We have a similar Question for caffeine, but I could not find one for alcohol, and I'm sure many breastfeeding mothers are interested to know:

How much alcohol is transmitted through breastmilk?

Presuming one wants to avoid exposing the baby to alcohol, what sort of intake limits (i.e. number of drinks) or timing (e.g. delay before pumping or breastfeeding, pump-n-dump for x hours after drinking) should a nursing mother observe?

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    Cracks knuckles let me get to writing Apr 21, 2015 at 22:09
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    Once upon a time you could buy Milkscreen at walgreens. I guess stores no longer want to support drinking and nursing, but you can still buy them online: amazon.com/Milkscreen-Detect-Alcohol-Breast-Strips/dp/… - When you test, the strips turn colors to indicate how safe you are. Expensive and come in small quantities. As experience goes, if you drink a lot - like 6 ounces of liquor and go to sleep about midnight, you're probably going to be considered contaminated until about 11 AM. Don't take my word for it though. Get the strips and run a field test.
    – Kai Qing
    Apr 22, 2015 at 1:06
  • @KaiQing I've seen those recently in Walgreens (in the Chicago area, at least).
    – Joe
    Apr 22, 2015 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


My wife did a ton of searching around for answers on this. The general rule of thumb that she found was that breast milk concentration goes as blood-alcohol concentration does. We fully metabolize about an ounce of alcohol in 3 hours or so. The best advice I've seen is to pump directly before drinking so you can store the un-contaminated breast milk.

This link from La Leche League says the following:

Thomas W. Hale, R.Ph. Ph.D., member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council, says this in his book Medications and Mothers' Milk (12th ed.):

In an interesting study of the effect of alcohol on milk ingestion by infants, the rate of milk consumption by infants during the 4 hours immediately after exposure to alcohol (0.3 g/kg) in 12 mothers was significantly less (7). Compensatory increases in intake were then observed during the 8 - 16 hours after exposure when mothers refrained from drinking.

To answer your question

How much alcohol is transmitted through breastmilk?

The above link also states:

In a study of twelve breastfeeding mothers who ingested 0.3 g/kg of ethanol in orange juice (equivalent to 1 can of beer for the average-sized woman), the mean maximum concentration of ethanol in milk was 320 mg/L (5).

This publication from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states:

When a lactating woman consumes alcohol, some of that alcohol is transferred into the milk. In general, less than 2 percent of the alcohol dose consumed by the mother reaches her milk and blood.

Both sites show that alcohol isn't stored in the breast milk. The body will metabolize the alcohol, both from your blood stream and your breast milk over the course of a few hours (depending on how much you've had to drink).

That means the alcohol level in breast milk will reduce at the same time it does in your blood, so you don't have to worry about alcohol in your milk hours later (so long as you don't drink enough for your blood to still have alcohol in it hours later). You may want to wait to pump or feed again until it's had time to metabolize, but you don't need to throw the milk away.

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    By these numbers, with a beer, the baby would be drinking 0.032% alcohol. With a 170g feeding, that would be about 54mg. Taking 250ml of blood per baby(newborn), he will get up to 0.02% BAC.Which according to Wikipedia lets the average adult appear normal, but still impairs their performance in some specialized tests. I'd say don't drink if you are breastfeeding.
    – user781
    Apr 22, 2015 at 1:10
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    You might want to clarify that last sentence some: I think it means that if you drink and then wait four or five hours, there won't be alcohol left in your breastmilk produced during that time - but it could be clearer.
    – Joe
    Apr 22, 2015 at 15:25
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    Oooh, I see. Joe, go ahead and edit with that. stamp of approval Apr 22, 2015 at 15:53
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    @jbcreix -- Can you clarify something -- by "breastfeeding", do you mean the entire period of time a child is drinking human milk (e.g. 6 months or longer)? The science in Brian's answer indicates that it's safe once alcohol is no longer in the bloodstream, in which case completely abstaining would not be necessary.
    – Acire
    Apr 22, 2015 at 17:29
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    0.032% is significantly less than the concentration of alcohol in orange juice or many other non-alcoholic beverages (which could easily have ten times that much). I see no scientific basis for claiming there could be any harm to a baby due to these sorts of levels of alcohol in breastmilk. Apr 25, 2015 at 5:17

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