Beer and breastfeeding

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2000:478:23-8. doi: 10.1007/0-306-46830-1_2.


Traditional wisdom claims that moderate beer consumption may be beneficial for initiation of breastfeeding and enhancement of breastfeeding success. Here we review the question whether or not there is any scientific basis for this popular belief. There are clear indications that beer can stimulate prolactin secretion which may enhance lactogenesis both in non-lactating humans and in experimental animals. The component in beer responsible for the effect on prolactin secretion is not the alcohol content but apparently a polysaccharide from barley, which explains that the effect on prolactin can also be induced by non-alcoholic beer. No systematic studies are available to evaluate the clinical effects of beer on induction of lactogenesis, and short term studies have shown a reduced breast milk intake by infants after moderate alcohol consumption of their mothers. It is conceivable that relaxing effects of both alcohol and components of hop might also have beneficial effects on lactogenesis is some women, but there is no hard evidence for causal effects. It appears prudent not to generally advocate the regular use of alcoholic drinks during lactation but to rather refer mothers to non-alcoholic beer, even though no adverse effects of an occasional alcoholic drink during lactation have been documented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beer* / adverse effects
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • Folklore
  • Hordeum / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Lactation / drug effects
  • Lactation / physiology*
  • Milk, Human / metabolism
  • Phytotherapy
  • Polysaccharides / administration & dosage*
  • Prolactin / metabolism*
  • Relaxation / physiology


  • Polysaccharides
  • Prolactin