#boozeandboobs series: Alcohol's Effects on Infants/Toddlers

Fourth in our #boozeandboobs series: alcohol’s effect on infants/toddlers.🍺🤱🏻

The available research regarding alcohol’s effect on infants/toddlers when exposed via breastmilk is limited, conflicting, and decades-old (minus a couple newer studies in the last few years). The acute effects in infants - those experienced immediately following exposure - have been documented. 👶🏽 A very small number of studies have looked beyond the infancy stage but even those do not go beyond early childhood. 👧🏾

The available research has demonstrated that alcohol changes the taste and smell of breastmilk, but this doesn’t seem to bother infants. 👶🏻Breastmilk intake decreases temporarily, but that is due to decreased milk production. Infants tend to make up for this by increasing the frequency of nursing sessions later on. One study demonstrated this increased frequency happened 8 to 12 hours after the individual’s last alcoholic beverage. Multiple studies show that infants’ sleep patterns temporarily change in the immediate hours following exposure to alcohol via breastmilk. 😴 One study showed infants have less active sleep (also known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep) in the 4 hours following exposure, but they make up for it in the next 20 hours.❗️Most importantly, mothers who participated in these studies didn’t notice any changes in their infants’ nursing behaviors, sleep patterns, or milk supply.❗️

As far as long-term studies go, NO study has demonstrated lasting changes in an infant’s development from occasional alcohol exposure via breastmilk. 📚 However, some studies have demonstrated developmental delays in infants who are exposed to higher amounts of alcohol via breastmilk for more consistent periods of time. This is one reason heavy and/or chronic drinkers shouldn’t breastfeed.

🥂IN SUMMARY🥂

1️⃣ The available research regarding alcohol’s effect on infants/toddlers when exposed via breastmilk is limited, conflicting, and decades-old (minus a couple newer studies in the last few years).

2️⃣ Alcohol changes the taste and smell of breastmilk, but this doesn’t seem to bother infants.

3️⃣ There are changes in infants’ nursing behaviors and sleep patterns after exposure to alcohol via breastmilk, but the changes are temporary and most individuals won’t notice these changes.

4️⃣ Currently, there are no long-term studies demonstrating lasting changes in an infant’s development due to occasional alcohol exposure via breastmilk.

Stay tuned for the last post, where I conclude this series with a review of guidelines, a summary of what this series has covered, and how to make a decision that best suits you and your family without just believing someone who says you can/cannot drink while lactating. Knowledge is power and now you have it. 👊🏻 🎉

References:

  1. Mennella JA. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Available at: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-3/230-234.htm?fbclid=IwAR2X_G7L7ekwoCnopWgOFkJV014FHQ1_wRUBPUYAK0ZsNd46OCgDAQnFsXo. Accessed August 18, 2019.

  2. Greiner T. Alcohol and breastfeeding, a review of the issues. World Nutrition. 2019;(10):1. DOI: https://doi.org/10.26596/wn.201910163-88

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