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Alcohol consumption and breastfeeding

It’s a popular belief that alcohol consumption actually helps in milk production. I’ve never tried this myself during my breastfeeding – er- rather breast milk pumping months but some mothers swear to this technique. The question is – is there scientific evidence to support this belief? And perhaps, an even more important question is how alcohol affects the mother and baby.

Surprisingly, the answers to these questions are not simple “yes” or “no”. Lactation is a highly complex process, according to Philadelphia researchers in a paper published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The authors have observed that drinking alcohol can affect the hormonal status of a breastfeeding woman and disrupt milk production – at least in the short term.

The researchers studied 13 lactating women and measured the effect of alcohol on milk quantity and prolactin responses. Prolactin is the hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland to stimulate milk production.

Results of the study showed that milk production is significantly lower in mothers drinking alcohol. However, there seems to be no effect on prolactin response. The effect of alcohol on milk yield seems to depend on the time elapsed between alcohol consumption and breast pumping.

In some culture, alcohol consumption is part of postnatal rituals. In China, for example, women are fed chicken soup with rice wine as part of the “postpartum ‘doing-the-month’ ritual.” During this period, Chinese researchers also observed disruption in the mothers’ milk production. However, they claim that the hazard posed by alcohol to breaastfed babies is very minimal. To get rid of all potential health risks, they recommend a 3-hour time lapse between alcohol consumption and breastfeeding.

It is evident that more studies are needed before the interactions between alcohol consumption and lactation can be truly understood.

What about you? What’s your policy about drinking and breastfeeding?

5 Responses to “Alcohol consumption and breastfeeding”


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