Alcohol consumption while breastfeeding may alter babies’ brains – Experts


Breastfeeding mothers who drink alcohol may be exposing their babies to the risk of impaired brain development, maternal experts have warned.

They noted that alcohol does not serve any good to pregnant and nursing mothers, and maintained that no level of alcohol in the breast is considered safe for a baby to suckle.

Speaking exclusively with PUNCH Healthwise, a Consultant Gynaecologist at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Awka, Anambra, Dr. Stanley Egbogu, said because breastfeeding has many health benefits for babies – including a lower risk of asthma, allergies and infections – new mothers who struggle to stop drinking while breastfeeding should receive extra support to quit.


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He said, Egbogu, “What we advise is that they should abstain from alcohol. That is the baseline. Normally, if a woman has not been taking alcohol, she will most likely not take it during pregnancy. So, you have a situation where most women may have been taking alcohol before getting pregnant.

“Alcohol affects every organ of the baby and might lead to a baby having a small head – microcephaly. It affects the heart, kidney, and liver of the baby.”

Mayo Clinic, an online health portal in an article published on its website noted that breastfed babies that are exposed to one drink a day might have impaired motor development and that alcohol could cause changes in their sleep patterns.

“Also, while folklore says that drinking alcohol improves milk production, studies show that alcohol actually decreases milk production and that the presence of alcohol in breast milk causes babies to drink about 20 per cent less breast milk.

“If you choose to drink, avoid breastfeeding until the alcohol has completely cleared from your breast milk. If you plan to drink alcohol, consider having a drink just after breastfeeding so that the alcohol begins to clear from your breast milk during the natural interval between breastfeeding sessions.

“Remember, breastfeeding is the optimal way to feed a newborn and is recommended until a baby is at least of age. If you choose to drink, plan carefully to avoid exposing your baby to alcohol”, Mayo Clinic stated.

Meanwhile, in research carried out by the University of California – Riverside and published in ScienceDaily, it was found that infants’ exposure to alcohol through breast milk could have long-lasting effects on their brain and behavioural development.

According to the researchers, the reduction of body and brain weights may be explained by the gut’s inability to efficiently extract nutrients when alcohol is ingested.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise against maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and states that there is no known safe level of consumption.

Led by Kelly Huffman, a professor of Psychology at the university, the team said specifically, young mice that were exposed to alcohol during early development showed smaller body and brain growth, as well as decreased cortical lengths — a measure of brain size.

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