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Alcohol In Breast Milk May Lead To Lower Cognition In Kids

woman drinking wine

Most expectant mothers know that drinking while pregnant is a definite no no, but now a new study has been released that is showing that drinking while breastfeeding can actually affect a child's cognitive abilities.

In a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, it was found that children who were exposed to alcohol through breast milk had decreased cognitive abilities by the time they were 6-7 years old.

The study looked at data from the Growing Up Australia study, which followed 5107 Australian infants recruited in 2004. These children were evaluated every two years until the age of 11.

"This is the first study in which associations between alcohol exposure through breast milk and cognition in children are examined," the researchers stated in the report.

Although the decreased cognitive abilities weren't found when the children involved in the study reached the age of 11, Louisa Gibson, who co-authored the study, explained that “doesn’t mean that the child has grown out of it, or that the effects of the mother’s alcohol consumption aren’t there anymore.”

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Credit: iStock / Sasiistock

Gibson stated that the findings of this study gives “pretty good evidence that drinking while breastfeeding does affect the child.”

Many healthcare professionals are echoing the findings of the study, claiming that while it may be safe to consume the occasional alcoholic beverage while breastfeeding, abstaining is the healthiest option.

Dr. Daniel Robinson, assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told the Chicago Tribune that the study “provides more supportive evidence that the early childhood frame, especially during infancy, is critical for brain development.”

“I do think that this study contributes to this notion that how and what we provide to babies — the nutrition we provide them — in that early time frame has long-lasting implications,” he said.

While the study found no direct link between smoking while pregnant and a child's cognition, doctors warn that it doesn't mean it's safe to smoke while breastfeeding.

Dr. Melissa Bartick, an assistant professor of medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study explained to CNN why breastfeeding mothers should refrain from smoking as well as drinking.

"Just because the authors didn't find an issue with smoking doesn't mean mothers should think it's OK to smoke while breastfeeding," Bartick wrote. "Remember, the authors only looked at one thing, cognition, and there are lots of toxins in tobacco smoke, and smoking around children can cause them lots of harm and just having smoke on your clothes can be harmful to the health of others, as well as to the mother. Smoking is not good in any circumstance, for baby or mother."

The CDC recommends abstaining from alcohol if you're breastfeeding, but suggests that moderate alcohol consumption may be relatively safe. It recommends waiting at least two hours after consumption before breastfeeding as alcohol levels are usually highest in breast milk 30-60 minutes after drinking, and can be generally detected in breast milk for about 2-3 hours per drink after it is consumed.

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