Drinking During Pregnancy (or Breastfeeding): Can the two mix?

Is it safe to consume any alcohol when you're pregnant? What about when you're breastfeeding?

Is any drinking during pregnancy safe?

What I found most interesting about this one is that everyone can agree that a lot of alcohol is bad during pregnancy (I suppose it’s bad all the time but we’ve all had our piss ups) but whether a drink here and there is detrimental differs.

Generally, in North America, they take the stand that a lot is bad and we don’t know what the tipping point is so stay away from it. Whereas, in Europe, they seem to say a drink or two here and there should be fine but don’t get hosed.

I also found it very interesting that many blogs had hysterical women asking if they’ve done damage to their baby because they drank before they knew they were pregnant (hey, that’s how most of us got pregnant so who are we kidding?) and many ‘experts’ said they would be fine but not to drink anymore. So, in North America anyway, if you drink without knowing you should be fine but if you know you’re pregnant and drink you’re putting your baby in harms way.


Is that a fart or do I smell judgment?

I also found this article very interesting. The author wrote a book that everyone went batshit crazy over because she cited some studies that point to moderate alcohol consumption during pregnancy being fine. Frankly, I find it a little offensive that these critics don’t think I’m bright enough to distinguish between a glass of wine at dinner and a 40 of vodka before lunch. Yep, there are people with problems (see note below) but I don’t think it’s helpful to paint the issue with a large “just don’t” brush either.


Do You Have to Pump and Dump?

As for breastfeeding and alcohol, drinking while breastfeeding does reduce milk production despite the popular wives tale that it increases it. Babies actually like the taste of milk with traces of booze in it so they suck longer which gives the impression that they are eating more when, in fact, they are actually getting an ounce less.

Alcohol does get into your milk, however, once study tested a legally drunk woman’s breastmilk and estimated that her baby’s blood alcohol level would be 0.006% (somewhere between .08% and .10% is legally drunk in most states) so your baby could operate heavy machinery no problem.

Whether this small amount has any effect is still up for debate.

One study showed a drink a day produced slightly lower motor development at 12 months of age, and another study showed that the more mom drank, the higher their children scored in general intelligence, motor development, and personal-social development at 18 months. No one has studied getting shitfaced every day and breastfeeding but I would suspect that would have other parenting implications and would skew the results.

Generally speaking, if you have a drink, it should diffuse out of your body, and your milk, in about 2 hours, depending on your weight (less time if you’re heavier, more time if you’re lighter) so there’s no need to pump and dump. Plus, it looks like even if you’re loaded, only trace amounts are getting to your baby.

Just don’t drop the kid on its head because you’ve been doing keg stands all night. No one wants to read that Trainspotting headline for crying out loud.

If I got pregnant again, I think I’d move to Europe and have my glass of wine with an assortment of cheese and laugh at the tourists wearing fanny packs.


search: alcohol pregnancy, drinking while pregnant, alcohol damaging fetus

Note: Binge drinking and excessive drinking (six or more units a day) will fuck your baby up – sorry, I have no better way to phrase that. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a preventable birth defect and if you think you have a problem you should talk to your doctor (I know, it feels shitty to walk in all pregnant and tell someone you have an alcohol problem, but it’s something you need to take care of and they will be able to quickly point you in the right direction. Hey, these are people that deal with anal fissures, you can’t say or show them anything they haven’t seen 100 times so don’t worry about it.) Here’s a link to a site that has some good direction as well.

