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Why Is Alcohol Bad For Breastfeeding Mothers?

Breast milk is said to be the best kind of nutrition your newborn baby can get, right after delivery. Doctors do stress on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding your baby for the first six months. Breast milk not only has all the important nutrients required for the baby to grow, but it also keeps them away from illness for the first few months of the life, until their natural immune system starts kicking [1] . Moreover, breast milk also helps them gain the right weight which is an essential parameter of growth in newborn babies.

It is quite a known fact that a percentage of nutrients present in the breast milk comes from the mother's body. Therefore, it is important that the mother consumes the right kind of nutrients during breastfeeding [2] .

If you are a breastfeeding mother, you must have gone through tons of articles online regarding the perfect diet for breastfeeding mothers. Along with a list of nutrient-rich foods to consume, you must also have read about some things that you need to avoid consuming during breastfeeding. For a lot of reasons, consuming alcohol makes it to the top of this list [3] .

You may have met a lot of people during your postpartum period and almost everyone must have advised you to become a teetotaler during your breastfeeding period. Though a certain amount of alcohol can help you take the edge off your difficult postpartum period, it may be wise to restrict yourself from reaching out to your favourite drink while you are breastfeeding your baby.

Alcohol has a lot of negative effects on breast milk. Read on to know the many effects of consuming alcohol while breastfeeding [3] .

1. Leads To A Decrease In Breast Milk Quantity

Studies have claimed that postpartum consumption of alcohol can cause up to 20% to 23% decrease in the quantity of breast milk [4] . Keeping into the account that your breast milk will be the only source of nutrition for your baby during the formative days of their life, this may have an adverse effect on their development.

2. Can Pass On To The Baby Via The Breast Milk

Almost 0.5% to 3% of alcohol consumed by the mother is known to get into the baby's body through breast milk [5] . This quantity of alcohol may look small but may have a devastating effect on a newborn as the alcohol may eventually damage their liver.

3. Reduces The Nutritional Value Of Breast Milk

The presence of alcohol in the mother's body is known to inhibit the absorption of nutrients into the breast milk, tempering with its nutritional value [6] . Human breast milk is known to be rich in folate, something that isn't absorbed into breast milk due to the presence of alcohol.

4. Decreases Immunity

A newborn's immune system remains at a developing stage for months even after birth. They get all the antibodies required to fight off infection from their mother's milk. The baby's body cannot absorb the antibodies from it if there is even a tiny bit of alcohol present in the breast milk. This may lead to the infant being susceptible to illnesses and infection in an early stage of life, which can prove to be quite fatal [7] .

5. May Stunt Brain Development In Infants

If infants are exposed to high quantities of alcohol during the early years of their life, they are not only susceptible to liver problems later in life, but also are more prone to rapid degradation of their brain cells and can give rise to a medical condition known as a wet brain [8] .

6. Leads To Improper Sleeping And Feeding Patterns

Infants who are fed breast milk with alcohol traces in them are known to have less amount of REM sleep, also called deep sleep. This may have an effect on their overall development as sleep is very important for developing infants [9] . Their irregular sleeping patterns may also have a negative effect on their feeding patterns as well. In short, if you are consuming alcohol during breastfeeding, you may end up with a very cranky baby who does not sleep or feed properly.

7. May Not Let You Be Responsible

Infants need a lot of support from their mothers, more so during the months right after their birth. Also, taking care of a newborn is a huge responsibility which you may not be able to fulfil if you are in an inebriated state. Therefore, it is important that you forego your urge to consume alcohol for the safety of your newborn.

8. Alters The Taste Of Breast Milk

Alcohol is known to alter the taste of breast milk [10] , which may cause the infant to feed less often. This may give rise to serious physical developmental issues as gaining weight after the first few months of birth is very important for the infant.

9. Results In Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Increased consumption of alcohol during breastfeeding is known to have an adverse effect on the baby's liver and may increase the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome [11] .

10. Delays The Development Of Motor Skills

Alcohol in breast milk is known to cause a delay in the development of motor skills in babies as they often feel drowsy or sleepy but never tend to get enough sleep due to alcohol in their bodies. In short, such babies do not react to external stimuli and may take more time than their healthier counterparts to reach the developmental milestones [12] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Demers-Mathieu, V., Underwood, M. A., Beverly, R. L., Nielsen, S. D., & Dallas, D. C. (2018). Comparison of Human Milk Immunoglobulin Survival during Gastric Digestion between Preterm and Term Infants.Nutrients,10(5), 631.
  2. [2] Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Nutritional Status During Pregnancy and Lactation. Nutrition During Lactation. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1991. 5, Milk Volume
  3. [3] Haastrup, M. B., Pottegård, A., & Damkier, P. (2014). Alcohol and breastfeeding.Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology,114(2), 168-173.
  4. [4] Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006-. Alcohol
  5. [5] Guelinckx, I., Devlieger, R., & Vansant, G. (2011). Alcohol during pregnancy and lactation: recommendations versus real intake.Archives of Public Health,68(4), 134–142.
  6. [6] Koletzko, B. (2002). Beer and breastfeeding. InShort and long term effects of breast feeding on child health(pp. 23-28). Springer, Boston, MA.
  7. [7] Sarkar, D., Jung, M. K., & Wang, H. J. (2015). Alcohol and the Immune System.Alcohol Research : Current Reviews,37(2), 153–155.
  8. [8] Hepper, P. G., Dornan, J. C., & Lynch, C. (2012). Fetal brain function in response to maternal alcohol consumption: early evidence of damage.Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research,36(12), 2168–2175.
  9. [9] Scaglioni, S., De Cosmi, V., Ciappolino, V., Parazzini, F., Brambilla, P., & Agostoni, C. (2018). Factors Influencing Children's Eating Behaviours.Nutrients,10(6), 706.
  10. [10] Mennella, J. A., & Beauchamp, G. K. (1991). The transfer of alcohol to human milk: Effects on flavor and the infant's behavior.New England Journal of Medicine,325(14), 981-985.
  11. [11] Duncan JR, Byard RW. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: An Overview. In: Duncan JR, Byard RW, editors. SIDS Sudden Infant and Early Childhood Death: The Past, the Present and the Future. Adelaide (AU): University of Adelaide Press; 2018 May. Chapter 2
  12. [12] Angulo-Barroso, R. M., Schapiro, L., Liang, W., Rodrigues, O., Shafir, T., Kaciroti, N., … Lozoff, B. (2010). Motor development in 9-month-old infants in relation to cultural differences and iron status.Developmental psychobiology,53(2), 196–210

Story first published: Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 17:30 [IST]
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