The Australian Alcohol Guidelines make it clear that when pregnant or planning a pregnancy you should not drink alcohol. When breastfeeding, it is safest not to drink alcohol.
Even a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy can harm a baby's development and may have lifelong effects. There is no safe amount, no safe time and no safe type of alcohol during pregnancy.
When alcohol is consumed during pregnancy the baby’s blood-alcohol level will be approximately the same as the mother’s blood-alcohol level.
Alcohol during pregnancy can increase the risk of:
To help keep both you and baby healthy, avoid drinking alcohol if you're planning to become pregnant or are already pregnant.
Supporting alcohol-free pregnancies – it takes a village
We can all take steps to support women in their decision to have an alcohol-free pregnancy.
Friends, family and partners can create supportive environments by organising social events that don’t involve alcohol or that offer plenty of alcohol-free alternatives.
Partners and close friends can also support someone who is pregnant by joining them in going alcohol-free or cutting back, as women are more likely not to drink during pregnancy if their partner stops drinking too.
All of us can help support alcohol-free pregnancies, including local health providers, businesses and services.
This is why ACT Health supports Pregnant Pause, a project that aims to foster the supportive village during pregnancy – acknowledging that the responsibility of achieving an alcohol-free pregnancy is a shared one. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.
Hearing from health professionals
Health professionals have an incredibly vital role to play when it comes to accurate information on alcohol and pregnancy – making sure they share with families the best available evidence to explain why it is important not to drink alcohol when pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
To help with this, ACT Health and the Australian Government Department of Health supported Women Want to Know, providing practical resources to health professionals to facilitate conversations and training with women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
Breastfeeding and alcohol
It is safest not to drink when breastfeeding, because alcohol crosses from the blood into breastmilk. The concentration of alcohol in the blood and the breastmilk will be the same.
A baby’s brain continues to develop after it is born and is far more sensitive to damage from alcohol than an adult brain.
Alcohol exposure through breastmilk can also negatively affect the feeding behaviour and sleep patterns of a baby – which can be a significant problem when trying to establish a sleep and feeding pattern with your baby in those crucial first months.
Just as it takes time for alcohol concentration in the blood stream to lower, the same is the case for alcohol concentration in breastmilk. Alcohol is present in breastmilk for some time after consuming alcohol.
Only time will lower the alcohol concentration in breastmilk — and breastmilk that has been expressed after alcohol consumption still contains alcohol.
You can learn more about alcohol and breastfeeding, including how to use the Australian Breastfeeding Association feeding app here or in the resources below.
Where to go for further support
For further information and resources on how alcohol can impact on a mother and baby, please see the support services below.