As the son and grandson of a fiercely pro-breastfeeding mother and grandmother, I have always been told that drinking the right kind of beer could actually increase the benefits for the child. But how much of that is true and how much is an old wives’ tale? This morning I decided to do a bit of research to find out.
So, can you drink beer when you are breastfeeding and if so, which types of beer?
You can opt to drink beer in moderation when breastfeeding. There is evidence to suggest that certain active ingredients in beer help promote the production of breast milk.
Naturally, homemade beer is rich in these nutrients. But, drinking alcohol may leave traces of it in your breast milk.
So, it turns out that my grandmother wasn’t entirely wrong about what she has told every female member of my family over the years. Nevertheless, there Is a lot to consider and you can only make your final choice based on all the evidence, and I have found a lot of controversial viewpoints. All of this helpful research is available for you in the rest of this article.
Disclaimer: this information is my opinion and should not be taken as definitive proof of what I say. Please do your own due diligence and consult with a doctor before following any of the advice covered in this article.
Does alcohol affect your milk supply?
Alcohol is both a friend and an enemy when it comes to producing enough food for your baby to grow big and healthy. Too much of it will have detrimental effects on the health of you, your child and the supply of your breast milk. However, just the right amount of the right alcohol can really help.
A low alcoholic and nutrient-rich beer is going to give you far more benefits than a cocktail or vodka Red Bull. When choosing what to drink, you should be considering what is in the beverage you choose.
Beer production relies heavily on yeast, it is what causes the reaction in fermentation and turns sugars into ethanol and CO2. It is also known to contain an enzyme which promotes lactose production. Yeast is also found in other widely used breast milk promotion foods, such as lactose cookies.
The truth of the matter is that if you drink too much of any alcoholic drink it will affect your body in a negative way, including your milk. If you are instead drinking something to boost your system on an occasional basis then you will find that the negative effects are far surpassed by the benefits to both mother and baby.
Does alcohol get into breast milk?
Yes, alcohol can get into your breast milk, however, it will be at very low amounts. Remember that ethanol alcohol occurs naturally in many foods and drinks, orange juice for example, in small amounts.
As a general rule, if you feel a beer buzz after drinking then your breast milk will contain a trace amount of alcohol at a peak of 30 minutes after and up to 90 minutes after your beverage depending on whether you were eating or not. at the time As a rule, if you feel drunk then wait for 2 to 3 hours before breastfeeding at least.
Drinking a nutrient-rich, low alcohol level beer once or twice a week and no more than once a day should be safe for you to continue to breastfeed your baby. However, always discuss this with your doctor as they may be able to advise you exactly on the best course of action for your case.
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Are some beers better for breastfeeding than others?
Yes, there are certainly some beers which will give you more for your breastfeeding than others. A home-brew beer ensures that you know exactly what goes into it and is entirely safe to drink.
Beer is also regularly made from barley which is also beneficial for breastfeeding. Many homemade beers and craft beers use proportionally more barley than other commercially sold beers and thus are better in this respect.
You could also consider brewing and drinking an oatmeal based beer. Oatmeal, in addition to yeast, is a great stimulant for the production of milk. You can find several commercially brewed oatmeal stouts and even find your own recipes to brew at home.
Another great ingredient and a tasty option is ginger. This spice is also a great milk producing element to beer and you can find many alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers on the market. Ginger also has many other useful benefits for the body other than for breastfeeding.
All in a naturally brewed beer rich in the right sort of nutrients should help keep your breast milk both healthy and flowing.
My recommendation of the types of beers to drink:
So, I recommend drinking Milk or Oatmeal Stouts in particular or a good ginger beer, either alcoholic or non-alcoholic
How can I safely have an occasional drink if I’m breastfeeding?
I have gone for many months without a drop of alcohol for various reasons during my adult life. I have, however, never had to give up beer for the length of the average pregnancy. It is therefore totally understandable that our heroic and life-giving mothers want to relax with a brew at the end of all that.
But, you still feel responsible for your beautiful baby, especially if you are breastfeeding them. Even now that they are out of your protective womb, you have to be careful what substances you are passing them through your milk. Nevertheless, do you still need to sacrifice this small pleasure of a cold beer at the end of the day?
Dr. Jack Newman suggests that “Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers“. He goes on to explain that “Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all”. This is because ” very little alcohol comes out in the milk”.
The message here is that you can drink a reasonable amount and still be confident that you are not harming your baby.
It’s also recommended that if you do drink alcohol that you wait a few hours before breastfeeding, even if it was a little amount of beer. If you have really tied one on, then it may be best to use up any milk you have hoarded in the fridge and really leave it for 9 or 10 hours before breastfeeding again.
Another thing to consider is the age of your child. It may be better to wait for a certain amount of time before drinking any significant amounts of alcohol as newborn babies have undeveloped livers. It could be very detrimental to their health to put any added strain on these vital organs.
Of course, if you still have any qualms about this then it would be safer to avoid alcohol until you have finished breastfeeding your child.
Are there any negative effects to drinking and breast feeding for the baby?
Of course, over-indulgence of alcohol could have disastrous effects on the development of your baby. Abuse of alcohol is also going to negatively affect the health of the mother too.
Some possible outcomes of a slightly higher alcohol content in breast milk, other than the circumstance I have suggested, may be the disruption of a babies routine. Sleeping, in particular, can be affected and your baby may also have a reduced appetite. However, if you enjoy your beer in moderation and with consideration of your feeding routine, you should be able to minimize these effects.
What is the effect of caffeine on breastfeeding?
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant and can be passed onto to a baby through its mother’s breast milk. Younger babies seem to be more sensitive to caffeine as they find it much harder to metabolize. If you find that your baby is reacting in a negative way to your caffeine intake you may wish to reduce it and try again when the child is older. Those babies who are 6 months and older tend to have an easier time dealing with the caffeine in their mother’s diets. Consult your doctor for more details on your case.
Can I test the amount of alcohol in my breast milk?
Yes, there are products on the market which allow you to test the amount of alcohol in your breast milk. However, if you are sensible with your alcohol intake and leave enough time between drinking and feeding you may not need to spend money on such products.