Alcohol use before and during pregnancy

Alcohol use is a common question for newly pregnant women or breastfeeding moms. Even though most people know to avoid alcohol in pregnancy, many people don’t know the details about alcohol use in pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Holly Menino sits down with Al Romeo, RN, PhD;  a registered nurse w with the Utah Department of Health’s MotherToBaby/Pregnancy Risk Line program. Together they discuss the risks of alcohol use and drinking while breastfeeding. 

 Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) are caused by alcohol use during pregnancy and are 100% preventable. Estimates are that FASD affects up to 5 in 100 newborns. In Utah, 3% of women report drinking alcohol in last 3 months of pregnancy, affecting approximately 1,500 births each year.

There is no known safe level of alcohol use. Daily alcohol use and binge drinking increase the risk of FASD. Some of the risks of alcohol use include miscarriage, birth defects (facial features such as a smooth philtrum (space between upper lip and nose) and thin upper lip; heart defects; skeletal defects (growth deficiencies)), developmental delays (attention deficits; learning disabilities; poor judgment (difficulty understanding right and wrong)). 

FASD is difficult to diagnose, especially when the person does not have symptoms and the mother’s alcohol use in pregnancy is unknown. There is no cure and life-long treatment, interventions, and supports are needed to address related symptoms such as inappropriate behaviors. 

Moms sometimes have questions about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. For every serving of alcohol (12 ounces of beer, 4 ounce of wine, 1.5 ounces of hard liquor), women should wait 2 to 2.5 hours before breastfeeding. So, for 1 serving, the usual 3 hours between breastfeeding should be fine. For 2 servings, mom should wait 5 hours before breastfeeding again. If moms have concerns or questions about a particular situation, she can contact MotherToBaby Utah. They will provide her with more information. Their phone number is 801-328-2229 and website is

For more information on FASDs, click here.

The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.