While the harmful effects of consuming alcohol during pregnancy are well established, the adverse consequences of alcohol intake while breastfeeding have not been fully evaluated. Prenatal alcohol exposure can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), which describes the range of complex physical, mental, and behavioural disabilities that can occur. Although alcohol exposure through the consumption of breast milk does not cause FASD, it can impact central nervous system development.
Historically, alcohol consumption was encouraged during breastfeeding as a way to help women relax, promote lactation and letdown, as well as enhancing infant sleep. In recent years, most doctors have adopted a more conservative approach, recommending abstinence while breastfeeding since it is now known that alcohol passes easily from the bloodstream of the mother into her breast milk. Research on alcohol use during lactation has focused on three broad areas: the effect of alcohol on lactation; the excretion of alcohol into milk; and the short- and long-term effects of alcohol on the nursing infant.
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