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Why a tot for the mum may not be so bad for the tot

Press release issued: 3 May 2002

Media release
Why a tot for the mum may not be so bad for the tot

New evidence about the safety of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding indicates that it may not be as harmful to the baby as drinking during pregnancy.

The findings were announced by Professor Ruth Little, from the US National Institutes of Health, who has worked with the Children of the 90s project, also known as ALSPAC (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children). This study, based at the University, has monitored the health and development of over 14,000 children from pregnancy with a 10% sub-sample studied in more depth. A developmental assessment of 915 of these children was carried out.

Of the 915 children, almost all (80%) were breastfed at some point during the first three months after delivery. Drinking alcohol was moderate among mothers, with only 5% reporting that they had two or more drinks a day on average during this period. None of the measures of infant development showed a meaningful decrease among the group whose mothers drank during lactation. The results did not change when smoking, education, mother's age and other important variables were taken into account.

Professor Little explained that the proportion of alcohol that reaches a nursing infant is much smaller than the proportion of alcohol that reaches the fetus when the mother drinks during pregnancy. Drinking whilst pregnant can be harmful, and a previous study of drinking during lactation had also indicated mild developmental effects at one year of age when the mother drank as little as one drink daily during breastfeeding.

The new study does not confirm this finding. This may be because any effect on development is not evident at 18 months, or it may be that the mothers drank too little to affect their infants.

Clearly more research needs to be conducted to clarify the safety of drinking whilst breastfeeding. Until such a time, the researchers encourage women to avoid more than a small amount of alcohol - say, less than a glass of wine or half a pint of beer a day - whilst pregnant and when breastfeeding their baby in order to give them the best start in life.

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Copyright: 2001 The University of Bristol, UK
Updated: Friday, 03-May-2002 09:13:33 BST

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