Pink quit smoking and limited her alcohol consumption to breastfeed. Is that necessary?

Pink, a singer/songwriter and the voice behind hits like “Get the Party Started,” “Raise Your Glass,” and “F***in’ Perfect,” has been quoted often in the past 11-months about her breastfeeding relationship with daughter Willow.  She even had comments on  Time Magazine’s recent controversial cover.

This month Pink is on the cover of Cosmopolitan, and she talks about breastfeeding right out of the gate:

I’m used to going into the studio and smoking and drinking until three in the morning.  But I can’t drink as much because I’m breastfeeding. See this glass of wine? Before, I’d have, like, four of them. Now, one is good. Oh, and I quit smoking.

We applaud Pink for making health and lifestyle choices that prioritize her breastfeeding relationship with Willow.  But let’s get to the nitty-gritty of how alcohol use and smoking can impact breastfeeding.

Alcohol

While four glasses of wine might be a bit excessive, what about an occasional serving of your favorite red?  Many moms believe that breastfeeding means a big, red N-O to any alcohol consumption.  On the contrary,  experts agree that occasionally having an alcoholic beverage is not off the table for breastfeeding mothers.  More than 1-2 servings a day can have an impact on your ability to safely breastfeed your baby, so moderation is the key.

Here are some great tips for consuming alcohol carefully as a breastfeeding mother (thanks to Danielle Rigg for first publishing these in her New Year’s Eve 2008 post) :

  • The rule of thumb is that if you feel drunk, your milk will be drunk too.  Remember, although some moms may be able to handle 2 ounces of liquor, or 8 ounces of wine, or 2 cans of beer, everyone’s tolerance is different.  Since most of you haven’t had a drink in about 9 months, you should go slow!
  • Ideally, breastfeed shortly before having a drink so you can give your blood alcohol level a chance to come down before nursing again.
  • If you get a little carried away, feed your baby some stored breastmilk instead.  Your blood alcohol level will be present in your breastmilk, so if you really overdid it, it might be a good idea to have a stash of frozen pumped breastmilk on hand to feed your baby.  If your breasts start to get uncomfortably full, you should pump and dump.  Don’t have a stash of frozen breast milk?   In the Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, author and famed pediatrician Dr. Jack Newman is unequivocal: “the formula the baby would receive–while the mother is throwing away her milk because it has a tiny amount of alcohol in it–is known to put the baby at greater risk for a host of illnesses and problems.”  If you have further questions, talk to your breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician.
  • Contrary to popular belief, “pumping and dumping” does not speed the lowering of the amount of alcohol in your milk.  The amount of alcohol in your milk corresponds to the amount in your blood, and the only thing that can lower that is time.
  • You can resume breastfeeding once you no longer feel the effects of alcohol; as the alcohol level in your blood decreases, it will decrease in your breastmilk.

Smoking

Many women, like Pink, stop smoking in preparation for pregnancy or breastfeeding, and we applaud them for that!  It can be a tough process, but one that is critical to the health of mothers and their families.

For women whose addiction overpowers their efforts to quit, is it better to keep smoking and breastfeed, or keep smoking and formula feed?  One study found that breastfeeding mothers who smoke wean earlier because they think that formula is “safer.”  But is that really the case?

A mother who smokes puts her baby’s health at risk; not breastfeeding compounds the problem by leaving the baby without protection from the problems caused by smoking, as well as other diseases.  In  Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple: A Guide for Helping Mothers, Nancy Mohrbacher (check out how she was involved in our recent Celebrity Event) highlights several studies in which breastfed babies exposed to second hand smoke were protected from the associated increased risks of SIDS, lower respiratory infections, and all infections.  She concludes, “although many smoking mothers consider formula-feeding “safer” than breastfeeding, the opposite is true.”

Regardless of feeding method, the impact of smoking is significant, and it’s important that moms who are unable to quit take steps to minimize their children’s exposure.  There are a number of ways to limit the impact of cigarettes upon breastfed babies, such as reducing the number of cigarettes smoked, smoking after breastfeeding to reduce the baby’s exposure to nicotine, and smoking outside or in a separate room.

The bottom line:

  • If you smoke, quit.  Do it for your health and that of your entire family.  Get help from your physician or other health care provider to stop as soon as you can.
  • If you’ve tried and can’t quit, breastfeed and take steps to reduce your baby’s exposure.

So, Pink, we “Raise our Glass” to you and celebrate the positive example you have set for so many breastfeeding mothers!

Did your use of alcohol or cigarettes have an impact on your decision to breastfeed?

The information provided here is educational in purpose and should not be considered medical advice or replacement for the assessment and/or treatment by your health care provider.

Photo Credit: Kim Erlandsen, NRK P3 via Flickr



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2 Comments | Last revised on 05/20/2012


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