Does Mommyjuice become babyjuice?

All of this claptrap about “Mommyjuice” had me wondering: to what extent does Mommyjuice become babyjuice? That is, how much alcohol is translated into the breastmilk of lactating women who imbibe? I could tear through pages of search results on PubMed, or I could trust the La Leche League and the American Academy of Pediatricians to have done that work already. Nothing substitutes for a primary literature review but, well…a girl has to allocate limited resources somehow. Keeping with their respective personalities (organazationalities?), the AAP is very conservative, LLL more reasonable. Ooops…I mean more restrictive.

From The American Academy of Physicians policy statement on “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk” (and for what else besides breastfeeding are we inclined to use human milk, dare I ask?) last revised in 2005:

“Breastfeeding mothers should avoid the use of alcoholic beverages,because alcohol is concentrated in breast milk and its use caninhibit milk production. An occasional celebratory single, small alcoholic drink is acceptable, but breastfeeding should be avoidedfor 2 hours after the drink.”

If I wanted to be punchy, I’d take note that that occasional AAP-sanctioned drink needs to be celebratory. Maybe consolatory or commiserating drinks inherently carry greater health risks?

La Leche League FAQs, last revised in 2008, go into a bit more detail. Acknowledging that “breastfeeding mothers receive conflicting advice about whether alcohol consumption can have an effect on their baby,” the general gist of the article is that alcohol consumption in moderation is just fine. Their research agrees that alcohol passes into breastmilk and, furthermore, that alcohol in breastmilk has deleterious effects on infants — “drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness, and decreased linear growth” (big surprise!) but that alcohol concentrations in breastmilk are inconsequential after 2-3 hours. The bottom line? “Adult metabolism of alcohol is approximately 1 ounce in 3 hours, so mothers who ingest alcohol in moderate amounts can generally return to breastfeeding as soon as they feel neurologically normal. Chronic or heavy consumers of alcohol should not breastfeed.” Good commonsense rules the day once again.

I’m not one to extrapolate from the specific to the general, but I can’t let this topic pass without mention of a family yarn that has firmly rooted in the Szymanski Book of Classic Stories. My mother drank — moderately, I’m sure — while breastfeeding me, under the guidance of her (good Eastern European, I believe) pediatrician. The good doctor even advised that the iron and B-vitamins in dark beer might be beneficial for a breastfeeding woman. My Irish-German mother was happy to follow his advice with a pint of Guinness once or twice a week. When I took a liking to Guinness at an unusually early age, then, my parents concluded that a touch of Guinness-flavored breastmilk might have had something to do with my acquistion of that acquired taste.

 Anectodatal to be sure. But, should I ever find myself breastfeeding an infant of my own, I might partake of a weekly glass of Oregon pinot noir just in case.

Ergo, “mommyjuice” does become babyjuice to some extent, but ’tisn’t necessarily a bad thing if mommy doesn’t hit that juice bottle too often.

One thought on “Does Mommyjuice become babyjuice?

  1. Thank you for this Erika. The list of dos and do nots whilst gestating and breast-feeding are a mile long and seem to be every expanding. A good dose of common sense is what I’ve guided myself with. If Charlie appreciates a decent red when older due to him miniscule amount of babyjuice I’ve produced all the better. A piece of advice I was given in regards to this topic by my midwife was to nurse while drinking. While I have no references for this practice it seems quite logical to me. There will not be enough time to appreciably increase the alcohol content of the breast milk while the child nurses and typically they you will have a long enough break in-between sessions to fully metabolize the alcohol.

    Here in Australia they do have strips to test the alcohol content of breast milk sold in baby stores. I’ve always thought they were somewhat funny, but as I don’t nurse Charlie while I feel tipsy I’ve never seen the need for them. I’ve also never seen the need for the dirty looks I’ve gotten while drinking a glass of wine out with my family.

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