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Should I pump after drinking alcohol?
Q: I’m breast-feeding, and my anniversary is coming up. My husband and I are planning a special night out. I would really like to have a couple of cocktails, but I’m not sure how long I need to pump to get the alcohol out of my system. I don’t want the baby to consume it.
Krisi Las Vegas
A: Krisi, it’s great that you’re committed to breast-feeding your baby and making sure your milk is as healthy as possible for her.

As you know, alcohol, drugs and medications can pass into your breast milk and may be dangerous for babies. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ book “New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding,” nursing after one or two drinks on a single occasion is probably not harmful for your baby, but long-term exposure to alcohol in breast milk can cause drowsiness and delays in growth and development. However, as you say, it is safest to avoid exposing your baby to any alcohol in your breast milk.

Depending on your size, what you’re eating, and your overall health, it’s likely to take approximately two hours for one drink (i.e., 1½ ounces of hard liquor, 4 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer) to be eliminated from your bloodstream. If you have two drinks, you should allow four hours after your last drink. Breast-feed your baby before you go out for the evening, then enjoy your dinner and drinks, and be sure to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. When you return home, pump your breast milk and discard it. If your baby is hungry in the middle of the night, give her a bottle of previously pumped breast milk or formula. When you breast-feed your baby in the morning, it’s likely to have very little, if any, alcohol.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician