than adult brains. Exposure to alcohol through breastmilk has been linked to problems with infant growth, motor development, verbal IQ, and cognitive ability in early childhood.
Strategies if you drink alcohol while breastfeeding
It is important to avoid alcohol in the early weeks of breastfeeding to ensure your baby receives a good supply of milk and settles into a sleep-wake pattern.
Once breastfeeding is well established, you may continue to choose to remain alcohol-free for your baby’s health as their brain continues developing.
If you do drink alcohol, you can ensure your baby does not drink breastmilk containing alcohol by:
Waiting at least two hours per standard drink before feeding your baby to ensure your milk is alcohol-free.
Using a tool like the FeedSafe app to know when your breastmilk is alcohol free. FeedSafe uses your weight and height to calculate when your milk is alcohol-free.
Expressing breastmilk before you drink alcohol so your baby can be fed this milk by you or someone else.
If you think alcohol will be in your breastmilk, you can express milk for comfort or to maintain supply, but this milk should be discarded and not fed to your baby.
It is also important that anyone who has consumed alcohol does not co-sleep with your baby, because of the increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation.
Did you know?
If you drink alcohol when breastfeeding, the alcohol concentration in your breastmilk will be the same as the alcohol concentration in your blood.
One standard drink remains in your breastmilk for two hours, on average.
The highest alcohol concentration in your breastmilk occurs 30 to 60 minutes after consuming alcohol.
Only time reduces the concentration of alcohol in your breastmilk to zero.
Alcohol affects the release of prolactin and oxytocin, hormones that regulate milk supply and ejection.
Alcohol ingested via breastmilk can disrupt your baby’s feeding and sleeping patterns and has been linked to developmental problems in early childhood.
You can use the Feed Safe app to know when your breastmilk will be free from alcohol.
Co-sleeping with your baby after consuming alcohol increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation.
Support from partners, friends, and family
There are many ways your partner, friends or family can support your decision to have an alcohol-free pregnancy – including choosing to stop drinking alcohol too.
Sometimes it can be difficult to stop drinking alcohol
If it’s difficult for you to stop drinking alcohol, help is available. Speak to your doctor, midwife, a lactation consultant or the Australian Breastfeeding Association helpline. You can also speak with an alcohol support service or alcohol counsellor.