Cheers to the New Year!

New Year’s Eve – it’s a time to reflect and a time to look ahead, and a time to clink glasses with friends, family, loved ones, and maybe even some complete strangers – who knows? But for the nursing mom, what’s in that glass? And what does it really matter for her and her nursling?


While the opinions on this topic range far and wide, the answer is still unclear. Of course we can agree that excessive drinking is unsafe and irresponsible for both mama and baby, but what of the mom who wants to celebrate with a drink or two?


As you prepare for tomorrow’s New Years celebrations, we’ve summed up a few key takeaways:


  • Alcohol, contrary to many beliefs won’t help with breast milk production. On average it has been proven to reduce milk output, and when present in breast milk, babies tend to consume about 20% less.


  • Alcohol passes into breast milk at about the same concentration as that which it passes into the blood stream.


  • Alcohol peaks in breast milk at about 30–60 minutes after it has been consumed, and about 60-90 minutes when consumed with food.


  • Pumping and dumping will not eliminate the alcohol in breast milk (see chart for average processing rates) but if a mother is going to miss a breastfeeding session doing so will help prevent engorgement.


  • Studies have shown that alcohol affects babies’ eating and sleeping habits – while babies may fall asleep more quickly, they sleep for shorter amounts of time.


  • Babies under three months process alcohol at half the rate of an adult.

In a nutshell: having a drink or two to celebrate the holidays is absolutely fine, and will have no long-term effects for the baby. If a mother wishes to have a drink but to absolutely avoid any trace amounts of alcohol being expressed in her breast milk, she should simply wait the recommended period of time for her body to process all of the alcohol.

Recognizing that breastfeeding, as is, is by no means an easy commitment for mamas to make, we appreciate this perspective from Dr. Jack Newman, of La Leche League International. Dr. Newman summarizes this conundrum quite sensibly:

“Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.”

As with most things in life, everything in moderation, mamas. Be responsible, and have a wonderful New Year!


Resources we found helpful:

La Leche League International: What About Drinking Alcohol and Breastfeeding? Everyone Drink Up Alcohol and Breastfeeding

Mayo Clinic: I’m Breastfeeding. Is it OK to drink alcohol?