Alcohol during pregnancy and breastfeeding

To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby. Even a small amount of alcohol can harm a baby's development and may have lifelong effects.

No safe level of alcohol consumption

To help keep you and your baby healthy, avoid drinking alcohol when you’re:

  • planning to become pregnant
  • pregnant
  • breastfeeding

Research by experts about alcohol and pregnancy shows that:

  • No safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy or while breastfeeding has been identified.

  • The risk of harm to the fetus increases the more the mother drinks and the more frequently she drinks.

This advice is from the National Health and Medical Research Council. For more about the Council's research, read the Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol.

Effects of alcohol

When planning a pregnancy

Alcohol can:

  • affect the fertility of both men and women. To improve your chances of becoming pregnant, avoid drinking alcohol.
  • permanently harm an unborn baby. You should not drink alcohol if you’re planning to become pregnant because no safe level of alcohol has been identified.

When pregnant

When a woman drinks alcohol during pregnancy, so does the developing baby. The baby’s blood gets about the same level of alcohol as the mothers blood. This can cause:

When breastfeeding

If a mother drinks when she is breastfeeding, the alcohol crosses into the breastmilk and can:

  • stay there for several hours
  • reduce the flow of your milk (this can unsettle your baby and cause them to eat and sleep less)
  • affect how the baby’s brain and spinal cord develops

When you drink, the concentration of alcohol in your blood and breastmilk is the same. A baby’s brain keeps developing after it is born. This means an infant’s brain is more sensitive to damage from alcohol than an adult brain.

How to stop drinking

It can be hard to stop drinking alcohol in social situations.

If you’re not ready to tell people you’re pregnant, try saying:

  • I’m on a health kick and have given up alcohol
  • No thanks, I’m not drinking tonight
  • I have a big day tomorrow so no thanks

If you’re happy to tell people, simply say:

  • No thanks, not while I’m pregnant

For support, try Pregnant Pause. It’s designed to help you, your partner and your loved ones go alcohol-free. Having a strong support network can make it easier to stop drinking.

For general tips, read how to reduce or quit alcohol.

When can you drink alcohol again?

The safest option is to avoid drinking until you finish breastfeeding.

If you start drinking again after you’ve finished breastfeeding, make sure you know how much alcohol is safe to drink.

    Contacts

    If you’re worried about your alcohol drinking while pregnant, talk to your doctor, midwife or obstetrician. It may seem daunting, but remember that health professionals speak to lots of people about these issues.

    For questions about drinking and pregnancy, you can also contact these organisations:

    FASD Hub Australia contact

    The FASD Hub provides information about fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). You can browse a directory of health services and providers with FASD expertise and find details about FASD training for professionals and providers.

    View contact

    National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline contact

    Call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline for free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs.

    View contact

    Resources

    Information you might not know about pregnancy and alcohol

    If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, no amount of alcohol is safe. Find out what the risks are. Read tips on how you can stop drinking while pregnant.

    Last updated: 
    8 December 2020

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