Acute Alcohol Consumption Disrupts the Hormonal Milieu of Lactating Women

Monell Chemical Senses Center, 3500 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-3308, USA.
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (Impact Factor: 6.21). 05/2005; 90(4):1979-85. DOI: 10.1210/jc.2004-1593
Source: PubMed


Despite the lack of scientific evidence to support the claim that alcohol is a galactagogue, lactating women have been advised to drink alcohol as an aid to lactation for centuries. To test the hypothesis that alcohol consumption affects the hormonal response in lactating women, we conducted a within-subjects design study in which 17 women consumed a 0.4 g/kg dose of alcohol in orange juice during one test session and an equal volume of orange juice during the other. Changes in plasma prolactin, oxytocin, and cortisol levels during and after breast stimulation, lactational performance, and mood states were compared under the two experimental conditions. Oxytocin levels significantly decreased, whereas prolactin levels and measures of sedation, dysphoria, and drunkenness significantly increased, during the immediate hours after alcohol consumption. Changes in oxytocin were related to measures of lactational performance such as milk yield and ejection latencies, whereas changes in prolactin were related to self-reported measures of drunkenness. Although alcohol consumption resulted in significantly higher cortisol when compared with the control condition, cortisol levels were not significantly correlated with any of the indices of lactational performance or self-reported drug effects. Moreover, cortisol levels steadily decreased on the control day, indicating that the procedures were not stressful to the subjects. In conclusion, recommending alcohol as an aid to lactation may be counterproductive. In the short term, mothers may be more relaxed, but the hormonal milieu underlying lactational performance is disrupted, and, in turn, the infant's milk supply is diminished.

Download full-text


Available from: Julie A. Mennella, Oct 21, 2014
  • Source
    • "Following parturition, endocrine events that sustain lactation are triggered by suckling. Breast stimulation (by an infant or a breast pump) causes transient release of the hormones necessary to produce and eject milk (Mennella et al., 2005; Lucas et al., 1980; Noel et al., 1974; Pang and Hartmann, 2007). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Prior research revealed that breast stimulation altered the way the lactating body handles alcohol. Its effects depended upon when it occurred relative to drinking. The goal of the present study was to determine whether breast pumping works independently of the physiological and metabolic changes that accompany lactation. To this end, we tested 12 women when they were exclusively breastfeeding 3-5-month-old infants and then again several months after lactation had ceased. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of two groups that differed in the timing of breast pumping relative to drinking a 0.4g/kg dose of alcohol: one group breast pumped 0.6h after drinking (pumped after group) and the other pumped 1h before drinking (pumped before group). For each reproductive stage, subjects were tested on 2 separate days, consuming a standardized meal 1 h before drinking during 1 test day and remaining fasted during the other. Breath alcohol concentrations (BrAC) and temperature readings were obtained before and at fixed intervals after drinking. Pumping before drinking significantly decreased BrAC during both reproductive stages, whereas pumping after drinking resulted in different BrAC time curves during lactation when compared with after lactation. That is, levels were significantly lower during the descending phase of the time curve during than after lactation. The interactions between pumping and reproductive stage were most apparent during fed condition. Furthermore, women were more sensitive to hypothermic effects of both fasting and drinking alcohol during lactation. These findings add to the growing literature that lactating women metabolize alcohol differently, in part, due to the frequent breast stimulation during breastfeeding and the pronounced physiological changes that accompany one of the most energetically costly mammalian activities.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2010 · Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.)
  • Source
    • "Breastfeeding was one of the five areas emphasized in the State of the Science Report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism on the health risks and potential benefits of moderate drinking (Gunzerath et al. 2004). Although low to moderate drinking has been viewed by many cultures as an aid to lactation (Mennella, 2002; Pepino and Mennella, 2004), the present findings add to the growing body of scientific literature that refutes the folklore that alcohol is a galactagogue (Mennella, 1998; Mennella, 2004; Mennella and Beauchamp, 1991; Mennella and Beauchamp, 1993; Pepino and Mennella, 2004; Mennella et al., 2005; Chien et al., 2008). Drinking a moderate dose of alcohol modified the dynamic PRL response to breast pumping for several hours. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Contrary to the popular lore that encourages women to drink alcohol as an aid to lactation, we previously showed that alcohol consumption disrupted lactational performance and the hormonal milieu of the lactating mother in the short term. Thirteen lactating women participated in a 4-session, double-blind, 2 x 2 within-subject study to test several hypotheses related to the effects of alcohol on prolactin (PRL) responses and milk yield over time. The two within-subject factors were beverage condition (control or 0.4 g/kg dose of alcohol) and pumping condition (pumping occurred at fixed intervals once or twice during the 5.3-hour session). Plasma PRL, blood alcohol concentrations (BAC), and milk yield were measured. Alcohol consumption increased basal PRL levels (p < 0.0001) and modified the PRL response to pumping (p < 0.0001) but the directionality of the response depended on when pumping occurred along the BAC curve. Pumping enhanced PRL response when it occurred during the ascending BAC limb but blunted the response when it occurred during the descending limb, providing evidence that the effects were transient and of a biphasic nature. The slower the alcohol was metabolized, the greater the relative PRL response to breast pumping (p < 0.05). The dynamics of the PRL response between pumping sessions was also altered if women drank. If women pumped within the hour after drinking alcohol, the PRL response during the next pumping some 1.5 hours later, was delayed by a few minutes. Milk yield was significantly lower after drinking alcohol but such deficits were not significantly related to PRL or the speed at which alcohol was eliminated. Effects of alcohol on suckling-induced PRL were biphasic in nature, but could not explain the deficits in lactational performance. Such findings provide further evidence that the dynamic changes in neuroendocrine state are integrally involved in alcohol's effects over time and underscore the complexity of lactation.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2008 · Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research
  • Source
    • "Like children whose parents drink to escape from their dysphoric mood , children whose mothers smoke to reduce mood disturbance may be learning that their parents tend to smoke during negative rather than positive social situations . Whether the emotional response to the scent of alcohol ( or tobacco ; Forestell & Mennella , 2005 ) condi - tioned during early childhood persists or can explain behaviors during adolescence ( see Varlinskaya and Spear , 2006a ) and beyond is an important area for future research . "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: As has been repeatedly demonstrated, alcohol can exert deleterious morphological and physiological effects during early stages in development. The present review examines nonteratological links existing between alcohol and ontogeny. Human and animal studies are taken into consideration for the analysis of fetal, neonatal, infantile, adolescent, and adult responsiveness to the drug. Sensitivity to alcohol's chemosensory and postabsorptive properties, as well as learning and memory processes mediated by such properties, are examined from this developmental perspective. The studies under discussion indicate that, within each stage in development, we can trace alcohol-related experiences capable of determining or modulating alcohol seeking and intake patterns.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2007 · Developmental Psychobiology
Show more