Can you eat Christmas pudding when breastfeeding?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, Can you eat Christmas pudding when breastfeeding? We will discuss what goes into a Christmas pudding and the reasons that deem it unsuitable for you to eat Christmas pudding. 

Can you eat Christmas pudding when breastfeeding?

Yes, you can eat Christmas pudding when you are breastfeeding depending on its state. You can eat Christmas pudding that is free of alcohol and is in its prime condition. Christmas pudding must be stored properly to retain its freshness. 

 You must not eat Christmas pudding if you are breastfeeding and it has alcohol-based liquid added to it. Even if the alcohol was added prior to baking, much of it is retained even after. Therefore, you need to avoid Christmas pudding, if there was brandy, whisky, or a liquor-based sauce was added to the Christmas pudding.

Recent data have estimated that up to 47% of Australian women consume alcohol while breastfeeding, despite national guidelines stating that abstinence is the safest option, particularly during the first month after birth. Studies examining the characteristics of mothers who consume alcohol while breastfeeding have shown that they are more likely to be older, better educated, married and have higher household incomes than those who abstain (1).

Why do you need to avoid Christmas pudding with alcohol when you are breastfeeding?

You must not drink or consume alcohol if you are breastfeeding as it passes to the milk.

Alcohol consumption in the postpartum period has been associated with a number of adverse effects on infants, including early cessation of breastfeeding, disruption of infant feeding behavior and reduction in sleeping time. Animal research suggests that alcohol consumption during breastfeeding has a negative impact on motor coordination (1).

Alcohol is added either before or after baking the Christmas pudding. If alcohol was cooked in food on a stovetop much of it evaporated but for baked foods such as Christmas cake, more than 80 percent of it remains.

Christmas Pudding is a lightly-steamed fruitcake that is incomplete without brandy poured over it. Christmas pudding served with either brandy or whisky is a crucial part of Christmas.

 Hence, in Britain, Ireland, and England, and even in some other western countries, the fruitcake is baked like a regular cake and dressed with alcohol.

Christmas Pudding has a deep-rooted history with cultural and religious beliefs supporting the presence of Christmas pudding at a Christmas dinner. 

Christmas Pudding must have 13 ingredients, that resonate with Jesus and his 12 disciples. The 13 ingredients are usually, raisins, currants, suet, brown sugar, breadcrumbs, citron, lemon peel, orange peel, flour, mixed spices, eggs, milk, and brandy.  

A study showed that the concentration of ethanol in common commercial Christmas puddings ranged from 0.260 to 1.685 g per 125 mg slice. The concentration of ethanol per pudding was not greater than the stipulated specifications on the packaging, where shown. After pudding ingestion, the theoretical BAC of a typical 70 kg male and 60 kg female health care professional ranged from 0.001 to 0.004 g/dL and from 0.001 to 0.006 g/dL, respectively (2).

However, you need not worry about tradition or religion if you are breastfeeding. If you make Christmas pudding at home, omit the brandy or ask your host if they have brandy added to their Christmas pudding. 

Can you consume any amount of alcohol while you are breastfeeding?

Any food or beverage that a woman consumes during breastfeeding makes its way into the milk and to the baby. Alcohol can be damaging to a baby’s health. 

You can consume alcohol within the specified guidelines if your baby is older than 3 months. 

Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for breastfeeding mothers. Generally, moderate alcohol consumption by a breastfeeding mother (up to 1 standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the mother waits at least 2 hours after a single drink before nursing. However, exposure to alcohol above moderate levels through breast milk could be damaging to an infant’s development, growth, and sleep patterns. Alcohol consumption above moderate levels may also impair a mother’s judgment and ability to safely care for her child (3).

The allowed limit for alcohol intake for breastfeeding women is 14 units per week. A woman must not consume alcohol within four hours before she breastfeeds. 

 If you are not sure if there is or how much alcohol is added to your Christmas cake, then it is best to decline it. 

If a woman drinks a few units of alcohol at a time, she is required to pump and then discard her breast milk. Doing so prevents the risk of alcohol being consumed by the baby and affecting its health.

Does Christmas pudding spoil?

Spoiled Christmas pudding is the least of your worries, especially if it has liquor added to it. If it has alcohol, it is all the more reason to avoid it during breastfeeding. Christmas pudding does not spoil if it is soaked in alcohol and has dried fruits to it. 

Ethanol is well known for its antimycotic effect in foods, particularly bakery products. This effect can be obtained either by adding ethanol directly to the product or by using an encapsulated ethanol pouch. Ethanol has been shown to increase the mold free shelf-life of bread, pasta and buns (4).

You can eat Christmas pudding while you are breastfeeding if it is within the expiration date. However, keep in mind that Christmas pudding without any alcohol and fresh fruits instead of dried is susceptible to spoilage. 

When water molecules are bound with ethanol through weak hydrogen bonds, this leaves less free water available, and microbes have less water to survive on. This resulted in a preservative effect towards certain food products, when alcohol is added as an ingredient in the food formulation, before cooking. As ethanol reduces the water activity in food, this characteristic helps preserve high moisture food by delaying microbial spoilage, as free water which is available for the microorganisms are reduced, through reduction of water activity (aw). An example of such a product is the Christmas pudding, cherry in wine alcohol or mixed fruit cake. Brandy or whiskey provide a prolonged shelf life (5).

You do not want to risk catching a food-borne illness from a spoiled Christmas pudding when you are breastfeeding. Eating spoiled food can harm not only you but your baby as well. 

If you refrigerate your Christmas pudding, it will last 2-3 months. For more instructions, it is advised to refer to the package regarding its expiration date.

What can you add to your Christmas Pudding instead of rum or brandy?

Other dressings work well with Christmas pudding as well instead of a liquor-based beverage. You can try caramelized baked apple terrine, cranberry jelly, zesty orange custard.

 Also, try to make marmalade and orange sauce by simmering marmalade with orange sauce on medium flame to make it into a syrup. 

You can also add stem ginger and honeycomb ice cream, caramelized pistachio, and pecan, white sauce infused with Douglas Fir, and prune puree. 

Other FAQs about Pudding that you may be interested in.

Can you eat Christmas pudding when pregnant?

Can pudding go bad?

Can you substitute cook and serve pudding for an instant in a recipe?

How to store Christmas pudding once cooked?

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question, Can you eat Christmas pudding when breastfeeding? We discussed what goes into a Christmas pudding and the reasons that deem it unsuitable for you to eat Christmas pudding. 

Citations

  1. Wilson, Judy, et al. Alcohol consumption by breastfeeding mothers: Frequency, correlates and infant outcomes. Drug alcohol rev, 2017, 36, 667-676. 
  2. Brieger, Daniel G., et al. What proof is in your Christmas pudding? Is caring under the influence possible?. Med J Aust, 2014, 201, 702-704.
  3. Breastfeeding and Alcohol. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
  4. Spence, Charles. Explaining seasonal patterns of food consumption. Int j gastron food sci, 2021, 24, 100332.
  5. Rahim, Alina Abdul, and Siti Mashitoh Abdul. The uncertain halal status of edible products with natural or added alcohol. J Fatwa Manage Res, 2014, 3, 109-126.