CanFASD Issue Paper: Alcohol and Breastfeeding


Key Messages

New mothers and health care providers need accurate information about the effects of alcohol intake while breastfeeding. This issue paper summarizes what is known about the effects of alcohol use on lactation, as well as the impact of alcohol use while breastfeeding on infant and child health.

Issue: Prenatal alcohol exposure can result in a range of complex physical, mental, and behavioural disabilities, collectively known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Although alcohol exposure through the consumption of breast milk does not cause FASD, there is some evidence to indicate that it can negatively affect infant and child development.

The purpose of this issue paper is to summarize the available evidence on the potential risks of alcohol use while breastfeeding on infant and child health.

Background: Historically, alcohol consumption was encouraged during breastfeeding as it was seen to help women relax, promote lactation (i.e., the secretion of milk) and letdown (i.e., the release of milk from the breast), as well as enhance infant sleep. However, in recent years, the advice about alcohol use when breastfeeding has changed because of the increased understanding regarding how alcohol passes into breast milk, as well as concern for potential adverse effects on infant and child development.

However, research on alcohol use while breastfeeding is still limited. Existing research has focused on both the effects of alcohol on lactation, and on the short– and long–term effects of alcohol exposure via breastmilk on the infant.

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Click here to download the CanFASD Issue Paper.

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