Is it safe to drink alcohol while breastfeeding?

Is it safe to drink alcohol and breastfeed? As physicians, we have always cautioned patients not to. As mothers, we look forward to the occasional glass of wine. We also know that drinking while breastfeeding remains a controversial and very personal choice, one for which many mothers find themselves judged by friends and family.

Historically, beer was made very differently than it is today. Beer companies marketed low-alcohol beers to women to stimulate appetite, increase their strength and enhance milk production. Barley used in beer production contains a polysaccharide that can enhance breast milk production by increasing prolactin secretion in nursing mothers.

On the other hand, alcohol may also inhibit breast milk letdown and slow the flow of milk to the baby due to a blunted prolactin response required for breast milk production. An older study published in Developmental Psychobiology also found that infants consumed less milk during the four-hour testing sessions in which nursing mothers drank alcoholic beer compared to mothers who drank nonalcoholic beer. (Read more….)