In an informal poll I recently looked at, about 70% of breastfeeding mothers say that they drink alcohol. What I wonder though is how many of them actually have all the facts about drinking while breastfeeding. Because I've been doing it for 9 months and apparently I didn't have a fucking clue this whole time.
Truth is, I'm still not sure I have a fucking clue.
After a particularly social weekend, I realized I never did look up how, exactly, breastmilk production works and how alcohol enters and leaves it. Following the majority belief that "pumping and dumping" is the only way to deal with tainted milk, I went on that way this entire time. I had purchased some alcohol test strips for breastmilk before the baby was born, (which I highly recommend, by the way), and they worked really well to confirm what I often already knew about my milk supply.
Until one day, when I had pumped and dumped the night before and gone to bed. 5 hours later the baby woke up and needed to be fed. I felt off, but wasn't sure if it was from alcohol in my system or lack of sleep. I really hadn't drank that much the night before, but just to be on the safe side I decided to test my milk before feeding the baby. The result was positive. WHUCK???
From that point on I became pretty paranoid about drinking, never having enough to even earn a buzz, especially not unless the baby was asleep for the night and I knew he wouldn't be waking up. But it bothered me that I didn't really understand how it all worked. I read that alcohol would be out of your milk about 1-2 hours after having a drink, and you should never feed your baby if you feel even slightly buzzed, and that pumping and dumping was an alternative to waiting the 2 hours. I personally just never understood the waiting thing - where did it go? Any nursing mom can tell you that when you don't feed your baby, your boobs get bigger and bigger and more full as time goes on. There is certainly no physical evidence to suggest that milk cycles out of your boobs as time goes on. (Unless you're weaning of course, but that's another story altogether.) So to me, pumping and dumping just made sense. Get rid of the "bad" milk and let the "good" milk come back in.
But it turns out that's wrong.
A little research on the internet turned up the info that alcohol enters breastmilk through the blood, and so the amount of alcohol in your blood is what affects the amount in the milk. As long as the alcohol is still in your bloodstream, it's still going to be in your milk. But if it's clear from your blood, it's clear from your milk because your body has metabolized it all out.
I just still don't get it. And two of the claims from the same site just don't sit right with me. First, it says that most milk is made on-demand for the baby while he/she is nursing. But again, see what I said above about your boobs in between nursing sessions. That suggests otherwise, wouldn't you say?
And second, it says that drinking alcohol to increase milk supply is a bogus old-wives tale. Now I have no access to research that might show this to be false or whatever, but my anecdotal evidence is solid. When I pump after having a drink or two, I pump WAY more milk than I normally get after the same amount of time has passed when I haven't had anything to drink. And second, Bethenny Frankel's well-paid, live-in baby nurse gave her a glass of beer to help her with milk production. The woman was a NURSE, for pete's sake.
And of course, in case this all wasn't enough for you, here's some more conflicting information. Wait 6-7 hours before nursing again after a few drinks? Wait 2 hours for every drink you consume?
Fuck that. No one has any freaking clue. I think I'll just stick to my test strips, thankyouverymuch.
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