The strands to the breastfeeding and alcohol debate are numerous. Some people say that it does not do much harm, some people say that it does.
Research has proven that consuming alcohol in large amounts can do irreparable harm to a baby inside the womb but the relationship between alcohol and breastfeeding is not very well defined. There are some things however you should be aware of if you are a breastfeeding mother and you are still consuming alcohol.
When a baby is born, its internal body systems are still in the early stages of development. High amounts of ingested alcohol can do harm to his or her immature liver. Until they are about 3 months old the rate at which baby’s break down alcohol is about half the rate at which it happens in an adult’s body.
As the baby grows older, and its system becomes more stable and sturdier, he or she can break down alcohol faster. When talking about “breastfeeding and alcohol” it is important to be aware of this, as many doctors advise that the mother should avoid a high alcohol consumption during the first three months after the birth of her baby.
If you do drink then make sure that you do so in small amounts. The UK Health Department advise that alcohol consumption should be no higher than 1 to 2 units, once or twice a week (1 glass of wine is around 1.5 units depending on ABV). To be really safe you should cut right back or even refrain from drinking alcohol altogether until you have stopped breastfeeding your child.
If you can’t stop drinking then to keep feeding your baby is thought to be better than putting him or her on a formula diet early on.
The antibodies present in the breast milk are indispensable for the baby’s health and there is no reason why the baby should be deprived of the same.
Breastfeeding and alcohol should ideally not be mixed. When you are feeding your baby, doctors often tell you to drink a lot of water and other fluids. But if you count alcohol as one of the fluids on your list, you can potentially do damage to your baby’s health if you over do it.
If there is a high level of alcohol in your blood stream when you are feeding your baby, unknowingly you will pass it on to your child whose system may suffer damage as a result. The effects of alcohol on a baby and on an adult are very, very different. Do you know that alcohol even in very small quantities can damage your child’s brain whilst pregnant?
Even though you might not feel so when you are drinking as you may feel perfectly sober, if you’ve drunk a lot then when the alcohol stored in your body enters your child’s, through your breast-milk, it might cause him or her harm.
Depending on the amount of alcohol you drink, the effects can range from a strong bad taste/sourness in your breast milk to irreparable damage to his or her system.
So take full care of your little one’s diet and supplement it with breast milk. If you are only drinking the one to two units, once or twice a week then relax. However if you’re drinking too much or are addicted to alcohol, then now is the time to seek help from your doctor – before it’s too late.