Alcohol Consumption for Breastfeeding Women: Where to for Policy Makers?
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In many cultures and countries alcohol is an integral part of the social lifestyle and cultural celebrations. Once the legitimate age for alcohol consumption is reached there are few reasons for the complete abstinence of alcohol consumption, with the exception of pregnancy. The detrimental effects of alcohol consumption during this time are well documented and policy recommendations are clear in their abstinence message. Based on these directives it is apparent that education campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption antenatally have been effective. Internationally policy direction for alcohol consumption in the postnatal period is unclear and often non-existent despite that postnatal alcohol consumption in lactating women also has the potential to cause harmful effects in the new born infant. Alcohol enters the breastmilk within 30 – 60 minutes after maternal ingestion and if transferred to the infant through the breastmilk can result in immediate changes in sleep-wake patterning behaviours. Research surrounding recommendations for lactating women is limited due to ethical reasons, however with correct timing alcohol consumption during the period of lactation is a possibility. There have been recommendations for caution in consuming alcohol while breastfeeding for some years however these have often not been discreet from the recommendations for pregnancy. Currently alcohol policy differs considerably both internationally and within the same country. Unlike the universal adoption of public health policy for abstinence during pregnancy the implementation of policy for breastfeeding women has been less progressive. It is anticipated that the universal adoption of congruent alcohol policy will help support the safe consumption of alcohol and promote the extended duration of breastfeeding.
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