No one ever said new moms can't have a few drinks once in a while -- even when breastfeeding. But if you've had enough to have a hangover, you might worry about the effects on your nursing infant. The alcohol content in your breast milk will drop as your blood alcohol drops. The side effects of a hangover normally appear when your blood alcohol level drops to or near zero, MayoClinic.com explains. How rapidly this occurs depends on several factors, but once your blood alcohol level drops to near zero, it's safe to breastfeed.
The more you've had to drink, the higher your blood alcohol content will rise, and the longer it will take for your levels to fall to normal. Drinking more water, exercising, drinking caffeine or pumping and discarding breast milk won't affect the amount of alcohol that accumulates in your breast milk, lactation expert and member of the La Leche League International Advisory Council Dr. Thomas Hale reports.
It takes about two hours to metabolize the alcohol in each drink for a 180-pound woman, according to a January 2002 article published in the "Canadian Family Physician." If you had four drinks, it take eight hours for all the alcohol to leave your system. If you weigh just 125 pounds, it would take you 9.5 hours to completely metabolize the same amount of alcohol. The amount of alcohol in breast milk peaks 30 to 60 minutes after consumption if you didn't eat and 60 to 90 minutes if you drink with a full stomach, Breastfeeding Basics reports. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting at least two hours after your last drink before breastfeeding.
If you do pump while drinking because you're uncomfortable, discard the milk. Alcohol remains in pumped milk. Alcohol isn't stored in breast milk that stays in the breast. This means that the breast milk you produced while drinking won't remain tainted by alcohol. Instead, the alcohol will pass out of the breast milk over time as it passes out of your blood. Because of this, it's not always necessary to "pump and dump" after drinking, Dr. Hale notes. If enough time has passed that the alcohol has passed from the breasts, there's no reason to dump the milk. However, if you're concerned about the effects, there's no harm in pumping a bottle's worth of breast milk to use for the first feeding before you start drinking and saving it for use the next morning.
Effects on Your Baby
Feeding your baby before the alcohol leaves your system can affect the amount of breast milk he takes; a Monell Chemical Senses Center study published in the April 2001 issue of "Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research" found that babies whose mothers had 0.3 grams of alcohol per 2.2 pounds of body weight prior to their feeding drank considerably less. Alcohol can disrupt your baby's sleep or make him weak or overly drowsy. Although only around 2 percent of what you drank enters your breast milk, according to lactation consultant Kelly Bonyata, a baby metabolizes alcohol at only half the rate that you do, so the effects can be more pronounced.