Can I drink that? (The caffeine and alcohol edition)
We see you, mama. You’re looking at that large cup of the other liquid gold - hot, steamy coffee. Or maybe it’s that group of people clinking their mimosa glasses as they refill from their bottomless pitcher. Either way, we see you - because we’re right next to you, watching with equal envy. Who doesn’t want caffeine or alcohol, especially after rocking out a pregnancy and making a little bundle of joy that wakes you up to eat at all hours? We get it. We’ve been there. But now you’re looking down at that sweet little thing and then over to the magic liquid of your choice and asking “hey, can I have that if I’m breastfeeding?”
Our answer: listen to your body and pay attention to cues.**
There are a few cues that you can keep an eye on when you’re breastfeeding and also enjoying a cup of coffee - how’s your baby acting? Are they sleeping well? Do they seem restless? How about their tummy - any issues with digestion or upset stomach? Do they seem a bit fussy for some reason that you can’t explain? These are signs that you might wanna take your caffeine consumption down a cup (or three, let’s be real).
Naturally, the age of your baby can play a role in this. Younger babies will show more sensitivity than, say, a toddler. You’ll want to note that you may be able to adjust your levels as your baby grows. Also, remember that caffeine will peak 1-2 hours after ingestion, so you can try to time your intake accordingly. If a cup of coffee (in a tumbler with a lid to prevent coffee-on-baby’s-head accidents) while you’re nursing sounds divine, go for it. Remember that you want to stay hydrated while your body is nursing, so have water nearby as well!
It’s also important to remember that caffeine goes beyond your morning cup - we’re talking soda, tea, energy drinks, and even some foods. Pay attention to what’s going in so you know what’s coming out.
Many new moms are asking the question “but when is it beer time?” You worked hard to grow that little one, and a glass of wine or a nice gin & tonic might be the thing that you salivated over for nine months. Again, we get it.
Our rule of thumb? If you’re too drunk to drive, you’re too drunk to breastfeed.
The age of your little one needs to be taken into consideration here - babies under three months will metabolize alcohol much slower than an older baby or toddler would.
What about grabbing a drink and bringing your baby along? Guess what - having a drink while breastfeeding is the perfect time to imbibe! “Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does,” says Dr. Jack Newman, member of the La Leche League Health Advisory Council. If anyone chooses to give you side-eye while you’re multitasking like a mother, just read them this quote.
Second option: what about grabbing a drink with friends after work? Can you breastfeed afterward? Remember that one drink is either 2 oz. of 80-proof liquor, 5 oz. of wine, or 12 oz. of beer. So, if you’re grabbing that drink and coming home and thinking “oh, shoot! Can I breastfeed?” you’re probably just fine if you’ve had no more than two.
But if that “quick happy hour” turns into a night of karaoke and dancing (yet somehow you’re still home at 8 pm... #momlife) - you’ll want to pump and store. That’s right. Store it! Unless you’ve had a lot to drink, don’t you dare pump it and dump it! Tearfully watching that hard-earned liquid gold go down the drain doesn’t need to be the answer. Alcohol leaves breast milk at the same rate that it leaves your blood. How awesome is that? If you end up going out knowing you plan to have more than a couple drinks (hey, let loose! You just created a human life!), be sure to plan ahead with a ride home from friends, a cab, or a rideshare service. And remember that if you come home a bit more than buzzed, you will want to inform your partner or babysitter and probably pass on holding your sweet one for at least four hours. Pro tip? Pump before you go so you have milk ready for your babe!
Watch for those same signs with your baby that you would for caffeine. If they’re acting super drowsy, that might mean you had a little too much alcohol in your system to nurse, so change accordingly for your next feeding. You’re doing great!