Alcohol and pregnancy / substance use

Alcohol and Pregnancy do not mix!

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause permanent birth defects and brain damage and can seriously harm an unborn baby. Each year in Canada, it is estimated that nine babies in every 1,000 are born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). The birth defects and developmental disabilities that result from FASD are preventable by avoiding alcohol during pregnancy.

People who live with FASD may have mild to very severe problems with their health. They may have delays in their development, intellectual problems and problems in their social lives.

Examples of these problems include:

  • learning disabilities, particularly with mathematical concepts
  • difficulty understanding the consequences of  actions
  • depression
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • physical disabilities such as kidney and internal organ problems
  • skeletal abnormalities such as facial deformities.

Breastfeeding and Alcohol Use

Breast milk is the natural food for newborns. Despite past claims that alcohol use supported milk production, alcohol interferes with the breastfeeding process and puts children at risk.

Alcohol that is consumed by a mother passes into her bloodstream and her breast milk. The levels of alcohol in the breast milk are similar to the blood alcohol level of the mother. Babies who ingest alcohol through their mothers’ breast milk are at risk of delayed motor development and disrupted sleep patterns.

If women want to consume alcohol while they are breastfeeding, the recommendation is to schedule it around their breastfeeding.  They can do this by avoiding breastfeeding for 2 hours after drinking one alcoholic beverage (longer if more than one beverage is consumed) or by expelling milk prior to their alcohol use.

Health Nexus resources

Mixing Alcohol and Breastfeeding - printer-ready handouts

Download printer-ready handouts as PDF files in English, French, Arabic, Cree, Ojibway, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu, Simplified Chinese, Spanish and Tagalog.

Breastfeeding Matters (PDF)

Breastfeeding Matters (PDF)


Breastfeeding and Alcohol Use (PDF)

Breastfeeding and Alcohol Use (PDF)


Other resources

Find additional resources at the Best Start Resource Centre