Page last updated: January 4, 2018
Research indicates that moderate alcohol consumption by breastfeeding causes no harm to the baby

New research presented in Melbourne shows that moderate alcohol consumption by breastfeeding mums does not cause harm to their baby. The study conducted by the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), UNSW and Deakin University found low levels of alcohol consumption had no impact on breastfeeding duration, infant feeding and sleeping behaviour at eight weeks.

Lead researcher Delyse Hutchinson presented the findings at the APSAD Scientific Alcohol and other Drugs Conference in Melbourne in November.

Researchers looked at data from the Triple B Pregnancy Cohort - a study of alcohol use during pregnancy and development outcomes in infants at 12 months of age. Substance use was assessed during pregnancy and at eight weeks and 12 months post-birth. The findings showed most women had consumed alcohol while breastfeeding. Alcohol use was reported by 60.7% at eight weeks and 69.6% at 12 months. These women were more likely to be born in Australia or another English-speaking country, be tertiary educated and have higher household incomes. Most drank at low levels, less than 14 standard drinks per week and less than three on a single occasion. Breastfeeding duration, infant feeding, sleeping and development were also assessed. There was also no negative association with infant developmental outcomes at eight weeks or 12 months.

“Whilst this study certainly does not in any way condone excessive alcohol consumption in new mums, it does suggest that those that have the occasional drink whilst using strategies to prevent alcohol reaching the infant, can do so without fear of causing harm,” said Delyse Hutchinson.

“The only significant association showed that infants whose mothers drank at eight weeks postpartum had more favourable results for personal-social development at 12 months compared with those whose mothers abstained,” the authors wrote.

The authors work was originally published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review in March 2017.

Source: Alcohol consumption by breastfeeding mothers: frequency, correlates and infant outcomes. Wilson, Judy, et al. Drug and Alcohol Review, 36 5: 667-676. doi:10.1111/ dar.12473

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