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Drinking alcohol

When you're breastfeeding, traces of what you eat and drink pass through to your breast milk.

While it's safer not to drink alcohol, an occasional drink (1 or 2 units, once or twice a week) is unlikely to harm your baby.

Did you know?

1 unit of alcohol is equivalent to:

  • a small glass of wine (125ml)
  • half a pint of beer
  • a single measure of a spirit (25ml)

After drinking alcohol, how long should I wait to breastfeed?

On average, it takes about 2 to 3 hours for a glass of wine or beer to leave your system, so it's best to wait a few hours to breastfeed. The more you drink, the longer it takes.

If your baby is under 3 months old, it will take them longer to process the alcohol, as their liver is still developing.

If you express before drinking alcohol, your baby can be bottle-fed with your breast milk.

If you need to miss a feed, do not let your breasts become uncomfortably full as this can lead to mastitis. It's best to express your breast milk rather than be uncomfortable.

Plan ahead

If you've been drinking, never sleep with your baby. There is a strong link between sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and alcohol.

If you know that you're going to have a few drinks, arrange for another adult to look after your baby.

Help and support

If you drink large amounts of alcohol regularly and you feel you need some help cutting down, there's lots of support available.

These tips on cutting down may be helpful, but if you'd rather talk to someone you can always speak to your midwife, doctor or pharmacist.

Confidential counselling services

  • Drinkline – the free national alcohol helpline, call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm).
  • We Are With You (formerly known as Addaction) – UK-wide treatment agency that helps individuals, families and communities manage the effects of alcohol and drug misuse
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – a free self-help group with a "12-step" programme that involves getting sober with the help of regular support groups
  • your nearest alcohol support service.

National Breastfeeding Helpline

For confidential breastfeeding information and support, call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.

Lines are open 9:30am to 9:30pm every day.