Get Prepared

Low-risk drinking guidelines

A number of countries, including New Zealand, have developed advice or guidelines for Low-risk drinking.

In New Zealand, the Health Promotion Agency (HPA) provides the national low-risk alcohol drinking advice. The image below summarises HPA’s advice for adults.

There are times and circumstances when it is advisable not to drink alcohol. Do not drink alcohol if you:

  • could be pregnant, are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • are on medication that interacts with alcohol
  • you have a condition that can be worsen by drinking alcohol
  • feel unwell, depressed, tired or cold as alcohol could make things worse
  • are about to operate machinery or a vehicle or do anything that is risky or requires skill.

HPA’s advice is supported by the Ministry of Health. Click on the image to go to the Health Promotion Agency's full advice on its website.

(Courtesy of Health Promotion Agency  -

The low risk drinking advice above was developed in 2011. Until a more recent review is undertaken in Aotearoa, you can find current advice from other countries here: 

Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health ( updated in 2023

Australian Alcohol Guidelines revised | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care updated in 2020

Advice for parents of children and young people under 18 years of age

For children and young people under 18 years of age not drinking alcohol is the safest option.

Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking. For this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.

For young people aged 15−17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.

Advice for women who could be pregnant, are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant

Stop drinking alcohol if you could be pregnant, are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant.

There is no safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

This has been endorsed by organisations including the New Zealand College of Midwives, The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, New Zealand Nurses Organisations. Read more..

Alcohol and breastfeeding advice  

For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option. Alcohol can reduce the amount of breast milk produced. 

Alcohol can be passed on to the baby as alcohol is also excreted in breastmilk - this could cause damage to infant's developing brain.

The advice is that - if you choose to drink alcohol while breastfeeding, you may need to wait at least 2 hours for each standard drink before breastfeeding your baby. For 2 standard drinks, you may need to wait 4 hours before breastfeeding. Check out the Ministry of Health website for more information.

Supporting New Zealand drinkers to drink within the low-risk drinking guidelines

Whilst it is important that each person looks at their own drinking, and supports others to do the same, we also need our environment to support low-risk drinking.

This means we need: