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What are the effects to a nursing baby whose Mother drinks wine every night excessively? What are the behavorial systems of the baby and nutritional effects?

Alcohol is detrimental to both the mother and the infant. Alcohol inhibits the hormonal effects necessary for healthy breast milk production. As a rapidly absorbed drug, alcohol is detectable in the blood within 15 minutes of production and in breast milk shortly afterwards. Peak alcohol levels in milk occur anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending type of alcohol and whether it was taken with food.

Alcohol’s affect on the nursing infant is determined by the quantity consumed, mother’s drinking pattern, and time interval between alcohol consumption and nursing. Even small amounts of alcohol consumed by the mother (1-2 drinks) can be a huge burden for infants because their immature liver cannot metabolize the alcohol burden.

Short term effects of alcohol include documented evidence that it can induce a drunken state in the infant. In addition, alcohol affects infantile sleep and eating patterns – decreasing both sleep time and breast milk consumption.

In terms long-term effects on the baby’s behavioral system and nutritional effects, alcohol is detrimental to both systems. Alcohol has been found to hinder infantile development – babies of alcoholic mothers were smaller in stature and lagged in fine motor skills from their counterparts. Although no detectable effect was found on mental development, alcohol is still highly discouraged as the studies performed were not designed to detect such deficits.

According to the 2007 guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Breastfeeding mothers should avoid the use of alcoholic beverages, because alcohol is concentrated in breast milk and its use can inhibit milk production. An occasional celebratory single, small alcoholic drink is acceptable, but breastfeeding should be avoided for 2 hours after the drink.”

Alcohol abuse in women (more than 7 drinks per week or more than 3 drinks per sitting; serious social complications as a result of drinking; etc.) and especially in nursing mothers is a serious condition and should be evaluated by the primary care physician immediately. The infant should also be evaluated by his/her pediatrician to screen for nutrition deficits and/or developmental delay. Alcohol consumption should be stopped immediately in the nursing mother as it puts into jeopardy both her and her infant’s health and welfare.