Can You Breastfeed and Drink Alcohol? It’s Complicated

Is it safe to breastfeed if you drink alcohol? (Photo: Getty Images)
Is it safe to breastfeed if you drink alcohol? (Photo: Getty Images)

The parents of a 7-month-old baby were arrested in part because the mother was drinking beer while breastfeeding.

On Friday, police were called to the Wild Beaver Saloon in Indianapolis, Ind., after a woman was spotted drinking beer while nursing her baby. According to a probable cause report sent to Yahoo Beauty from the Marion County prosecutor’s office, when police asked Shari Treba, 42, why she had brought her baby to a bar, she answered that she and her husband, Michael Trosclair, 43, were in town for a work conference, and they wanted to get drinks with her coworkers.

Michael Trosclair and Shari Treba. (Photo: IMPD)
Michael Trosclair and Shari Treba. (Photo: IMPD)

Treba and Trosclair are both facing charges of felony neglect of a dependent and charges of misdemeanor public intoxication.

Granted, this case is way more extreme than the average new mom enjoying a cocktail or two — the couple brought their baby to a bar, and according to the police report, Treba couldn’t respond to police questions, and she was offering sex to other patrons in exchange for beer. In addition, Trosclair had chained the baby stroller outside the bar and left the infant unattended.

But the issue of whether or not mothers can consume alcohol while breastfeeding — yes, even in the moment — is wildly confusing. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), women should avoid “habitual” drinking while breastfeeding because alcohol does pass through breast milk and can negatively alter the taste, resulting in babies’ refusing to nurse. The AAP further dismisses the “urban legend” that drinking beer boosts a woman’s milk supply and advises women to wait two hours after alcohol consumption to nurse.

Older studies showed that alcohol could interfere with a breastfed baby’s sleep patterns and that ingesting more than one drink daily impaired motor function at age 1; but as ABC News reports, in the latter case, the findings were not duplicated in a later study.

“We aren’t absolutely certain of the affects of alcohol on breastfed babies because the data isn’t strong,” Tami Rowen, MD, a San Francisco-based gynecologist and obstetrician, tells Yahoo Beauty. “All the studies are observational or retrospective because it’s unethical to give breastfeeding women alcohol in order to study them.”

Alcohol levels in breast milk decline roughly one hour after consumption, so some women simply wait to become sober before nursing. However, those who don’t want to become engorged with milk within that time limit may choose to “pump and dump,” a technique that entails expressing or pumping a certain amount of breast milk and pouring it down the sink before nursing their babies.

“The bottom line is moderation,” says Rowen. “With casual drinking, very little gets into the breast milk. Inherently, there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding and [moderate] drinking.”

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