Home > Alcohol consumption in pregnancy and its implications for breastfeeding.

Dunney, Clare and Muldoon, Kathryn and Murphy, Deirdre J (2015) Alcohol consumption in pregnancy and its implications for breastfeeding. British Journal of Midwifery, 23, (2), pp. 126-134.

Background: Current advice to women in Ireland is to abstain from alcohol when pregnant or breastfeeding. This study aims to establish whether women embrace this advice when pregnant and if there is a need for additional midwifery-led education in relation to alcohol consumption and breastfeeding.


Methods: A cohort study of 907 women who booked for antenatal care and to give birth in a large maternity hospital in Dublin, was undertaken from 2010–2011. Eligible women completed an interview at the first visit, a postal questionnaire during the third trimester of pregnancy, and were followed-up until the birth and discharge.


Results: During pregnancy women who planned to exclusively breastfeed continued to consume alcohol at a rate similar to those who did not plan to breastfeed (30.2% compared with 27.5%; (OR 1.13; 95% CI; 0.84–1.53). Consuming alcohol was associated with older maternal age, Irish nationality and private health care. Intention to exclusively breastfeed was associated with socioeconomic group, non-Irish nationality and private health care. The findings at follow-up were similar to the first set of results with almost a third of women who consumed alcohol in pregnancy exclusively breastfeeding at the time of hospital discharge; (OR 1.28; 95% CI, 0.95–1.73)


Conclusions: Many women who plan to breastfeed continue to consume alcohol in pregnancy despite national and international guidelines that recommend abstention. There may be opportunities in the antenatal period to influence behavioural change in relation to breastfeeding and alcohol consumption.

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