Alcohol, pregnancy and breastfeeding

Alcohol and pregnancy

Heavy drinking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and perinatal death. It may also cause foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the unborn baby, a condition leading to developmental defects, which can range from less to more serious. After birth, the babies of alcohol dependent mothers can suffer withdrawal symptoms, including tremors, irritability and fits. The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council suggests that there is no safe level of drinking during pregnancy, and that, if possible, a pregnant woman (or a woman planning a pregnancy) should not drink at all. However, low levels of drinking appear to carry a correspondingly low risk.

Alcohol and breastfeeding

Alcohol in the mother's bloodstream passes into breast milk. It can reduce the milk supply, and can cause irritability, poor feeding, sleep disturbance, and poor psychomotor development in the baby. As breastfeeding has many advantages for a young baby, it is recommended that a mother who does choose to drink should continue to breastfeed her baby, but keep her alcohol consumption to a low level, not drink before feeding the baby, and not drink at all until the baby is one month old. Expressing milk before drinking may be an option.

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