Pregnant Mothers and Wine

What's the Big Deal?

It's huge news in your life - you or your loved one is pregnant, and you're going to have a new child to love! You're excited, nervous, hopeful, and want to celebrate. Being one who enjoys wine, you reach to pour congratulatory glasses of Champagne all around.


Decades of research has been done now on the very serious affects wine has on a growing fetus. Alcohol can affect the new child - even in small amounts.

What does Wine Do during Pregnancy?

The NOFAS organization, geared towards spreading the word about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, explains what the danger is. According to them, "Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a series of mental and physical birth defects that can include mental retardation, growth deficiencies, central nervous system dysfunction, craniofacial abnormalities and behavioral maladjustments".

Luckily, they also say that FAS and FAE (Fetal Alcohol Effects) are 100% preventable when a pregnant woman abstains from alcohol. This, of course includes wine.

Dr. Greene, a physician who maintains a set of web pages, concurs. According to him, "alcohol is now recognized as the most common major destructive environmental agent to which a fetus is likely to be exposed. It is directly responsible for 10-20% of mental deficiency with IQs in the 50-80 range, and one in six cases of cerebral palsy."


OK, the mother has gone through 9 months of carrying the child, and numerous days of labor and post-labor recovery. Now can she have some wine?

The jury is still out on alcohol and breastfeeding.

According to La Leche, one of the premiere groups when it comes to breastfeeding information:
"Alcohol peaks 30-60 minutes after consumption, 60-90 minutes when taken with food (Lawton 1985). Alcohol passes freely out of a mother's milk and her system. It takes a 120 pound woman about two to three hours to eliminate from her body the alcohol in one serving of beer or wine (Shulte 1995). However, the more alcohol that is consumed, the longer it takes for it to be eliminated. It takes up to 13 hours for a 120 pound woman to eliminate the alcohol from one high-alcohol drink. The effects of alcohol on the breastfeeding baby are directly related to the amount the mother consumes."

What are the results of this alcohol consumption on the baby? In their Leader Notes, La Leche points out that these results are mixed. If the alcohol clears from the mother's system before breastfeeding, there is no result on the child. However, alchol in the mother's system affects the odor of the milk, causing the child to be more interested in nursing, but also causing the child to consume less milk.

The CTW site, by the creators of Sesame Street and other such shows, is tolerant of the practice. They say,
"It is true that alcohol passes into the mother's breast milk, but an occasional drink will have little effect on a nursing infant, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, ingesting larger amounts of alcohol can affect breast milk and make an infant sleepy or drowsy."

"If a breastfeeding mother does drink alcohol, she should limit her intake to one glass of wine, beer, or liquor a day, and wait at least two hours before nursing. Keep in mind that women should not drink alcohol during pregnancy, because no safe amount has been determined as of yet."

So the basic line is - don't drink at all during pregnancy. It's simply too dangerous. Drink if you must during labor, and drink sparingly if at all during breastfeeding, being sure to give yourself enough time after drinking to clear your system before your baby nurses. The care you take during this year or two of your own life can have beneficial effects on the entire life of your child!


A great deal of research and work went into my wine / health pages. If you use this information, please credit me properly. Thanks!

Wine and Health

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.