New research reveals reassuring information on alcohol and breastfeeding

Woman breastfeeding baby

A new study suggests that a mindful approach to drinking alcohol by breastfeeding mums is ensuring their babies are thriving.

Cheers?

The study – by the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), UNSW and Deakin University’s Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development – examined data from more than 1600 mums in the Triple B Pregnancy Cohort.

Researchers were aiming to find out a little more about what’s safest for babies and best for mums when it comes to the odd glass of wine while breastfeeding. They found mindful “low-level drinking” did not seem to impact harmfully on breastfed babies, suggesting this is mostly because mums are carefully following guidelines that help minimise the transfer of alcohol to their babies via breastmilk.

Good one, mums!

Careful approach

The results of the study were released at this week’s APSAD Scientific Alcohol and other Drugs Conference in Melbourne and they make for interesting reading – and perhaps offer a welcome pat on the back for breastfeeding women.

“This Australian study shows, for the first time, that low level drinking during breastfeeding is not linked to negative impacts on infants up to 12 months of age,” lead researcher Delyse Hutchinson, Senior Research Fellow at Deakin University said.

“Whilst lactating women are drinking, intake levels are typically quite low,” Delyse Hutchinson said in an APSAD-released statement, “and most women use multiple strategies to minimise alcohol being passed on to infants. The results suggest that these strategies are likely to be effective in preventing potential harm to infants.”

Mindful consumption

This information may provide reassurance for breastfeeding mums who have the occasional glass of wine – and then feel incredibly anxious about it – but isn’t a green light for regular or heavy drinking.

“Whilst this study certainly does not in any way condone excessive alcohol consumption in new mums, it does suggest that those that have the occasional drink whilst using strategies to prevent alcohol reaching the infant, can do so without fear of causing harm,” she said.

“The concentration of alcohol in your blood is the concentration of alcohol in your milk,” The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) confirms.  “Alcohol gets into your breastmilk from your blood, moving freely from the blood to the breastmilk (and back out again).”

Safety first

Mums are encouraged to continue following safe feeding guidelines if drinking whilst breastfeeding, as the research suggests these mindful strategies are providing excellent outcomes for women and children.

“As a general rule, it takes two hours for an average woman to get rid of the alcohol from one standard alcoholic drink and therefore four hours for two drinks, six hours for three drinks and so on. The time is taken from the start of drinking,” the ABA says

The ABA suggests planning ahead and consulting the Feed Safe app to prevent the transfer of alcohol between mum and bub.

We look forward to further detailed research on this important issue, and encourage mums to follow the ABA guidelines on drinking while breastfeeding.

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