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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Drink's on Me

After nine months of pregnancy - of nausea, of swollen feet, of fatigue, of aches and pains - mothers have certainly earned a drink or two.  But often breastfeeding mothers forego that small pleasure out of fear of passing the alcohol on to their baby.  They feel that if they do imbibe, hours of the dreaded "pump and dump" await them.  I know when I was breastfeeding, milk was too precious to dump down the drain.  Pass me the water, please.

People with infants are already giving up so much.  Should they also give up adult pleasures if they happen to come upon a rare night out?

Passing alcohol to your baby through your breastmilk is a valid concern, but a breastfeeding mother shouldn't feel like she can't ever have a drink.  And each mother should have the right to choose for herself what her limit should be while feeding her child.

There's a new product out there for the nervous among us that can test your breastmilk.  MilkScreen are disposable test strips that indicate the volume of alcohol concentrated in your breastmilk at any given time.  Since alcohol concentration is dependent on the mother's weight, her food consumption at the time of drinking, and the amount of alcohol in her drink, it might ease the minds of many mothers to know for sure how much alcohol they may be passing on to their children.  Mothers can test the milk by saturating a test strip for two minutes. The strip will change colors if more than .02 percent alcohol is found in the milk.

When I was breastfeeding, I hadn't heard of this product, but that didn't stop me from having a glass of wine with dinner every once in a while.  Time is on your side when it comes to alcohol dissipation within your system, and so, instead of pumping and dumping, I would simply wait until the babies were in bed for their first long snooze of the night.  By the time they woke up, any alcohol traces left in my system would be minimal.

Of course, there is a huge difference between one or two drinks and drinking enough to be impaired.  Still, I say, if a mother wants to enjoy an adult evening once in a while, she deserves it.  There's no need to turn to formula, either.  Many women express extra breastmilk to have on hand in case of an emergency.  This is easy to do if you have a pump, but women can hand express, too, if they've got the patience.  If a mother doesn't have the test strips and she's unsure her alcohol level is safe, she can easily dip into her stash to ensure her baby gets the nutrition it deserves, without compromising the party or night out she most definitely deserves.

I'm no expert, but I would advise doing this instead of feeding directly from the breast after drinking.  After all, alcohol can impact an infant's sleeping and eating habits. And consistent doses of alcohol can alter a baby's weight and gross motor development, so always be wary of how your actions can affect your child.

If you choose to use these strips - which I wish I'd known about when I was breastfeeding - know that milk with a .03 alcohol concentration level should be dumped.  MilkScreen isn't cheap.  It costs almost $15 for 12 strips.  But for the cautious mothers among us, it may just be worth it.

Whether you choose to have that drink or not, remember, infancy is not forever.  Even if you breastfeed your babies well into their toddler years, eventually they won't need you continually on tap.  As they transition to whole milk and solids after their first year, and they perhaps only want to nurse in the morning and at night, take comfort in the fact that someday, your fridge, too, could look like this:

Oh, the joys of toddlerhood.

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  1. If you practice hand expression it really doesn't take any more patience than pumping. I had to hand express after pumping when I went back to work, because if I didn't I'd get mastitis. It was a skill that came in really handy on those rare occasions when I had a few too many, was full and didn't have my pump.

  2. The first time I had a drink while lactating it made me SO sick and effected me SO hard. It was one watered-down small glass of rum and pineapple juice. And I practically couldn't stand afterward! I have no idea if it was the fact that I hadn't drank in 10 months or what. I didn't dare to touch alcohol for a while after that. (fwiw, baby was home with daddy that night and had a pumped bottle for dinner...)

    (I didn't nurse my baby



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