Alcohol, Medication, Herbal Preparations, Smoking, Caffeine, and Breastfeeding

Breast milk is the best food for babies for the first six months in their life. This is because it helps them grow strong and healthy with minimal distractions from illnesses or discomforts. For this reason, when breastfeeding, you ought to be careful with what you put in your body as it affects not only you but also your baby. The use of drugs and medication are among the major concerns that women have when they are breastfeeding.

Below is more information on the use of alcohol, medication, smoking, herbal preparations and caffeine while lactating.

Alcohol and Breastfeeding

When you consume alcohol, the amount that gets in your breast milk is equal to the amount contained in your blood. Additionally, it takes between 30 minutes to one hour for alcohol to get absorbed into breast milk and about two hours to get rid of it. For this reason, it is advisable to keep off alcohol when you are lactating.

An occasional drink will, however, not be as harmful to the baby. Nevertheless, ensure that you feed the baby before drinking and extract more milk for the baby to feed on when there is still alcohol in your system. Read more on alcohol in pregnancy.

Medication and Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding should not be a hindrance for you to take any medicines when you are unwell. This is especially because there is only little if any amount of the medicines that pass to the breast milk. Additionally, the little amount that could get there is harmless.

However, it’s important that you consult your pharmacist or doctor for advice on how to go about any medication when you are breastfeeding. Be even more careful if your baby was born premature, is on other medication or is sick.

Smoking and Breastfeeding

As a nursing mother, smoking is not recommended at all. The nicotine in the cigarette affects your baby’s sleeping pattern as it shortens your baby’s long bouts of sleep.  Breast milk that contains nicotine also tastes like cigarettes so if your baby doesn’t like it, he or she may decide to stop feeding altogether, ultimately leading to early waning. If you must smoke, ensure that you do it before breastfeeding your baby.

Additionally, protect your baby from passive smoke as this could also result in cases such as asthma, lung infections or sudden infant death syndrome. Smoking while pregnant? Read more about it here.

Caffeine and Breastfeeding

Despite being a drug that most mothers use, caffeine can pass to your breast milk and make your baby restless especially if used in excess. For this reason, it is advisable to limit the use of drinks and foods that contain caffeine such as tea, coffee, energy drinks, and cola drinks.

Herbal Preparations and Breastfeeding

More often than not, it is assumed that herbal medicines are good when you are breastfeeding. However, this is not true as herbal medicines pass into breast milk and will be harmful if they had not been tested. Therefore, consult your doctor on any herbs you intend to use before considering any herbal preparations as a nursing mother.


Please note that development differs from one child to another. Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.

Last reviewed March 2019 

Sources: pregnancybirthbaby, myvmc, marchofdimes, acog, sciencedaily

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