After nine months of abstaining, you might be excited to kick back with a glass of wine once your baby arrives. But is drinking alcohol safe if you’re breastfeeding? As the the Department of Health points out, your safest option is to avoid alcohol until you've finished breastfeeding. However, there are ways to mitigate risk if you do plan on having a drink while you're still breastfeeding.

Can I drink alcohol while breastfeeding?

Nursing mums need to be mindful of how much—and when—you drink.

Alcohol starts entering your blood as soon as it hits your stomach. That’s why booze can get you in a party mood so fast. Most of it is processed in your liver, which removes the alcohol from about one drink per hour (that's 1 pint of beer, 1 glass of wine or a shot of the hard stuff). So, after an hour or two, your body has pretty much cleaned up the alcohol from your little indulgence.

How long do you have to wait to breastfeed after drinking?

According to the CDC, “Moderate alcohol consumption by a breastfeeding mother…is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the mother waits at least two hours before nursing.”

While your liver is getting rid of the evidence, your breasts have been taking some alcohol in and letting it seep into your milk. That’s why the ideal time to tip back a cold one is right after a feeding or pumping session. By the time baby is hungry again, the alcohol that snuck in will be diluted by several ounces of milk.

Drinking more than one drink will extend the period of time you have to wait to breastfeed. Two or three drinks means waiting four hours. Luckily, the average tired nursing mama doesn’t need much alcohol to feel relaxed or join in the fun. One drink can be plenty!

So, if you have a beer with your partner at 8 p.m., you can still manage a 10:30 p.m. dream feed.

Do I have to pump and dump after drinking alcohol?

If you’ve partied a little harder, you may want to pump and dump the milk two to three hours after the celebration is over. As a rule of thumb, if you feel tipsy, it’s best to wait on the breast and let your baby hit the bottle, too (of previously pumped milk or formula, of course).

What happens if you breastfeed while alcohol is present in your milk?

Although the alcohol in your milk can pass through to your baby, the baby only receives a small fraction of what you imbibed. A one-time exposure is not going to damage your baby, but it’s best not to make a habit of it. Other complications from mixing too much alcohol and breastfeeding include reducing your supply, inhibiting milk let-down and affecting the taste in a way that makes baby reject the milk. No one wants that!

The bottom line: In general, enjoying one alcoholic beverage once or twice a week, timed at least two hours before your next feeding, should be safe for you and your baby. Cheers!

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