Alcohol and breastfeeding

When you’re breastfeeding, traces of what you eat and drink pass through to your breastmilk. And while it’s safer not to drink alcohol, an occasional drink (i.e. 1 or 2 units, once or twice a week) is unlikely to harm your baby.


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). Obviously 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.

What is a unit of alcohol?

  • A small glass of wine (125ml)
  • Half a pint of beer
  • Single measure of a spirit (25ml)

You can always express your milk before drinking alcohol, then your baby can be bottle-fed with your breast milk. And if you do need to miss a feed, don’t let your breasts become uncomfortably full (which can lead to mastitis), it’s best to express your 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 (sober) adult to look after your baby.

Help and support

If you are regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol and you feel you need some help cutting down, there is 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.

These counselling services also offer confidential help and support:

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