The effects of alcohol in breast milk on infant behavioral state and mother-infant feeding interactions

Pamela Schuetze, Rina Das Eiden, Arthur W.K. Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


The short-term impact of infant exposure to alcohol in breast milk on mother-infant interactions and infant arousal was examined. Fourteen mother-infant dyads were tested on 2 occasions that consisted of an alcohol administration and a nonalcohol condition. Mother-infant interactions during feeding were videotaped and coded for dyadic reciprocity, maternal noncontingency, and dyadic conflict. Infants were observed for 1 hr after receiving either plain breast milk or breast milk containing alcohol. Behavioral state, startles, and tremors were recorded every 30 sec. Mother-infant interactions were characterized by higher noncontingency and dyadic conflict in the alcohol condition. After drinking breast milk containing alcohol, infants changed behavioral state more often, startled more, and spent less time in quiet sleep and more time in quiet alert and crying states. These findings suggest that exposure to breast milk containing alcohol may not have a sedating effect, as commonly believed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-363
Number of pages15
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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