Alcohol Exposure Via Breastmilk May Affect Infant Development

Exposure to alcohol through breastmilk linked to reduction in cognitive ability at age 6 to 7 years.
Exposure to alcohol through breastmilk linked to reduction in cognitive ability at age 6 to 7 years.

HealthDay News — Exposing infants to alcohol through breastfeeding may reduce their cognitive ability at age 6 to 7 years, according to a study published online July 30 in Pediatrics.

Louisa Gibson and Melanie Porter, PhD, from Macquarie University in Sydney, and colleagues sourced data from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Data were included from 5,107 Australian infants recruited in 2004 and assessed every 2 years. Relationships between the drinking and smoking habits of breastfeeding mothers and children's Matrix Reasoning, Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Third Edition, and Who Am I? scores at later waves were assessed. 

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The researchers found that in children who had been breastfed, there was a correlation for increased or riskier wave 1 maternal alcohol consumption with reductions in Matrix Reasoning scores at age 6 to 7. In infants who had never breastfed, this relationship was not evident. There was no correlation for smoking during lactation with any outcome variable.

"Exposing infants to alcohol through breastmilk may cause dose-dependent reductions in their cognitive abilities. This reduction was observed at age 6 to 7 years but was not sustained at age 10 to 11 years," the authors write. "Although the relationship is small, it may be clinically significant when mothers consume alcohol regularly or binge drink."

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