Huggies Forum

Huggies® Ultimate

Learn More
The Huggies Forum is closed for new replies and topics, you can still read older topics.

Alcohol & Breastfeeding Lock Rss

I have a nine month old who is persistant with the breast, I enjoy a glass or two of wine. Does anyone know if this has a negative affect on babies as I have heard so many different opinions.

Wendy, SA, baby boy Oct 03

Hi Wendy

I have heard many conflicting stories as well...some say beer is good for milk production!

I have been breastfeeding for 7.5 months and have the occasional glass of red wine with no ill effects on the baby. I think there is no harm in drinking now and then - as long as it is not every day and not excessive.

One thing all the "experts" agree on is that mothers who drink while breastfeeding should only do so moderately and "moderate" means no more than two drinks per day.

The ABA presented a paper on the efects of alcohol which I have copied for you below...


Breastfeeding and the use of recreational drugs - alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and marijuana by
Janet Liston B Pharm

This paper both reviews the current literature and explores anecdotal information as reported by Nursing Mothers' (now Australian Breastfeeding Association) breastfeeding counsellors relating to breastfeeding and the use of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and marijuana. All of these drugs do enter breastmilk to some extent and can have a detrimental effect on the production, volume, composition and ejection of breastmilk, as well as a direct adverse effect on the infant. Breastfeeding mothers should be encouraged to restrict their intake of these so-called recreational drugs. It is acknowledged that this is a particularly stressful period in a mother's life and that she may need additional support and practical suggestions to limit the exposure of these drugs to the infant.

For every family, adjusting to a new child is a stressful time. A new mother may find herself turning to caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or even marijuana as a way of coping with her new life. In many cases a mother will not even recognise these substances as drugs. All of these drugs do enter breastmilk to some extent and can have a detrimental effect on the production, volume, composition and ejection of breastmilk, as well as a direct adverse effect on the infant.

This paper reviews some of the current literature relating to breastfeeding and the use of recreational drugs, as well as anecdotal information as reported by Nursing Mothers' (now Australian Breastfeeding Association [ABA]) breastfeeding counsellors. A woman's choices depend on her knowledge base. Many mothers will be unaware of the potential impact of her behaviour on her ability to breastfeed optimally. This information may empower mothers to make informed choices about their use of these so called recreational drugs while they are breastfeeding.

Traditionally, women have been told that drinking alcohol will help increase their milk supply and strengthen their baby. Alcohol is generally not considered harmful to the infant if the amount and duration are limited (American Academy of Pediatrics 1989). Some recent studies have suggested that even modest amounts of alcohol may have a significant long-term effect on the breastfed baby (Little 1989; Schulte 1995), making a safe level of alcohol exposure to the breastfed baby hard to define.

Anecdotally, Nursing Mothers' (now ABA) breastfeeding counsellors report instances of babies being drowsy and fussy at the breast after being breastfed by a mother who has been drinking alcohol. Mothers who have been drinking often relate the experience of delayed let-down reflex and a perceived reduced supply. Mothers also report a lower tolerance to alcohol whilst breastfeeding. This may be so, as the low oestrogen levels present during amenorrhoeic lactation are associated with higher blood alcohol levels.

Studies have shown that within thirty minutes of its ingestion, the equivalent of one standard drink changes the smell of breastmilk and has a mildly sedative effect on the baby. Excessive amounts may lead to drowsiness, deep sleep and weakness. A drowsy baby may not suck well which may lead to a reduction in supply. One recent report suggests a 23% reduction (156 ml to 120 ml) in breastmilk production following ingestion of beer (Hale 1998). The altered smell of the milk may account for any fussiness. Any drug that causes drowsiness in the infant may be implicated in SIDS.

Alcohol may theoretically inhibit oxytocin release. Oxytocin is the hormone that causes contraction of the cells surrounding the alveoli and interlobular ducts, forcing milk out into the larger ducts for the baby to remove. Anecdotally, one drink relaxes the mother and improves the let-down reflex whereas large doses of alcohol are believed to have an adverse effect on the let-down or milk ejection reflex. Studies have shown that maternal doses of alcohol greater than 1-2 g/kg can interfere with the let-down reflex (Cobo 1973), though there is considerable variation between individual mothers.

Interestingly, whereas alcohol appears in the milk at levels approximately equal to that in the mother's bloodstream, no acetaldehyde (the toxic metabolite of alcohol) is found in milk even when levels are high in the mother's bloodstream.

Alcohol impairs a mother's functioning, and may make her more susceptible to depression, fatigue and lapses in judgement. Like any nutritionally vacant food or beverage, too much alcohol can divert the appetite from necessary nutrients.

It is then wise to minimise alcohol exposure to the breastfeeding infant, especially in the first three months. Some recommendations for limiting alcohol exposure include choosing low alcohol drinks, eating before and while drinking, avoiding breastfeeding for two to three hours after drinking and if necessary to express and store alcohol-free breastmilk for use after moderate to heavy drinking.

Gabriella, Chiara & angel called home

I personally think that if there is any risk of danger associated with drinking, or taking drugs or medication etc, then I choose to completely abstain, unless absolutely necessary. No-one can give a clear and guaranteed answer as to the immediate or long-term risks of drinking so I say - "If in doubt, miss out". For the short time we are nursing babies it is not that hard to abstain. Obviously, this is my opinion, and each mum must form their own.

Domestic Goddess Mum of Four!

Sign in to follow this topic