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Alcohol Health Res World. 1998;22(3):178-84.

Alcohol and the hormonal control of lactation.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, USA.


All mammals produce milk to nourish their young. Milk production (i.e., lactation), which occurs in the mammary glands, is regulated by several hormones, most prominently prolactin and oxytocin. Studies in both humans and laboratory animals have demonstrated that maternal alcohol consumption before and during lactation can interfere with the functions of both of those hormones. Moreover, animal studies found that maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and even earlier in the mother's life can impair mammary gland development. Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy and lactation also can alter the milk's nutrient composition and result in suckling deficits of the offspring. Alcohol (and possibly its breakdown products) can pass from the maternal circulation into the breast milk. The effects of these substances on the infant, however, are still unknown.

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