Infants' suckling responses to the flavor of alcohol in mothers' milk

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1997 Jun;21(4):581-5.


Contrary to medical folklore, previous research has demonstrated that alcohol consumption by lactating women diminished milk intake by their infants during breast feeding. To determine whether this decrease in milk consumption was due to the infants responding to the altered flavor of the milk that also resulted, we evaluated the infants' intake and sucking responses to alcohol-flavored human milk outside of the context of breast feeding, thereby separating the changes due to the infants response to the flavor from any other changes that could also result from acute maternal alcohol consumption such as alterations in milk ejection or the composition of milk. The testing procedure consisted of a two-bottle preference test that was composed of four, 60-sec trials in which the mother's milk flavored with alcohol was alternated with the mother's milk alone in an ABBA or BAAB design. Attached to the nipple of each bottle was a transducer that responded to pressure changes produced by the infants' suckling. There was no suppression of sucking or intake in response to the ethanol-flavored milk. Rather, the infants consumed significantly more and sucked more frequently when drinking the alcohol-flavored milk compared with the unaltered milk. That experience with the flavor of alcohol in mothers' milk modified the infants' responses to alcohol flavor is suggested by the relationship between the reported frequency of mothers' drinking during lactation and the infants' rhythm and frequency of sucking when feeding the alcohol-flavored milk. These findings indicate that infants can readily detect the flavor of alcohol in mother's milk but that the decrease in consumption at the breast after maternal alcohol consumption is apparently not due to the infants rejecting the flavor of alcohol in their mothers' milk.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Sucking Behavior / drug effects*
  • Taste / drug effects*
  • Taste / physiology
  • Transducers, Pressure


  • Ethanol