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  • Breastfeeding and Alcohol: How Much You Can Drink and When to Nurse

    Nursing your baby exclusively may mean abstaining from alcohol, coffee, energy drinks, and more.
    by Rachel Perez .
Breastfeeding and Alcohol: How Much You Can Drink and When to Nurse
PHOTO BY iStock
  • You've heard it before: breastfeeding and alcohol do not mix. That's because breastfeeding is pretty much an extension of your pregnancy when it comes to nutrition. Your breast milk is what you eat, so you want to avoid food and drinks that may hurt your little one.

    However, breastfeeding doesn't mean you can't give in to your craving for that occasional wine or beer or cup of coffee. Let's break down the beverages that are safe to drink when you're nursing.

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    Alcohol

    It doesn't have to be a complete ban. Less than two percent of the alcohol gets in the milk, and it stays in your body for only a short time. So, yes, as a nursing mom, you can drink alcoholic drinks but do so occasionally. Alcohol consumption can still disrupt your hormones and affect milk production, so keep it in moderation.

    How much alcohol can you drink?

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a nursing mom should limit alcohol intake to no more than 0.5 grams alcohol per kilogram body weight no more than two ounces of hard liquor, eight ounces of wine, or two beers for an average 120- to 130-pound woman. The more alcohol you consume, or the higher the alcohol concentration your drink has, the longer it takes for alcohol to leave your system. 

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    To minimize alcohol concentration in your breast milk, pediatrician and breastfeeding and lactation counselor Dr. Jamie Isip-Cumpas, M.D., suggests waiting for at least two to three hours before a nursing session, especially if you've had more than the recommended limit.

    After drinking, ask yourself: Do you still feel buzzed? Are you too tipsy to drive? If you answer yes to any of these two questions, then you can't breastfeed your little one just yet.

    What happens if I drink alcohol and breastfeed right after?

    An infant's liver is not yet mature enough to process alcohol as efficiently as adults do. Babies younger than 3 months of age process alcohol in their body only half the rate as adults. Traces of alcohol in breast milk can make your little one drowsy and quickly fall asleep for the short term. If you abuse alcohol, long-term effects may include sleep issues and delayed gross motor development. 

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    Caffeine

    An infant can receive 0.06 to 1.5 percent of caffeine consumed by the mother, but not all babies have the same reaction to it. Some infants are caffeine-sensitive, while others are not. You need to observe how your caffeine fix affects your baby. 

    How much caffeine can you drink?

    Even if you've observed no harmful effects on your little one by having your caffeine fix, a nursing mom should still limit her intake. The AAP recommends nursing mom to consume less than three cups of coffee daily. Drinking more than five cups of coffee is excessive. Chamomile, lavender, and jasmine are your best bets to caffeine-free teas. If you miss drinking chocolate, rooibos and vanilla are great low-sugar alternatives.

    What happens if I go over my caffeine intake?

    L.A.T.C.H. Philippines peer counselor Mec Camitan Arevalo also reminds nursing moms that coffee and other caffeinated teas and drinks are diuretics. Drink two cups of water for every cup of coffee you consume if only to recover the water you will lose. Remember, nursing moms need to drink up and stay hydrated to be able to produce milk. 

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    An infant's digestive system is not yet capable of metabolizing caffeine efficiently, so it stays longer in his system. A baby will need approximately 120 hours to eliminate half of the caffeine in his body. It will gradually decrease to 14 hours when he reaches the 3 to 5 months of age.

    Obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Rebecca Ramirez-Agcaoili, M.D., shared that studies have shown caffeine to make babies fussy and irritable, and can cause rapid heart rate and difficulty in sleeping. 

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    Energy drinks

    Energy drinks have high caffeine content and loads of sugar so that in itself should tell you to opt for other (and natural) energy-giving food and beverages. One serving may already be too many calories and too much caffeine for your little bundle of joy. 

    A lot of energy drinks' ingredients, such as ginseng and taurine, are not screened for safety in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Check for a warning in the label. If it's not recommended for preggos, then it's probably not safe for breastfeeding mamas as well.

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    Cow’s milk

    You should know that you don't need to drink milk to produce milk. What breastfeeding mothers need is calcium, iron, and vitamin C, among other nutrients, which is best sourced from real food.

    You can drink cow's milk, goat's, or soy milk. In some cases, though, rashes or colicky symptoms in babies have been traced to a nursing mom's dairy intake but not just milk. American pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene, M.D. F.A.A.P., estimated that 2 to 7.5 percent of healthy infants in the U.S. have a significant intolerance to the protein in cow’s milk. It's common in families with strong medical histories of eczema, allergies, and asthma. 

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    Should you pump and dump?

    If you've had too much alcohol or caffeine in your system, yes, you can pump and dump to relieve breast engorgement and continue to stimulate milk production. It does not, however, alter the alcohol level in your system. You just need to wait for your body to metabolize and flush it out of our system. It's the same with caffeine. 

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    To prevent throwing away precious liquid gold, schedule your alcohol and caffeine indulgences (in moderation). Many nursing moms wait to drink coffee or have their guilt-free glass of wine until their baby has finished feeding. This way, their bodies have processed that alcohol or caffeine after two hours, or just in time for their little one's next feed. 

    No food is technically prohibited for breastfeeding moms — yes, you can have spicy food, sushi, nuts, oily food, etc. Again, it's all about moderation, but make it a habit of observing for any adverse reaction in your baby. Keeping a food journal can help; if your baby reacts negatively — usually two to four hours after breastfeeding— to something you ate, it will be easy to track which dish most likely caused the baby’s reaction.

    Certain medications are prohibited for nursing moms to take such as certain birth control pills (there are safe birth control alternatives for nursing moms.) Some herbal treatments may not also be safe for nursing mommas. Always run a drug or herbal supplement by your doctor before using them. If a quick consult with your doctor isn't possible, you can check it's safe for you here as a last resort.

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