Is it safe for breastfeeding moms to drink alcohol?

Can breastfeeding mothers drink alcohol? (Photo: Getty Images)
Can breastfeeding mothers drink alcohol? (Photo: Getty Images)

Ferne McCann, a British model and actress, has been forced to defend herself after footage emerged of McCann appearing to do a shot before breastfeeding her baby.

The accusations came after McCann uploaded a boomerang video showing herself having a quick drink as she got ready for an awards show last week, before sharing another video of herself breastfeeding.

Because McCann was holding a small glass in the first video, many online jumped to the conclusion that she was taking a shot and it was therefore “irresponsible” for her to immediately follow that by breastfeeding.

After critics attacked McCann, she responded, clarifying that the two videos did not take place straight after each other and that she’d enjoyed only one small glass of prosecco.

Taking to her Instagram again, McCann said: “It wasn’t a shot, it was a glass of Prosecco… it was just a fun boomerang, having a cheers. I already had my milk and I gave [Sunday] one last feed in the hotel before I enjoyed a well-deserved night out.” The explanation no longer appears on Instagram.

Is it safe for breastfeeding mothers to drink alcohol? (Photo: Getty Images)
Is it safe for breastfeeding mothers to drink alcohol? (Photo: Getty Images)

The whole incident has raised a very important question: How much alcohol is safe to drink when you’re breastfeeding? According to the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), anything you eat or drink while you’re breastfeeding can find its way into your breast milk, and that includes alcohol.

“There’s some evidence that regularly drinking more than two units of alcohol a day while breastfeeding may affect your baby’s development,” the organization’s site states. “But an occasional drink is unlikely to harm your breastfed baby.”

One unit of alcohol is approximately a single (25ml) measure of spirits, a half pint of beer, or a 125ml (small) glass of wine, although this depends on the strength of the drink, the site warns.

The NHS also offers some advice for moms who do intend to have a night out drinking.

“If you do intend to have a social drink, you could try avoiding breastfeeding for two to three hours per unit after drinking,” the site suggests. “This allows time for the alcohol to leave your breast milk.”

But you will need to make sure breastfeeding is established before you try this.

Another option is expressing/pumping milk before you go out, which means you can skip the first breastfeed and afterward feed the baby with expressed/pumped milk instead.

Aside from giving alcohol-tinged milk to your baby, there are some other risks of binge drinking while breastfeeding.

“Binge drinking, where you have more than five units of alcohol in one session, may make you less aware of your baby’s needs,” the NHS explains. “If you do binge drink, it’s essential your baby is cared for by a sober adult.”

You should never share a bed or sofa with your baby if you have drunk any alcohol, because doing this has a strong association with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

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