Is it safe to drink wine while nursing?

Is it safe to drink wine while nursing?
Dec 7, 2022

Q: Is it safe to drink wine while nursing?—Betsy, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

A: Drinking wine, or any type of alcoholic beverage, can have important effects on women’s and children’s health, especially while trying to conceive and during pregnancy. After avoiding alcohol while pregnant, many new mothers may wish to resume moderate wine consumption once the baby is born. Doing so while breastfeeding is possible, though it takes a little planning and know-how.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for breastfeeding mothers. Generally, moderate alcohol consumption by a breastfeeding mother (up to one standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the mother waits at least two hours after a single drink before nursing.” (One drink is defined as 5 ounces of wine at 12 percent alcohol.)

Consuming more than one drink causes alcohol to remain in breast milk for longer—after two drinks, alcohol remains in milk for four to five hours—and can also impair a nursing mother’s judgment. Exposure to significant levels of alcohol through breast milk can be “damaging to an infant’s development, growth and sleep patterns.”

Dr. Jae Kim, co-director of the Perinatal Institute and division director of neonatology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, told Wine Spectator that “the peak concentration of alcohol in the body occurs about an hour after drinking. This is probably [when there is] the greatest chance of small amounts of alcohol getting into the milk. Having a lot to drink at once will increase the chances of alcohol getting into the breast milk.”

Contrary to popular belief, drinking alcohol does not increase breast milk production; in some cases, especially with higher levels of consumption, it actually decreases milk supply by interfering with the milk ejection reflex (let-down) and long-term production levels. And while some mothers “pump and dump” in an attempt to clear any alcohol-laden milk, the only way to ensure breast milk is alcohol-free is to wait until the alcohol has been fully metabolized. Only when the amount of alcohol in your blood has dropped to zero will your milk be free of alcohol. That said, some mothers may choose to express milk before drinking in order to have alcohol-free milk on hand while they wait for alcohol to clear their bloodstream.

Dr. Kim counsels, “If drinking is being used to relax, as motherhood can be very stressful, I would encourage many other forms of relaxation to consider for the lactating mother. These include exercise, massage, meditation, aromatherapy [and so on].”

As always, talk to your healthcare provider about incorporating wine into a healthy lifestyle—for you and your newborn.—Kenny Martin

Q & A health womens-health

You Might Also Like

Are some wines healthier than others?

Are some wines healthier than others?

Though red, white, sparkling, sweet and fortified wines contain varying levels of antioxida…

Jan 18, 2023
Can drinking wine cause holiday heart syndrome?

Can drinking wine cause holiday heart syndrome?

Though excessive wine consumption can cause alcohol-related arrhythmia, known as holiday …

Nov 23, 2022
Is it safe to have a glass of wine after receiving one of the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster shots?

Is it safe to have a glass of wine after receiving one of the new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster shots?

Though excess alcohol consumption can dampen the body's immune response, experts say …

Nov 9, 2022
Is it safe to drink from a sabered bottle of Champagne? Won’t tiny pieces of glass get into the wine?

Is it safe to drink from a sabered bottle of Champagne? Won’t tiny pieces of glass get into the wine?

While it's possible that sabering a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine could produce …

Oct 26, 2022
What are the risks of drinking small quantities of alcohol while pregnant?

What are the risks of drinking small quantities of alcohol while pregnant?

While experts now recommend avoiding alcohol while pregnant, it's true that pregnant women …

Sep 14, 2022
As wine ages, do its health benefits change?

As wine ages, do its health benefits change?

Wine undergoes a variety of chemical changes as it ages, some of which still aren’t clearly …

Aug 31, 2022