It is a popular belief amongst many Cameroonians that beer consumption increases the production of breastmilk but an indepth research proves that this is not true.
Caroline Piret, a Lactation Consultant and Founder and Director of ViAllaite Cameroon explains that beer is alcohol which passes through the blood into the breastmilk.
“When a breastfeeding mother consumes alcohol, the baby will in turn get a small amount of the alcohol and it will make the baby sleep a lot. A baby who sleeps a lot will not feed well.”
She adds that her team has found out that babies are malnourished in communities where women take a lot of alcohol given that they sleep a lot and breastfeed less. This leads to a drop in the mother’s milk production.
The Lactation Consultant also says alcohol may equally slow down the breastfeeding mother’s letdown reflex, leading to less milk production.
“A baby’s brain develops between 0 and 2 years; if the brain gets alcohol, it will have developmental problems. If a breastfeeding Mum takes some alcohol during a party for instance, she has to wait about three hours at least before breastfeeding so that the amount of alcohol in her milk should drop,” Caroline Piret explains.
Dr Adidja Amani, Public Health Specialist in Paediatric Nutrition and Founder of the International Breastfeeding Foundation is of the same opinion. “Firstly, when a woman takes alcohol during breastfeeding, it takes about 30 to 60 minutes to get into the breastmilk, and when the baby consumes it, about 3 per cent gets into the baby, forcing the baby to sleep. The woman may feel like her milk was enough, that is why her baby is full and sleeping but the baby is sleeping because he/she is drunk.”
The Doctor explains that the more the baby sleeps, the less the mother feeds her baby, resulting to a drop in milk production.
Caroline Piret further says given that alcohol relaxes and breastfeeding mothers need to relax in order to have a good letdown, this has misled such women into thinking that alcohol boosts their milk production.
How to Boost Breastmilk Production
Both health experts have proposed practical guidelines to increase breastmilk production.
Dr Adidja Amani states, “The secret with breastfeeding is that the more you give out, the more it replenishes. When the breast is empty, there are hormones that tell your brain to produce more. It is like a tank that does not stay empty. Feed your baby as frequently as the baby demands. Do not restrict.”
Caroline Piret confirms this. ” It is also important for the mother to put her baby on the breast regularly without spacing out feedings for more than than 3 or 4 hours because the more she spaces out, the more the body understands that it has to produce less milk.”
She equally insists on boosting milk production through adequate rest. “For a mother to have good and improved milk production, she has to get enough rest because a very tired breastfeeding mother will not produce enough milk.”
She also recommends that breastfeeding mothers drink lots of water especially in temperate zones like Cameroon.
According to Dr Adidja Amani more than 90 per cent of breastmilk contains water. Consequently, a breastfeeding mother cannot produce enough milk if she does not drink enough water. She adds, “A mother who breastfeeds well should always be thirsty.”
The baby also has to be well latched unto the breast to stimulate milk production.
Caroline Piret cautions mothers against the early use of feeding bottles because the baby may get used to the feeding bottle nipple and not be able to have a good latch on the breast. This will lead to poor stimulation and decreased milk production.
The medics insist that exclusive breastfeeding for six months is important, otherwise the baby may loss appetite for breastmilk , and the mother’s milk production will drop because production depends on demand.
Although some mothers see breastfeeding at night as a burden, Dr Adidja Amani recommends night feeding as a way to boost breastmilk production.
“The hormones, prolactin and oxytocin, working with the brain to produce breastmilk are at their peak at night, so it is good to breastfeed at least two or three times at night,” she explains.
As for mothers whose milk does not flow immediately after birth, the medics recommend skin to skin breastfeeding.
“Put on just a diaper or napkin on your baby, hold him/her against your body and breastfeed,” Caroline Piret says.
Though studies are not clear on this, some doctors recommend drinking liquids made of malt like ovaltine to boost breastmilk production.
From these scientifically proven arguments, it is clear that beer DOES NOT boost breastmilk production. It may only assist in relaxing, one of the requirements necessary for boosting breastmilk production.
Conclusively, consuming a lot of beer during breastfeeding has far-reaching negative consequences on the breastfeeding baby.
Eleanor Ayuketah Ngochi