Pretty much everyone knows about the dangers of drinking while pregnant. Exposure to alcohol in pregnancy can cause serious .complications for a baby, from spontaneous miscarriage to major birth defects. Fetal alcohol syndrome is now the primary cause of mental retardation in children, and it doesn’t take much to put a baby at risk. But what about after birth? Those who have had their baby aren’t completely out of the woods yet, either. Alcohol does seep into breast milk, so it’s important for nursing mothers to make sure they don’t start their baby on the wrong kind of bottle. When a woman is nursing, the general rule is that whatever mom drinks, so does the baby.

With that in mind, here are some tips that will help breastfeeding moms keep their baby safe and sober:

  • Mild drinking, such as the occasional glass of wine, usually will not cause a problem, so long as you’re waiting before feeding. Most experts say you should play it safe by waiting at least 2-3 hours after a drink to nurse.
  • The effects of alcohol can vary widely from person to person, depending on the drinker’s weight and metabolism. But as a general rule of thumb, the concentration of alcohol in breast milk peaks around 60 minutes after ingestion.
  • Use extra caution whenever breastfeeding children three months or younger, since their livers have a tough time metabolizing alcohol.
  • Avoid more potent drinks. Stick to the tame stuff.
  • Milk-alcohol level declines at about the same rate as blood alcohol level does. So whenever you’re back to 100 percent sober yourself, it is safe to nurse.
  • If you plan on indulging for a night of drinking, be sure to pump plenty of breast milk in advance.