After abstaining from alcohol and cutting back on coffee during your pregnancy, you might be eagerly looking forward to giving birth so you can finally relax with a big glass of wine and get back into the daily drive-thru line at Starbucks for your favorite drink.
However, experts say if you’re planning to breastfeed, you shouldn’t get too excited about returning to those favorite drinks right away.
That’s because research has shown that both alcohol and caffeine can transfer from a mother’s bloodstream into her breastmilk, and drinking too much of either can affect your baby’s health.
Here are answers to a few questions you may have about how much alcohol or caffeine you can have while breastfeeding.
Drinking Alcohol During Breastfeeding
- How much can you drink?
When it comes to drinking alcohol during breastfeeding, the CDC is pretty strict. They say consuming one alcoholic drink a day (12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine or 1.5 oz. of liquor) is generally considered safe. But beware: Most glasses of wine served in restaurants contain more than 5 oz. and if you’re used to filling up your wine glass to the top, you’re probably drinking at least 12 to 14 oz. in a glass.
- How long do you have to wait after you drink alcohol before nursing again?
If you just drink one standard drink (see amounts above), the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting two hours after you’ve finished your drink before nursing or pumping again. And if you drink more than one drink you’ll have to wait even longer. The CDC recommends waiting four to five hours if you’ve had two drinks, six to eight hours if you’ve had three drinks, etc.
Since your baby needs to nurse about every three to four hours, try to have a drink as soon as possible after you breastfeed or pump so it’ll have time to work its way out of your system before you have to pump again. So if you have a special night out planned where you want to drink more than a single serving of alcohol, it’s best to feed your baby some previously pumped milk and then pump when your baby would normally feed and throw that amount of milk away. (This is when having a freezer stash of pumped milk comes in handy!)
- How does alcohol affect the baby?
According to the CDC, when your blood-alcohol levels are too high, it can interfere with your letdown reflex, and over time, drinking too much alcohol can decrease your milk production, affect your baby’s sleep patterns and even cause early developmental problems.
Drinking Caffeine During Breastfeeding
- How much can you drink?
The CDC says drinking two to three cups of coffee a day (containing about 300 mg of caffeine) is safe for breastfeeding moms. However, keep in mind that one cup of coffee is actually only 4 oz., and a “tall” size at Starbucks is 12 oz., which is the entire allotted amount for one day. Also, different types of coffee have different amounts of caffeine in each drink. For example, a Starbucks “tall” has 260 mg of caffeine, a Dunkin’ Donuts small coffee has 215 mg, and a McDonald’s small has 109 mg of caffeine. So focus on the amount of caffeine consumed, not the ounces.
- How long do you have to wait after having caffeine before you can nurse again?
According to La Leche League, it takes about one to two hours for the caffeine that you drink to pass through to your baby in your breastmilk. So, just like with alcohol, it’s a good idea to drink a cup of coffee right after you nurse or pump so you’ll have time for it to wear off before you nurse again.
- How does caffeine affect the baby?
Just like in adults, caffeine can keep babies awake and make them more fussy, and if you’re already a sleep-deprived mom, that is not a good thing. Younger babies, especially those under six months old, may be more sensitive to caffeine, however children may react differently to caffeine based on their body weight and other factors. If your baby seems especially wakeful or irritable, try cutting out caffeine for two to three weeks to see if it makes a difference.