Alcohol is a part of our culture in New Zealand and enjoying alcohol in moderate amounts is unlikely to negatively impact on your health. However, when alcohol is consumed in harmful quantities it may effect your physical and psychological health and increase the risk of sexual or violent assault and economic vulnerability.

How much alcohol can I drink?

The Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand suggests that women have no more than 10 standard drinks a week to avoid long-term health risks. This works out to be 2 standards drinks a day. If there is a day where you are going to drink more than that, it’s best to not exceed 4 standard drinks. Also, it is best to have at least two alcohol free days a week to give your liver the opportunity to recover from alcohol consumption. If you are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, it is best to stop drinking alcohol as no known consumption levels are safe.

If you are confused about whether your drinking habits are safe, click here for a quiz that can help you to assess your relationship with alcohol.

Potential harm

There are differences between women and men in the prevalence of harmful alcohol consumption, the effects of alcohol on the body, and the effectiveness of interventions to prevent or reduce alcohol related harm.

A recent study undertaken by Women’s Health Action and Alcohol Healthwatch indicates that women’s alcohol consumption is increasing and that the harmful use of alcohol is implicated in a range of poor health outcomes for women. These include;

➜ Reduced physical and psychological health
➜ Increased frequency and severity of violence
➜ Higher risk of sexual assault
➜ Reduced capacity to parent
➜ Greater economic vulnerability.

If you or someone you know needs help with alcohol you can get in touch with the Alcohol Drug Helpline for support.

Alcohol and breastfeeding

You may be excited to start drinking again once you are no longer pregnant, however breastfeeding women still need to be mindful of their alcohol consumption. Women often receive conflicting advice around whether they can consume alcohol and breastfeed their child which can make it difficult to determine safe drinking levels. Alcohol will be present in your breast milk after drinking, however once the alcohol clears you are safe to breastfeed as normal. As a general rule of thumb it’s best to avoid breastfeeding for around 2-3 hours for each standard drink you have because this will give your body time to clear the alcohol from your breast milk. Therefore, if you are planning on consuming alcohol the best time is straight after you have breastfed your child.

If you aren’t sure how to safely enjoy a drink while breastfeeding you can try using the Feed Safe NZ app which can help you make safe decisions while drinking and breastfeeding. There is also useful guide written by the Australian Breastfeeding Association if you would like more information.

Alcohol advertising

Alcohol advertising is linked to social harm, particularly issues relating to violence against women and increased ill effects from drinking in young women. Recent research shows alcohol abuse rates in young women are increasing, which could be linked to advertising directed to young women glamorising alcohol.  In addition, the role of alcohol in intimate partner and family violence is reinforced by socially irresponsible liquor advertising that promotes negative attitudes towards women.


The advertising of alcohol in Aotearoa New Zealand is voluntarily regulated by the alcohol industry. This means that the industry can determine the nature and content of alcohol advertising, guided by the Advertising Standards Authority’s Code for Advertising and Promotion of Alcohol. All alcohol advertising in Aotearoa New Zealand should adhere to the principles of the Code.  Principle One of the Code states that all liquor advertisements shall observe a high standard of social responsibility.  Compliance with the Code relies on complaints from the public.  For information about how to complain about alcohol advertisements that you think may not comply with the Code visit the Advertising Standards Authority.

Useful links

Alcohol Healthwatch » New Zealand health promotion agency focused on harm reduction for alcohol.

Can you pour a standard drink? » interactive game to see if you can accurately pour a standard drink.

Low risk alcohol drinking advice » more information on how to drink safely.

Women and alcohol in Aotearoa/New Zealand » study conducted by Women’s Health Action in collaboration with Alcohol Healthwatch, investing young women’s alcohol consumption.

Feed Safe NZ » app to help you manage alcohol while breastfeeding

Alcohol and breastfeeding » a guide providing information on breastfeeding and consuming alcohol