Drinking when pregnant and breastfeeding is one of the most confusing issues to get straight and partly this is because there aren't controlled experiments in this space (i.e. you can't ask a randomised group of women to chug beers while pregnant/nursing and see what happens). I should say up front that I have no strong views on this one - I really feel like this is every woman's choice about what they are going to do - especially considering that the science behind it is not clear cut. My interest really just stems from me trying to work out what I should do while I am continuing to express all the milk for baby number two.
After some recent reading, I realised that the periods of pregnancy and nursing are pretty different in terms of what gets passed on to the baby and finally got some answers on what you should consider when working out whether or not to have a drink when breastfeeding. So, thought I should share what I found.
It may seem obvious to some but I only just learnt that alcohol doesn't stay in breastmilk so if you wait long enough the booze won't even reach the baby. This is clearly different than pregnancy where whatever is in your blood stream is getting channeled straight through. Basically breast milk holds about the same amount of alcohol as your blood stream so if you think you could blow a 0.0 on a breathaliser, you probably don't have any alcohol in your milk either. This means, you're best to do your drinking well before feeding, i.e. directly after a feed/express is probably going to be the best time. The general rule seems to be that women clear 1 standard drink in about 2 hours.
There is some suggestion that you shouldn't drink at all until your baby is either one month or three months (I was admittedly a little surprised when one of the ladies in the hospital was encouraging me to have some wine two days after giving birth). This seems to be based on when the babies' liver has developed enough to process alcohol but surely this is less relevant if you generally aim to clear your milk of alcohol before feeding.
I've also read that alcohol both encourages and inhibits milk production so I think you can probably deduce that neither of these is based on strong science.
Basically everyone seems to agree that it is possible to have a drink or two while breastfeeding as long as you plan it right - I'm off to get a glass of red to celebrate!
If you want to read some more yourself - here are the articles I looked at: