Congratulations! You’ve just had your baby and there is more than one reason to celebrate. While you cuddle that gorgeous bundle of yours, you can catch up on nine months of soft cheese and sushi, and now a new study has given the nod to the occasional drink of alcohol while breastfeeding.
The findings, presented at the APSAD Scientific Alcohol and other Drugs Conference, found that alcohol consumption was unrelated to breastfeeding duration, infant feeding and sleeping behaviour at 8 weeks, and most infant developmental outcomes at 8 weeks or 12 months.
Is that a sigh of relief I can hear? Well, before you start planning a booze-filled celebration, the Guidelines for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding state that not drinking alcohol while breastfeeding is the safest option and women should avoid alcohol in the first month after delivery until breastfeeding is well established.
Following that, breastfeeding mothers should limit their alcohol intake to no more than two standard drinks per day, avoid drinking immediately before breastfeeding and consider expressing milk in advance if they to drink alcohol.
Under the limit
Of the women in the study, most of the breastfeeding mothers drank at low levels (the equivalent of a glass of wine) and employed multiple strategies such as waiting until the end of a feed, waiting a few hours after drinking or expressing to minimise alcohol passed onto infants via breastmilk.
“Whilst this study certainly does not in any way condone excessive alcohol consumption in new mums, it does suggest that those that have the occasional drink whilst using strategies to prevent alcohol reaching the infant, can do so without fear of causing harm,” said study lead researcher Delyse Hutchison, visiting fellow at the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre who conducted the research.
“Whilst lactating women are drinking, intake levels are typically quite low, and most women use multiple strategies to minimise alcohol being passed on to infants. The results suggest that these strategies are likely to be effective in preventing potential harm to infants,” she said.
So what – Is alcohol while breastfeeding ok?
What does this mean for you as a breastfeeding mum? Does it really change anything? Is this anything more than applying a common sense approach to looking after yourself and your baby?
The sad reality is that in today’s age of parents being judged for every action they make, research like this is a valuable tool for empowering breastfeeding mums to make their own decisions about what is best for themselves and their babies. In our age of prescriptive dos and don’ts this simply eases the pressure and is one less thing to avoid while breastfeeding or lose sleep over at night.
At the end of the day it is about you making the right decisions for you and your family. In the same way you will us research and advice for something like dental treatment for your kids, you can use this research to feel more confident in the decisions you make around drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. Cheers to that!
For more information to help you with breastfeeding, check out these posts:
10 superfoods for breastfeeding mums
Expressing, storing and managing breastmilk
Breastfeeding and returning to work
Healthy snacks when breastfeeding