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Is it safe to drink alcohol while breastfeeding?

Anything you eat and drink while you're pregnant or breastfeeding can have an effect on your baby, including alcohol.

Research shows that occasional drinking, such as one to two units once or twice a week, is not harmful to your baby while you're breastfeeding. However, drinking any more than this can cause problems, such as inhibiting the mother's "let down" reflex (release of milk to the nipple area).

One unit of alcohol is roughly equivalent to half a pint of normal strength beer or a 25ml (pub) measure of spirit. A small (125ml) glass of wine contains about 1.5 units of alcohol. Read more about alcohol units.

Alcohol clears from the mother's blood at a rate of about one unit every one to two hours. It's also removed from the mother's milk at the same time. Therefore, if you do decide to have a drink, it's a good idea to wait for a couple of hours before breastfeeding. It can be difficult to predict when your baby may want to feed, so you may want to plan ahead and express milk beforehand for special occasions when you may want to have a drink.

Moderation is the key. Drinking any more than a couple of units at a time can affect your baby's development and reduce your milk supply. Small amounts of alcohol pass into breast milk, making it smell different, which may affect your baby's feeding, sleeping or digestion. To be on the safe side, some women choose to avoid alcohol altogether while they're breastfeeding.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 15/05/2015

Next review due: 14/05/2017