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  • I know that it may seem strange for a grandmother of three little girls to be reading your blog articles, but I ran across your blog while doing research for a book I’m writing. I love your humorous approach to pregnancy and motherhood. I always said without a sense of humor you’d never make it through motherhood! But in the 70’s when I was experiencing pregnancy and child-rearing, there was little discussion as to the effect of alcohol on the fetus. With my first pregnancy, I was experiencing "night" sickness! I could tell the time by my night sickness. It was either 5 ’til 10PM, 10PM, or 5 after 10PM. And the thought of a glass of scotch, which was my drink of choice at the time, I wrenched at the thought! With the second pregnancy, I had heartburn for 9 very long months and would kill if I ran out of Sprite to sooth the burning beast! But after deliver, I realized immediately that I had no heartburn! My beautiful little heartburn was in the nursery! But 4 months later, he had his first cold and the medication the doctor had given him had disturbing side effects……the baby and I didn’t sleep longer than 15 minutes at a time for 4 days and 4 nights! In desperation, I called the doctor pleading for help, ending sobbing, "And it’s my birthday!" The very sympathetic doctor asked if I had any wine in the house. I told him no. He said for me to call my husband to bring me a bottle of wine when he came home from work, to have a glass and not stop with one! Well, I was in shock! I asked if my breast milk would hurt the baby, and he said "No", that it would relax me and the baby so we could get some sleep. I now very lovingly admit that this child drove me to drink, wine to sleep and coffee to wake up and function as a mother of two really active little boys. But it was all worth it. The baby is now a 6’5" psychologist at a VA hospital over the Primary Care Unit designed to identify possible suicidal patients. So it’s all worth it, Ladies!

  • While I was pregnant with my daughter, I drank a glass of red wine (ONE glass, not the American jumbo size, mind you) almost every evening before I went to bed. Honestly, it helped me go to sleep much easier. I never had any typical "bad" pregnancy complications except a difficult time falling asleep.

    I talked to my OBGYN about this, and he did discourage any heavy consumption of alcohol, but 1 glass would not harm me or my daughter at all. Thank God for an 80 year old OBGYN that hasn’t been brainwashed by all the hysteria and hype that is so rampant today.

    Now I have a beautiful 2 1/2 year old that is attentive and smart as could be. We are working on a sibling for her, and if my insomnia returns, I plan on going back to my 1 a day regimen.

    I am not encouraging the preggos to run to the local bar, but if a pregnant woman wants to have a drink now and then, so be it. Being relaxed and happy is much better for the baby in the long run in my opinion.

  • I went to Olive Garden the other night and I was with a few friends and the server said well obviously you CAN’T have one but would anyone else like a sample of wine? Haha. Just goes to show that people aren’t very well educated on the topic. When a doctor tells me a half or even a whole glass of wine is fine every now and then, I think I will listen to him over my server at Olive Garden!

    Not that I drink a glass with dinner every night but I sip on a half a glass every couple weeks.

  • As an American living in Sweden (and being pregnant here!) I just have to say that not all of Europe sees drinking during pregnancy the same way. In Sweden it’s pretty taboo, but in Denmark it’s culturally acceptable to have a glass of wine a few times a week with dinner. I think attitudes may get more flexible the further south you look. In any case, that means that even if I want to drink something now and then I would have to do it when no one is looking, which would make me a scary kind of drinker 🙂

  • I just discovered your blog- it is giving me LIFE right now. I am 6.5 months(ish) (25 weeks), my husband is napping beside me, and the whole bed is shaking because I cannot stop laughing. You are hilarious! Your words of wisdom might be the only reason I survive this!

  • I love beer, especially good, dark craft beer. I am happy to report that I out-drank my husband the very night before I found out I was pregnant. Pre-pregnancy, it was common for me to be able to keep up with him when we drank – usually we'd split a 6-pack. Even though I'm only 2/3 the size he is, my body just processes alcohol better than his, what can I say?

    One day a few weeks into "knowing" I was pregnant, he woke up one morning with a terrible hangover (he forbid me to drink but I don't care if he does it) and called me at work scared that the baby was going to be hurt by our pre-knowing "binges." I assured him the baby would be fine.

    I'm less than 8 weeks away from delivering and he still won't let me have more than a couple sips of his beer a week. If it was up to me, I'd have a beer or two every week, because I think that's moderation and that wouldn't harm the baby, but it's his baby too, so I just drink a root beer or ginger ale when we go out and beg for tiny sips of his beer.

