My grandmother and great-grandmother used to swear that drinking beer helped with their breast milk supply. But then again, back in their days, pregnant mothers also smoked cigarettes and thought nothing of it. So when I saw headlines recently posing the question of whether beer can, in fact, have a positive impact on lactation, I had to look into it.
Most breastfeeding mothers have concerns when it comes to the topic of their breast milk supply. According to a 2017 study in the International Journal of Women’s Health, 76% of breastfeeding mothers said they were not making enough milk for their children. This same study showed that while one quarter of infants are still breastfed when they turn 1 year old, nearly one-third of mothers stop breastfeeding before then because they believe they can’t produce enough milk.
Enter beer. In particular, dark beer. For decades, women (like my grandmothers) were told that beer would help them to make more milk. Why?
Reasons beer is thought to help increase milk production:
1. The polysaccharide carbohydrates found in beer, such as barley and hops, stimulates prolactin, which is a hormone that stimulates milk production. You can also get these from non-alcoholic beer, if you’re worried about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.
2. The yeast in beer is thought to be a galactagogue, which is a food or drug that increases breast milk flow, but there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove this.
3. Alcohol relaxes stressed-out mothers, and this relaxation can help with let-down and breast milk flow.
For the record, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) do not recommend drinking alcohol while breastfeeding, other than an occasional or celebratory standard size drink (12 oz. of 5 percent beer). Because alcohol enters your breast milk within 30-60 minutes, the CDC recommends waiting a minimum of two hours after drinking before breastfeeding.
Even though there are some loose links between beer and its positive effects on milk production, there really isn’t strong proof that it will help much with your supply. If you really want to increase your breast milk supply, you’re probably better off taking more traditional routes: increase the frequency and time that you pump, take milk production supplements such as Fenugreek or Goat’s Rue, and drink SO. MUCH. WATER.
At the end of the day, if you need some R&R while your little one is sleeping, I say you should enjoy a cold beer to celebrate what an amazing mom you are – and maybe you’ll experience a little boost in your milk supply as a bonus.
About Katie Stansberry
Katie Stansberry is a work-from-home mom of two sweet girls and the creator of Breastfeeding Bliss. After struggling at the beginning of her breastfeeding journey, she wanted to create a happy place where breastfeeding moms could find practical tips, positive inspiration, and the newest and best breastfeeding products. On her "Back to Bliss" breastfeeding blog, she shares her personal stories and tips for making breastfeeding an easier and more enjoyable experience.