Beer and Breastfeeding isn’t a topic I thought I’d ever be looking into, let alone writing about on The Brew Club. Yet, here it is!
A few weeks ago, my Wife and I had our first daughter, and all the recent medical advice seems to indicate that in regard to feeding a newborn child, the breast is best.
But what about all this noise that drinking a little bit of beer helps? By helps, I mean that beer is supposed to make lactation more lactating. Or something like that.
So, I got to digging around to see if this was an old wives tale that was passed down from one generation of mothers looking for a good reason to have a beer to another, or was there some actual medical information to support this claim.
My first impression, albeit completely uneducated, is that the claim is bogus. Personally, I don’t see that drinking anything, except water to remain nicely hydrated, would really help. But on the other hand, almost every Mom who has spoken to my Wife has suggested a little beer every day (4 ounces) can help increase supply. Or something. This advice from other Moms has got to be 8 out of 10 in favor of beer, so that’s pretty good support from people who should know.
The large numbers or pro-beer lactating mothers in our unscientific survey might also reflect the questionable crowd that my Wife associates with (boozers all) but I’m working with what I have here!
So, as any good researcher would do, I googled beer and breastfeeding and began to search for answers.
BabyCenter.com says yes, but its because “…a polysaccharide in the barley used to make beer seems to stimulate prolactin, which helps moms make more milk.” They go on to say that alcohol can actually reduce the milkflow, so it seems this benefit can be had from non-alcoholic beers too. If you’re a European Momma, this means you can start looking for that Hoegaarden 0.0!
The National Center for Biotechnology Information, a Government nerd egghead website seems to be ‘eh’ on the concept. In addition to restating the polysaccharide thing from above, they go on to say…
“It is conceivable that relaxing effects of both alcohol and components of hop might also have beneficial effects on lactogenesis in some women, but there is no hard evidence for causal effects. It appears prudent not to generally advocate the regular use of alcoholic drinks during lactation but to rather refer mothers to non-alcoholic beer, even though no adverse effects of an occasional alcoholic drink during lactation have been documented.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that nursing moms avoid alcohol with the possible exception of the occasional small drink. The AAP also suggests waiting two hours to breastfeed after having a drink so that it is cleared from the bloodstream.
Interestingly, I found the most support at the La Leche League website. Over there, they quote a Dr. Jack Newman who is a member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council. In his handout “More Breastfeeding Myths“, he states that…“Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.”
So it seems there is truth to this beer drinking and breast feeding thing! Drinking beer certainly doesn’t seem harmful, especially if you wait awhile before feeding the baby breastmilk. Most of these same studies indicate that babies who are fed aclohol-flavored milk drink (eat?) less of it, but is seems once it is out of the Woman’s system there isn’t much to worry about. Its also clear that the same benefits can be had by sticking with non-alcoholic beer.
To there you go. I was wrong and the boozing Mom friends that my Wife has were right! Now I just have to find some beers that my Wife will find palatable, which is a whole different challenge.
What about you? Do you have a story to share about beer and breastfeeding? What do you think about it?
PS – I also want to be clear that I ‘aint no doctor! This is not advice and you should completely NOT listen to anything I say regarding infants and how to feed them. Do your own homework and make your own decisions! Also, women who can’t stop drinking even when they’re pregnant should seriously seek alcoholic help before she does any more harm to her unborn child.