There is a lot of conflicting information out there about what is safe when it comes to breastfeeding and alcohol – some experts say that if you’re sober enough to drive, you’re sober enough to breastfeed. Others say that breastfeeding mothers should avoid alcohol as much as possible. Here’s an experiment I did with testing breast milk for alcohol to see what effect a few glasses of wine had on my breast milk.
Testing Breast Milk for Alcohol Experiment
I don’t drink that much, but a few Fridays ago, my kids were in bed for the night, and my husband was very busy watching Gold Rush. I had found 15 unused Milkscreen tests earlier that week while cleaning out a drawer, and I decided to entertain myself that evening by drinking wine and seeing how the Milkscreen registered it.
So after I put my daughter to bed, I pumped just enough milk to test in order to get a baseline view of what the strip looked like with no alcohol in the breast milk.
As I expected, the color didn’t change and aligned with the “all-clear”/”you’re totally sober!” color on the chart.
I then started drinking the pictured glass of wine. I have to be honest here. I have been pregnant and/or breastfeeding since May of 2010, and as a result, the tolerance is not strong with this one. I am a bit of a lightweight, and as a result, a half an hour later, I’d finished about half of the glass pictured above and I felt a pretty strong buzz. However, the test was still clear:
Over the next hour and a half, I finished that glass, drank half of another one, and tested every half an hour. All of the tests were negative. However, I was feeling the effects of the alcohol enough that I would not have driven or fed my baby at this point.
At this point, I was starting to become concerned that the Milkscreen tests were expired, or for whatever reason, just not working.
At 10:00pm, though, I finished my second glass of wine, and FINALLY saw a change in the test. I took another one at 10:30pm, which you can see is even darker.
I found this sort of alarming, as I’ve always believed the “if you’re sober enough to drive, you’re sober enough to breastfeed” guideline. When I took the last test at 10:30pm, I felt absolutely fine to drive and would have done so. (After all, I’d had two normal-sized glasses of wine over three hours after a full meal, so I should have been fine.) However, this was when the alcohol was strongest in my breast milk.
I wanted to stay up and see how long it took for the milk come back out of my system, but my baby likes to be awake to see the sunrise and I needed to go to bed.
What did I learn from this experiment testing breast milk for alcohol?
It surprised me, in that the hours when I wouldn’t have breastfed, it would have been fine for me to do so – and when I thought I was fine, I wasn’t. This doesn’t really change anything for me as a practical matter, since I don’t drink that much and when I do my daughter is already in bed for the night. However, in the unlikely event I have a third baby I will be much more diligent about testing my milk if I decide to have a drink.
What do you think? Have you used Milkscreen? Do you find it helpful?References
- Bonyata, Kelly, IBCLC. “Breastfeeding and alcohol.” https://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/lifestyle/alcohol/
- BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board. “Alcohol and Breastfeeding.” https://www.babycenter.com/0_alcohol-and-breastfeeding_3547.bc