Watching my littlest stuff his face with an advent calendar chocolate his older brother has left lying around, it’s fair to say that the second time around my approach to mothering has been a little more…lackadaisical? Good enough has had to be good enough.
Meals are not organic, carefully divided food groups into the component parts on a bamboo bowl. Instead, the wild thing generally eats on a rotation system, hauling himself up onto whoever’s lap is nearest and approaching dinner time like a sophisticated gannet getting the best bits, before moving on and demolishing someone else’s bacon bits.
I haven’t thought once about watching what I eat or drink to ensure my breast milk is the optimum in nutritional value. I just trust it’s got to be better than the Honey puffs he’s currently eating off the carpet.
With my first child, I remember breastfeeding all feeling a little more stressful. Navigating his first Christmas when he was 6 months old, I debated whether a glass of champagne would be ok. Would I be judged for having a lunchtime glass of red?
I debated whether a glass of champagne would be ok. Would I be judged for having a lunchtime glass of red?
What does the science say about drinking alcohol whilst breastfeeding?
There’s a lot of contradictory information around regarding alcohol and breastfeeding but one thing that is reiterated consistently is the dangers of bedsharing with your baby after consuming alcohol. This is because it can inhibit your natural reflexes and be a contributory cause of SIDS. For many, breastfeeding and bedsharing go hand in hand, so having to battle your baby into a cot after a night on the tiles could seem like a poor trade-off and just not worth the hassle.
On the other hand, it’s now widely acknowledged that you don’t need to ‘pump and dump’ as alcohol leaves your milk as it leaves your bloodstream, effectively meaning if you’re ok to drive, you’re ok to breastfeed, as any effects will be negligible.
It’s now widely acknowledged that you don’t need to ‘pump and dump’ as alcohol leaves your milk as it leaves your bloodstream
You may feel happier having a drink if you’re breastfeeding a toddler or older child as they can metabolise the alcohol much faster, whereas for younger babies it can take longer. Saying that, however, my midwife actually prescribed me a glass of wine on returning home from the hospital telling me that, ‘you need something normal that’s just for you’ and ‘if you can feed the baby without dropping him on the head, then you’re grand.’
Studies that show alcohol having a negative effect on breastfed babies are looking at children whose mothers consume large quantities of alcohol daily. In these cases, alcohol can cause drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness and abnormal weight gain in a baby. There is also the possibility that it could negatively impact on breastfeeding with a decreased milk-ejection reflex in the mother.
So what are the key takeaways?
· Occasional, small amounts of alcohol are fine but if you are drinking regularly or heavily (eg. binge drinking) consider how to limit your child’s exposure. This could involve a feed before drinking and then giving previously expressed milk for a couple of hours afterwards depending perhaps on their age.
Occasional, small amounts of alcohol are fine but if you are drinking regularly or heavily consider how to limit your child’s exposure.
· If you do binge drink, ensure there is a responsible adult available to care for your baby who has not consumed alcohol.
· DO NOT bedshare with your baby or fall asleep with them on an unsafe surface after consuming alcohol.
· It’s not necessary to express breastmilk to clear it of alcohol but you might prefer to for your own comfort.
As with lots of parenting-related topics, it is easy to polarise decisions like this and feel judgement from others whatever decisions you make. Personally, I like to evoke the spirit of my Granny, who was a big proponent of ‘everything in moderation and you can’t go wrong.’
Try telling that to a two-year-old who is after your bacon…