Can You Drink Non Alcoholic Beer When Breastfeeding? Myth busted.

Naturally, breastfeeding moms want to do everything possible to protect and nurture their new baby. Any new moms out there will know there is a list of foods and drinks you should avoid whilst pregnant but also whilst breastfeeding. One of these that everyone knows is that you should trying avoid alcohol. However a question i see and hear a lot is… “Can you drink non alcoholic beer when breastfeeding?”

Can you drink non alcoholic beer when breastfeeding?

Yes you can drink non alcoholic beer when breastfeeding. The guidelines state to limit your alcohol intake to 2 standard cans of beer a day which is the equivalent of 20 cans of non alcoholic beer. You are supposed to wait 2 hours post drinking a standard gin before breastfeeding which equals 12 minutes for non alcoholic wine as it has 1/10th of the alcohol. 

Is alcohol detected in breast milk?

Yes, alcohol is detected in breast milk. 

Alcohol levels are usually at their highest 30-60minutes after an alcoholic drink is consumed and can continue to be detected for 2-3hrs. The more the mom drinks, the longer the alcohol is detected.

Number of drinksLength of time detected in breast milk
How long alcoholic is detected in breast milk

Can expressing or pumping breast milk lower the alcohol in the milk?

No, expressing or pumping breast milk and discarding it will not lower the amount of alcohol in the milk or how long it is detected. 

Essentially, the concentration of alcohol in breast milk matches that of the alcohol in the blood. Until the liver metabolises the alcohol from the bloodstream, it will continue to be present and detected in breast milk and pumping or discarding does not affect it.

Why is alcohol bad for your baby when breastfeeding

I have previously looked at why alcohol is bad for your baby when in the womb, it has its on specific issues which every pregnant mom should know. The current advice is no amount of alcohol is safe when pregnant.

Alcohol can have all the affects on your baby that it has on you if they get it through breastmilk. The affects would be more pronounced due to your babies size and never having encountered alcohol before. 

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to poorer milk production, shortened breastfeeding duration, poor infant sleep and early development.

The additional worrying feature is an indirect result. 

There is a large increase in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) for babies that co-sleep in the same bed or chair especially with intoxicated adults as they sleep deeper and can crush the baby or even just heat the baby up too much. 

What are the current alcohol in breastfeeding guidelines?

As with any medical issue, it is best to review what the current guidelines are fro your area and around the world. 

The guidelines for alcohol when breastfeeding are not as strict as for alcohol in pregnancy.

Regional advisorSpecific adviceAdditional comments
NHS (UK)No more than 14 UK Units a weekSpread drinks over >3 days. Wait 2 hours after drinking until breastfeeding
Australian Breastfeeding Association Drink less than 2 Standard Drinks per day None in first month then wait 2 hours post drinking
ACOG (USA)Drink less than 2 Standard Drinks per dayWait at least 2 hrs after drinking until breastfeeding
National level advice on breastfeeding and alcohol

The basic advice is to drink only a couple of standard drinks a day and to wait 2 hours after an alcoholic drink until you breastfeed to allow the alcohol concentration in the breastmilk to fall.

How much alcohol is in non alcoholic beer?

Non alcoholic beer looks like beer and is called “beer”. It has 0.5% of alcohol by volume on the can, so just how much alcohol is in non alcoholic beer.

There are lots of different labelling and names in the non alcoholic beer world. Ive written a full article on what all the names mean and how to navigate your way around it, you can read it here.

A non alcoholic beer has an ABV of 0.5% or less.

An alcohol free beer will have an ABV of less than 0.05%.

To get a clearer idea of just how low 0.5% ABV actually is, you can look at some common foods and drinks that contain similar amounts of alcohol. Fruit juices have more alcohol by volume than non alcoholic beer and even some breads do!

How many measures of non alcoholic beer equals one beer?

The best way to think of this and work it out is to compare the alcohol in a standard beer and that of a non alcoholic beer.

A standard beer has 5% ABV and 12fl oz

A non alcoholic beer has 0.5% ABV at a maximum and 12fl oz.

Type of beerAlcohol by volume
Alcoholic beer5%
Non alcoholic beer0.5%
ABV in beer

With some simple math calculations (5/0.5), you can see that an alcoholic beer has x10 the alcohol than a non alcoholic beer.

In general, you would have to drink 10 cans of non alcoholic beer to equal one can of alcoholic beer in terms of alcohol.

How many measures of non alcoholic beer equals 2 standard beers?

If 10 cans of non alcoholic beer equals 1 standard beer (12fl oz and 5% ABV), then 20 cans of non alcoholic beer will equal 2 standard cans of beer. 

20 cans of non alcoholic beer a day is a lot for anyone. I don’t know of anyone who would drink close to that so it is unlikely you will get near to 20 drinking in moderation for recreation.

Can you drink non alcoholic beer when breastfeeding?

Yes you can drink non alcoholic beer when breastfeeding. You can drink up to 20 cans of non alcoholic beer a day and still be within the government guidelines of 2 standard beers equivalent. 

The amount of time post drinking a measure of non alcoholic beer and breastfeeding hard to say or even if you need to wait at all. After a normal beer with x10 the alcohol of a non alcoholic beer, you should wait 2 hours, which would equate to 12 minutes for a non alcoholic beer.

What drugs can be expressed in breast milk?

A lot of drugs that a mom takes are passed into the breast milk and can be drank by her baby. Most commonly used drugs are safe in this regard. These would include small molecules like alcohol, codeine/painkillers, nicotine and caffeine. Cocaine and recreational drugs are particularly bad and expressed in milk. Big molecules like warfarin and insulin are protein bound and don’t enter the milk. A large FAQ on breastfeeding can be found here from The Breastfeeding Network.

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