The very short, sweet simple answer. No, if a mother drinks alcohol, it will not help a baby sleep.
While I see nothing wrong with a breastfeeding mom drinking the occasional alcoholic beverage responsibly, using mom's alcohol consumption as a method to lull baby to sleep really isn't a good solution to improving a baby's sleep. In fact, the strategy is likely to actual backfire and worsen a baby's sleep patterns.
Summary of Drinking and Breast Milk Research
The idea out there that as alcohol transfers to breast milk it will have a soothing effect on the baby is fairly persistent. However, medical research pretty much blasts that theory out of the water. What has been found is that breastfed babies of light drinkers slept less than babies of non-drinkers.
Stepping away from our short simple answer to give a more complicated response, what research shows is that those babies of mothers who drank alcohol experienced disruptions in the amount of time the spent in active sleep. Incidently, it's not just babies who have experienced this disruption, tests run on adults and animals who drank alcohol also experienced issues in the same same area.
What's even more troubling, if a mother would try to use this technique on a regular basis, drinking even one alcoholic beverage on a daily basis can have negative effects on a baby's gross motor development. It is simply not a road that parents should go down.
The fact is, there are many myths out there about how drinking affects breastmilk. While these myths are quite popular, it doesn't make them true. Here are some facts that you should know.
- Drinking alcohol reduces milk supply.
- Pumping and dumping breastmilk after a night of drinking is only necessary if the mother is engorged.
- Drinking in moderation (ie, 1-2 alcoholic beverages per week) isn't thought to be harmful, but regular drinking or binge drinking can be detrimental to your baby's health.
Reasonable Ways to Improve Baby Sleep
Rather than relying on an incorrect and potentially dangerous myth to help your baby sleep, stick with some tried-and-true methods.
- Regular baby nap patterns can improve nighttime sleep.
- Use bedtime routines to encourage sleep.
- For older babies, you might consider sleep training methods. If this method isn't right for you, try gentle sleep methods for encouraging healthy sleep.
- Have accurate expectations for baby sleep.
- Avoid negative sleep associations which can have a troubling effect on getting your baby to sleep and staying asleep.
The bottom line: trying to get a baby to sleep better at night by having the mom drink alcohol before breastfeeding, not a sustainable or even workable solution.