  • If you are concerned at all about drinking during pregnancy, there is a great risk line that can help you out. It is a free service that can help you work out any possible risk to your baby. It's called the teratogen information service, and its number is 1-800-733-4727. It has helped me out so much!

  • I saw an interview with an English doc a few years ago and he explained why there were differing ideas about drinking (North America vs. Europe). Apparently, drinking in moderation is fine, as most Europeans know, but Americans don't understand the concept of and certainly don't practice ANYTHING in moderation (too stupid?) so our doctors tell us to just cut it all out. Truth is… he's probably right 🙂

  • You've got a lot of comments from moms who drank a little bit here and there during their pregnancies and everything turned out fine and that's great. Considering how the body deals with alcohol and how it provides nourishment to the developing fetus, it makes sense that a mom *might* be able to have a small drink or two with a meal once or twice a week without damaging the developing baby.

    HowEver – as a mom with a 7 year old adopted son with mild to moderate FAS, let me tell you that FAS is not a mater of \"little difficulties.\" My boy's challenges are real, difficult and heartbreaking and are a result of drinking done by his birthmom before she learned she was pregnant. We adopted him at 22 months when she determined she couldn't handle being a single mom and at the time of placement, he had no FAS diagnosis in spite of the fact that his verbal and motor skills were delayed. Luckily, we have a Very good pediatrician who diagnosed him with FAS within the first 10 minutes of our initial visit with him and we've been able to seek appropriate interventions. His teachers and Special Ed coordinator report that there are LOTS of kids in my son's school that display very similar educational and behavioral difficulties paired with FAS physical features who do not have accurate or complete disability diagnoses because no one has asked about (or admitted to) alcohol use during pregnancy.

    Many kids with FAS & FAE are not diagnosed because the symptoms can look very much like ADD, ADHD, autism, sensory dysfunction and mild delays in verbal, cognitive and motor skills when children are young and no one thinks (or dares) to ask about alcohol use during an evaluation or intake interview. Those seemingly mild delays and dysfunctions don't go away as the kids age, in fact, they begin to combine in ways that make life very, very difficult for teens and adults with FAS.

    So please, have a drink responsibly now and then if you feel it is safe but don't brush FAS off as a problem that can't happen to your kid or as something that isn't worth worrying about. I would give just abut anything to be able to erase the damage done to my son but it will Never go away.

    Forgive me if I've rained on anyone's parade. If I inspire a little more caution, you can thank me when your baby is seven and is normally potty trained so you don't have to do a special sanitized \"pissy load\" of laundry twice a week. :/

  • Love this site!!!
    Re alcohol -Judgement is never helpful!
    The problem is that no one knows for sure what a safe amount is during pregnancy, especially as we all have our own definitions as to what drinking just a little bit might look like :-). Facial features of Fetal Alcohol develop from early exposure (around 21 days). Later exposure can impact on brain and other development -creating challenges that don't become evident until the hits pre-adolescence.
    9 months of "sacrifice" isn't really all that bad -especially in light of how much we really do sacrifice of our resources in raising children -prepares us for the next 19 years -lol. Have raised bio-babies and am parenting again through adoption -and it is waaayyyyy harder raising children that were prenatally exposed to alcohol :-(.
    Thanks again for the great site and awesome postings!

  • Amy,
    You were not the only one craving beer towards the end there. Beer & Alkaselttzer (though not together). I never indulged in the Alkaseltzer craving but I did cave on the beer one day when I was making Charro beans. The recipe called for 12oz of beer and all we could get our hands on was a can of 24ounces. I have to admit I drank 6 of the leftover 12 oz

  • Alot of women drink when they dont know they are & their babies are born perfectly healthy. In my opinion if a women exposes her baby to alchohol excessivly and through out the pregnancy then there may be some damage done but having a few beers here & there throughout the pregnancy probably wouldnt hurt anything, i did with my son hes a healthy beautiful 3 year old. no worries

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