|I'll have one of these please. Much obliged.|
In response to a recent reader's question I thought I'd share my experience with alcohol and long-term breastfeeding as a post rather than a reply to the comment.
I've passed the 5 years continuous breastfeeding mark, if you count the 41 weeks pregnancy previous to that it's a huge chunk of my life, more than a 7th. I hope to be breastfeeding for another 5 years if not longer (more children- not still breastfeeding a teenager please!)
I'm a typical Irish citizen, I love a drink. Or two. Pints first. Or prosecco. Or cocktails. Oh anything.
I used to have no shut-off; manys the night I fell in the door and remembered nothing of my antics, but I've neither the metabolism nor the money for that carry on now. Nor the inclination actually.
Being a responsible kind of lady I've googled the hell out of the question "how much alcohol gets into breastmilk?" And have found a huge range of answers from 4% to 40%.
When pregnant I go off alcohol and caffeine completely. I just don't crave, need or want them. It's like my body knows they are no good for the baby. I don't miss them either. On nights out during pregnancy I would have the odd Coke or ginger ale, or non-alcoholic beer but to be honest a night out without alcohol seems a waste of time. In a pub/club I mean. I'd still enjoy a meal out etc. Rambling now.
After both births alcohol was the last thing on my mind until about 3 months postpartum. I don't think it's fair on a small baby to have to deal with alcohol in breastmilk, however little there may be. They have enough trouble getting gassy on my diet of pulses and beans, so I tend to keep my whole diet really clean as I did in pregnancy for the first 3 months or so: not much sugar, fats etc.
Then I start to crave a bit of normality. It's now been a year that I've given my body over to incubating this baby, and I miss my treats. So I gradually start drinking more tea, eating more sugar, the winter comes in and I enjoy a glass of wine (planned two summer babies-ultimate control freak!)
I do baby-led solids (not baby-led weaning!) so once the baby is eating a little of everything and seems hardy (8-10 months) I don't worry about a drink here or there. I don't think I really feel like drinking until I get to the stage of going out without the baby for a few hours, which isn't until they are about 1 year old. Then I'll maybe have 2-3 drinks in an evening, making sure to drink them as early as possible so I'm metabolising them before returning home. I'll usually have a drink as I'm getting ready to go out, give the baby their last feed, and away I go. My youngest is 2 now and I still only get maybe 3 hours max door to door. So I might be meeting a friend at 8pm. I'll start getting ready and have a drink at 7, leave house at 7.30 and be home again by 10.30. I absolutely love these nights out, and I have them once every month or so. I get all dolled up and feel like the old me again for a few hours.
Other drinking opportunities are of course with kids in tow. A picnic with a beer, a pub lunch, a beer with dinner or shared botttle of prosecco of an evening at-home date. In the last few years I've discovered whiskey with ginger ale and lime juice. Great! The home bar we built gets very little use but it's there, well-stocked, waiting...
I can't handle alcohol the way I did 10 or 15 years ago. I start to feel hungover while I'm still out partying. I've had a few nights of finishing the bottle of wine and maybe more, but they're few and far between and I usually regret them the next day.
Ask any long-term breastfeeding mother does she enjoy a drink and I'm sure she'll say "hell yeah!" We're all adults, we time our drinks responsibly, why shouldn't we live a little? I believe that the long-term benefits of my breastfeeding outweigh the odd "lesser quality" feeds my kids may get. I like them growing up seeing me enjoy a drink with a meal or for a special occasion, there's no big deal to it. I love the French attitude to alcohol - binge-drinking just doesn't happen on the continent. I've given my kids a sip of my drink if they ask for it, as the whole "forbidden fruit / abstain until you're 18" Irish attitude to alcohol is partly to blame for our culture's abuse of it. So it's not a big deal here, there's no mystery.
I feel the need to add a disclaimer here. I am not advocating drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. I'm sharing my experiences here so other mothers can drop the guilt they may feel about it. I have never been (outwardly) judged for drinking alcohol and breastfeeding. Just outwardly been judged for breastfeeding. Which says a lot about we Irish.