December brings many things, including season changes, families gathering, food, and holidays. Whether they celebrate Hanukkah, Omisoka, Krampusnacht, Saint Nicholas Day, Las Posadas, Malkh, Pancha Ganapati, Yule, Solstice, Bodhi Day, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Saint Lucy’s Day, Salgirah, Boxing Day, or Three Kings’ Day, the new families with whom you work may need education about the intake of alcohol while breastfeeding.
According to the 2019 edition of Medications & Mothers’ Milk (1), “alcohol transfers into human milk readily, with an average milk/plasma ratio of about 1. This does not necessarily mean that the dose of alcohol in milk is high, only that the levels in plasma correspond closely with those in milk… excess levels [of alcohol] may lead to drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness, and decreased linear growth in the infant… reduction of a letdown is apparently dose-dependent and requires alcohol consumption of 1.5 to 1.9 g/kg. Other studies have suggested a psychomotor delay in infants of moderate drinkers (2+ drinks daily). Avoid breastfeeding during and for at least 2 hours after drinking alcohol (moderate). Heavy drinkers should wait longer… Adult metabolism of alcohol is approximately 1 oz. of pure ethanol in 3 hours, so mothers who ingest alcohol in moderate amounts can generally return to breastfeeding as soon as they feel neurologically normal. A good rule is 2 hours for each drink consumed. Chronic or heavy consumers of alcohol should not breastfeed.”
What is an effective way to share this information? All new parents need as much research-based, current information as possible with which to make an informed decision. Providing anything less is to do them a grave disservice. Providing facts, based on evidence, does NOT make them feel guilty for making their own choice. The guilt arises when the person providing the information adds judgment to their teaching. One important thing to remember whenever you are educating or counselling a new parent is “This is not my baby or my decision.” Give the facts and allow the parent to make the decision that is best for their family.
Stay safe, enjoy the holiday season, and keep promoting, protecting, and supporting breastfeeding. Your work DOES make a difference.
Professional Development Educator
1. Hale, T.W. (2019). Medications & Mothers’ Milk. Springer Publishing Company. New York, NY.
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