Everyone has at least one thing they judge. It may be shameful, but it is a reality of being human. There is always at least one person who we look at out of the corner of our eyes and think disparaging thoughts. For me, this person was the wife of my husband’s childhood best friend. While pregnant, this woman made a point of taking every guideline her doctor gave her as a mere suggestion. It was her theory that since she had already had a baby ten years before and he was fine, she apparently had permission to do whatever she wanted because if the first baby turned out without any problems, obviously this one would too.

This was the justification behind her sneaking out of gatherings at her home to smoke nearly a pack of cigarettes a day and go out three times a week for two glasses of red wine. “It’s red wine,” she would say, “Red wine is ok to drink.” I bit back the words, “Alcohol is alcohol. You might as well slam back a shot of tequila,” so many times I lost count. Once the baby was born Melissa refused to breastfeed, but would pump and feed the baby bottles of breast milk.

It always shocked me when I saw her pour out bottles of milk after she had a few drinks. She knew drinking was bad enough for the baby that she didn’t want her to drink milk that may have alcohol in it, but she would drink when the alcohol went directly into its bloodstream? She also only seemed to dump out the milk a few minutes after he drank. I always wondered if this was effective. How long does it take for alcohol to metabolize into breast milk?

It goes without saying that any conscientious mother would want to avoid introducing alcohol into their baby’s system by breastfeeding too soon after drinking. This is why mothers who choose to drink occasionally after delivering their babies often become very wrapped up in the idea of calculating how long it will take after drinking for their milk to be “clean.” It is important for mothers to remember that the metabolism of alcohol into breast milk is similar to alcohol impacting the blood. Heavier mothers will experience lower instances of alcohol in their breast milk than smaller mothers, but when evaluated the alcohol level in the milk will be equal to or higher than the level in the blood.

It has also been demonstrated that alcohol is introduced very quickly into the breast milk. As with caffeine that appears in the breast milk within 15 minutes of consumption, alcohol will show up in the milk within a short time frame of consumption. Unlike alcohol in blood, however, blood in breast milk does not dissipate once it has been introduced into the milk. In order for alcohol to no longer be present in the milk, the milk must be eliminated. This is the reasoning behind the “pump and dump” concept. Mothers will express all milk within their breasts soon after drinking. It is important to note, however, that as long as there is alcohol present in the blood system, there is alcohol present in the milk, so one expression after drinking is not sufficient to eliminate alcohol from the milk.

Mothers who plan to consume alcohol are strongly encouraged to prepare by expressing several feedings’ worth of milk prior to drinking so they can be confident their milk is clean before offering their babies the breast again.

Source: Lawton Margaret E. Alcohol in Breast Milk, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 71-73, February 1985.