Pregnancy information

Breastfeeding & alcohol

Alcohol can pass into your breastmilk and then into your baby when you feed them.

An occasional drink is unlikely to harm your baby especially if you wait at least 2 hours after having a drink before feeding..

Regularly drinking above the recommended limits can be harmful for you and your baby.

Aside from the known health risks of excessive alcohol to yourself, drinking too much can decrease your milk supply. It may also cause sleep, growth and developmental problems with your baby.

Alcohol units

To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, it's safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.

If you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it's best to spread your drinking evenly over 3 or more days.

If you wish to cut down the amount you drink, a good way to help achieve this is to have several drink-free days each week.

Fourteen units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer.

If you regularly drink more than 14 units a week, you may find it helpful to discuss this with your health visitor or GP.

To check units in other drinks, see Alcohol Concern's alcohol unit calculator.

Managing social occasions

If you do intend to have a social drink, you could try avoiding breastfeeding for 2 to 3 hours for every drink you have to avoid exposing your baby to any alcohol in your milk.

This allows time for the alcohol to leave your breast milk. You'll need to make sure breastfeeding is established before you try this.

You may want to plan ahead by expressing some milk before a social function.

Then you can skip the first breastfeed after the function and feed your baby with your expressed milk instead.

Bear in mind your breasts may become uncomfortably full if you leave long gaps between feeds. You may feel the need to express for comfort.

You do not need to express to clear your milk of alcohol. The level of alcohol in your milk will fall as the level of alcohol in your body falls.

Risks of binge drinking

Binge drinking, where you have more than 6 units of alcohol in 1 session, may make you less aware of your baby's needs.

If you do binge drink, your baby should be cared for by an adult who has not had any alcohol.

You may want to express for comfort and to maintain your milk supply.

If you regularly binge drink, you may find it helpful to discuss this with your health visitor or GP.

Last Updated: 25/05/2023 10:26:45
The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website