#boozeandboobs series: Alcohol's Effect on Supply

Third in our #boozeandboobs series: alcohol’s effect on supply. 🍺🤱🏻

Everyone has heard alcohol can increase milk supply, but is that true? What does alcohol do to prolactin and oxytocin, the hormones of lactation?🤱🏾

Prolactin tells your body to make breastmilk, and oxytocin tells your body to release breastmilk. The effects of alcohol on prolactin and oxytocin have been well documented through research on both animal models and women. Alcohol does increase prolactin levels, but it can DECREASE oxytocin levels by inhibiting (preventing) the release of oxytocin. You might make more milk, but you might not release that increased milk. In one small study, 12 women who consumed the equivalent of one can of beer saw a temporary decrease of one ounce in milk production. “One ounce” means something different to every single lactating individual. Some individuals might be okay with a potential decrease of milk supply, some individuals might not want to risk it. Another study demonstrated that alcohol’s impact on milk release may be dose-dependent and may not occur until alcohol consumption reaches 1.5-1.9g/kg. For example, an individual weighing 160 pounds (72.7 kg) would have to drink 7 to 10 standard alcoholic beverages (14 grams of alcohol per drink) before milk release would be decreased. This study only looked at individuals 2 to 8 days postpartum, so it may not be accurate for all lactating individuals. Due to alcohol’s ability to decrease the release of oxytocin and the conflicting research available, alcohol should generally not be used to increase supply.

Also, delivery method of breastmilk matters here. If you’re nursing at the breast, you probably won’t notice the decrease. If you’re pumping, you may or may not notice the decrease.

🥂IN SUMMARY🥂

1️⃣ Alcohol increases prolactin, the hormone that tells your body to make breastmilk, but it decreases oxytocin, the hormone that tells your body to release breastmilk.

2️⃣ One study found alcohol consumption temporarily decreased milk supply by one ounce. It’s important to know what “one ounce” means to you and how it would affect your lactation journey. Another study found that individuals would have to consume a significant amount before alcohol would affect milk release.

3️⃣ Alcohol should generally not be used to increase milk supply since it may actually decrease the supply of some individuals.

Stay tuned for the next post - alcohol’s effect on infants/toddlers. 🎉

References:

  1. Mennella JA, Pepino MY, Teff KL. Acute alcohol consumption disrupts the hormonal milieu of lactating women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Apr; 90(4): 1979–1985. Published online 2004 Dec 28.doi: 10.1210/jc.2004-1593

  2. Mennella JA, Pepino, MY. Short-term effects of alcohol consumption on the hormonal milieu and mood states in nulliparous women. Alcohol. 2006 Jan; 38(1): 29–36. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2006.03.006

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