Around the world folklore encourages women who are breast feeding
to drink alcoholic beverages to facilitate and increase milk supply.
However, this recent advice may be counter-productive after a
recent review of scientific evidence which indicates that alcohol
not only reduces milk formation but alcohol has an adverse effect
on the baby.
Traditional teachings have included the idea that drinking is
likely to optimise the yield of milk and in addition relax the
mother and baby. With these ideas being so deeply held, towards
the end to the 19th Century brewers produced a special beer for
women lactating and sold it through drugstores. Even today similar
beliefs exist in countries ranging from Germany to Mexico.
Scientific evidence has shown that breast fed infants consumed
on average 20% less milk during the 2-3 hours after their mothers
had taken an alcoholic beverage, as compared with occasions when
the mother did not consume an alcoholic beverage. As milk production
and intake very from one feeding to another the women were unaware
of the difference. This variation may account of the erroneous
belief that alcohol is an agent that promotes lactation.
The drop in the amount of milk consumed was as a result of a fall
in milk production and this together with research on lactating
rats, indicates that alcohol inhibits the release of hormones
normally triggered by suckling, which stimulate the flow of milk.
Some of the alcohol consumed by the lactating woman passes into
her milk, where its concentration parallels that in her bloodstream.
Recent evidence indicates that the effects of alcohol in milk
on suckling babies is that, it may impair the babys sleep, and
heavy drinking has adverse effects on their development. One study
showed that babies slept for a shorter period of time after their
lactating mothers had drank lightly, compared with when the mother
had consumed a non-alcoholic beverage.
"Unlike the situation during pregnancy, when alcohol consumed
at any time is passed to the fetus, a lactating women can limit
her infants exposure to alcohol by not nursing for several hours
after drinking, until the alcohol has been eliminated from her
milk" conclude the researchers.
Source.: Alcohols Effect on Lactation, Alcohol Research & Health
(2001) 25, 230-234, Mennella J., Monell Chemical Senses Center,
Philadelphia, PA, USA.