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Two-thirds of New Zealand newborns are breastfed. If you are a breastfeeding mother and want to enjoy a drink, make sure you time it so your body will have processed the alcohol before you are due to feed again. Allow at least two hours per standard drink.

Mummy Matters

Every woman who has, or is planning to have children needs to know what impact alcohol can have on conception, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Conception

Drinking affects the body’s reproductive system. The adverse effects of drinking increase in line with the amount you drink, so the more you drink, the greater the damage.

In men, alcohol reduces the amount of testosterone in the blood, which can lead to fertility issues.

Women who drink excessive amounts of alcohol can experience a disrupted menstrual cycle and ovulation, which makes it difficult to conceive.

However, the negative effects of alcohol on reproduction are readily reversible if you reduce, or even stop drinking.

Pregnancy

It is not known yet how much alcohol is safe to drink when you are pregnant. However, it is known that the risk of damage to your baby increases the more you drink and that binge drinking is especially harmful. Therefore, drinking no alcohol is the safest choice for your baby.

Pregnant women should never become intoxicated. This is because alcohol readily crosses from the mother’s blood stream into the baby’s blood stream. So when you drink so does your baby.

If you drank small amounts of alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, be reassured that the risk of harm to your baby is very low.

Drinking no alcohol is the safest choice for your baby

Breastfeeding

If you are a breastfeeding mother and want to drink, you need to plan your drinking occasions carefully.

When you drink, alcohol enters your bloodstream in order for your body to process it. When you are breastfeeding, alcohol transfers into your breastmilk at the same rate, so the amount of alcohol in your blood is the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk.

Alcohol will be in your breastmilk 30-60 minutes after you start drinking. It will have left your breastmilk once your body has processed it. Alcohol is not stored in breastmilk, just like it is not stored in your blood.

So the best ways to enjoy a drink while you are breastfeeding is to only drink when you know your body has time to process the alcohol before you need to feed again. On average, the body can process one standard drink in an hour, but to allow for any personal differences in processing time wait for at least two hours per drink to be on the safe side.

Experts also recommend breastfeeding mothers limit their alcohol intake to only a few drinks per week because regular drinking can inhibit milk let down and slow weight gain in the baby.