Alcohol and Breastfeeding

In the latest ‘Essence’ magazine (published by the ABA), an article discusses some recent research which estimates the number of Australian women who drink alcohol while pregnant, breastfeeding or pregnant and breastfeeding.

Quoting the research, Essence says that 29% of those who were pregnant, 43% of those who were breastfeeding and 36% of those who were both pregnant and breastfeeding drank alcohol.  The article goes on to point out some risks involved with drinking alcohol when pregnant or breastfeeding and those mothers who are more likely to drink alcohol.

Am I surprised by the findings?  Not at all.  When doing consultations, part of my initial history involves talking about how much alcohol the mother is consuming.  The reason I ask about alcohol is two-fold.

Firstly, there are risks involved in drinking alcohol in pregnancy and during breastfeeding, and the mother needs to be able to make an informed decision about alcohol consumption.  Being informed can help the mother to make choices that minimise the risks to her baby.

Secondly, some mothers find that drinking alcohol inhibits their let-down.  This can be a real challenge if you are already struggling with low-supply or have a baby who needs some encouraging to go to the breast.

The ABA article went on to discuss a brochure it has produced called ‘Alcohol and breastfeeding: a guide for mothers’, in which it gives some guidelines about timing of drinks and levels of alcohol in breastmilk.


Original research – Prevalence and predictors of alcohol use in pregnancy and breastfeeding among Australian women  Maloney E, HutchinsonD, Burns L, Mattick RP, Black E 2011, Birth 38:1

Article discussed in LRC section Essence Magazine, March 2012, 48:2 p34

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