Alcohol and Breastfeeding

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. 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. Primary health care providers need to have discussions with women about the effects of consuming alcohol during the lactation period to enable women to make informed decisions about their alcohol use during this time.

Women are advised to follow the evidence-based recommendations in Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, when not pregnant, pregnant, or in the lactation period, for their own health as well as for fetal and child health. 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 is summarized in the issue paper: Alcohol and Breastfeeding. This paper summarizes the available evidence on the potential risks of alcohol use while breastfeeding on infant and child health. It includes a link to a brochure which provides information for future parents about the risks associated with alcohol use while breastfeeding, and places to get help. It is hoped such materials will help them to make an informed choice when it comes to drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.

New mothers and health care providers need accurate information about the effects of alcohol intake while breastfeeding. Given the lack of evidence about the potential health effects, it is safest not to drink alcohol when breastfeeding.