Need to tackle misinformation about alcohol and breastfeeding

Need to tackle misinformation about alcohol and breastfeeding

According to a Kantar Public study commissioned by Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

The study of women who were breastfeeding or had recently breastfed (within the past two years) and habitually drank alcohol (when not pregnant or breastfeeding), found that:

  • 67% felt they did not fully understand the risks of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding
  • 65% were unaware of the National Council of Health and Medical Research alcohol guidelines for breastfeeding women
  • 93% of women who drank alcohol while breastfeeding used a harm minimization strategy; however, many were using ineffective harm minimization strategies.

The research highlights the need for more information about alcohol and breastfeeding, said Caterina Giorgi, CEO of FARE.

“There are a lot of mixed messages about alcohol and breastfeeding. Clear messages are needed on how to ensure that breastmilk is alcohol-free.

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines for Reducing the Health Risks of Alcohol Consumption (the Guidelines) state that for breastfeeding women, not drinking alcohol is the safest for their baby.

“Alcohol consumption while breastfeeding can disrupt a baby’s sleep and lead to feeding difficulties due to reduced milk supply and changes in milk flow.

“The brains of developing infants are also more vulnerable to alcohol than adults. Alcohol in breast milk has been associated with reductions in verbal IQ, decreased cognitive abilities and slowed growth.

“If you drink alcohol while breastfeeding, the most effective strategies to ensure your breast milk is alcohol-free are to wait two hours per standard drink before feeding your baby, use the Feed app Safe or expressing your milk before drinking so your baby can be bottle fed,” Giorgi said.

She added that women may not know that if there’s alcohol in your blood, it’s also in your milk.

“The only way to remove alcohol from breast milk is to wait for your body to process the alcohol, which takes an average of two hours per standard drink.”

FARE has launched a new resource on alcohol and breastfeeding, which will be distributed online and to more than 200,000 expectant parents via Bounty Bags.

The resource, Giorgi said, is based on the guidelines, provides factual information about alcohol and breastfeeding, and also outlines harm minimization strategies, alcohol and pregnancy information and links to support services.

It was developed as part of the Every moment counts campaign, a national project sharing the latest medical advice on the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, with support from healthcare professionals and communities across Australia. Every Moment Matters is endorsed and funded by the Australian Government.

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