Alcohol and drug use while breastfeeding
When you drink alcohol, it passes into your breast milk. There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption while breastfeeding. Even drinking small amounts of alcohol may reduce your milk supply and possibly cause irritability, poor feeding and sleep problems in your baby.
You should avoid alcohol in the first month after your baby is born until breastfeeding is well established. However, if you are going to drink alcohol, you should:
- breastfeed before drinking alcohol, or express and store breast milk before you drink
- limit alcohol to no more than 2 standard drinks a day
- avoid drinking immediately before breastfeeding
- ‘pump and dump’ breast milk to help keep your supply and for comfort if you are not feeding for an extended time.
It takes about 2 hours for the average woman to clear from her system 1 standard drink – therefore 4 hours for 2 drinks, 6 hours for 3 drinks and so on.
- If you use amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine or heroin, you should not breastfeed for 24 hours after use.
- If you smoke cannabis or tobacco you should breastfeed your baby before you smoke, and smoke outside and away from the baby. Do not have your baby in the same room as the smoke.
Find out more about using over the counter medications and prescription medications when breastfeeding.
If you think your baby has been affected by your alcohol, drug or medication intake call an ambulance immediately. Take the drug or medication with you to the hospital.
Alcohol and drug use as a parent
Using drugs (including prescribed medication) or alcohol may make you fall into a deep sleep which can be dangerous for your baby. If you are going to use drugs or drink alcohol:
- Do not have the baby sleep with you in your bed – always put your baby in his or her cot.
- You may not wake for the baby’s next feed, or if the baby becomes distressed.
- Make a ‘safety plan’ – have a responsible adult to take care of the baby if you decide to use drugs or alcohol.
Make a list of telephone numbers of people who can help you in times of stress. Your list could include:
- a family member or friend
- your GP
- your child health nurse
- your drug and alcohol counsellor.
Drug Info Line, King Edward Memorial Hospital
- Phone: 9340 2727 to speak with a pharmacist about medicines or drugs you are taking.
Alcohol and Drug Support Service (formerly Alcohol and Drug Information Service – ADIS)
The Alcohol and Drug Support Service operates four 24 hour, statewide telephone support lines providing confidential counselling, information, advice and referral:
- Alcohol and Drug Support Line
- Meth Helpline
- Parent and Family Drug Support Line
- Working Away Alcohol and Drug Support Line
Contact can be made by phone, email or online Live Chat.
View the phone numbers and email addresses on the Drug and Alcohol Office website (external site).
Live Chat can be accessed at Alcohol. Think Again (external site) or Drug Aware (external site).
Australian Breastfeeding Association
- Helpline – Free call 1800 686 2686 (free from a land line only)
- If you think your baby has been affected by your alcohol, drug or medication intake, dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance immediately. Take the drug or medication with you to the hospital.
Women and Newborn Drug and Alcohol Service (WANDAS)
This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.