Study in PEDIATRICS: Drinking or Smoking While Breastfeeding and Later Cognition in Children

Reference: Louisa Gibson, Melanie Porter. Drinking or Smoking While Breastfeeding and Later Cognition in Children. Pediatrics, Aug 2018, 142 (2) e20174266;

DOI: 10.1542/peds.2017-4266

METHODS: Data were sourced from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Participants were 5107 Australian infants recruited in 2004 and assessed every 2 years. Multivariable linear regression analyses assessed relationships between drinking and smoking habits of breastfeeding mothers and children’s Matrix Reasoning, Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test–Third Edition and Who Am I? scores at later waves.

RESULTS: Increased or riskier wave 1 maternal alcohol consumption was associated with reductions in Matrix Reasoning scores at age 6 to 7 years in children who had been breastfed (B = −0.11; SE = 0.03; 95% confidence interval: −0.18 to −0.04; P = .01). This relationship was not evident in infants who had never breastfed (B = −0.02; SE = 0.10; 95% confidence interval = −0.20 to 0.17; P = .87). Smoking during lactation was not associated with any outcome variable.

CONCLUSIONS: Exposing infants to alcohol through breastmilk may cause dose-dependent reductions in their cognitive abilities. This reduction was observed at age 6 to 7 years but was not sustained at age 10 to 11 years. Although the relationship is small, it may be clinically significant when mothers consume alcohol regularly or binge drink. Further analyses will assess relationships between alcohol consumption or tobacco smoking during lactation and academic, developmental, physical, and behavioral outcomes in children.

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Accompanying commentary: Maternal Alcohol Use During Lactation and Child Development