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Swedish nurses oppose breast feeding alcohol guidelines

Swedish nurses oppose breast feeding alcohol guidelines

Published: 10 Nov 2008 12:32 GMT+01:00
Updated: 10 Nov 2008 12:32 GMT+01:00

Swedish midwives and nurses continue to advise new mothers to abstain from alcohol when breast feeding, despite new guidelines saying that consuming alcohol in small quantities has no adverse effects.

Earlier this year, Sweden’s National Food Administration (Livsmedelsverket) revised its guidelines regarding women’s alcohol consumption when breast feeding.

"If consumption is moderate - one or two glasses every now and again - there is no evidence to suggest that the child is at risk," Umeå University pediatrics professor Olle Hernell told Sveriges Television at the time.

But Sveriges Radio reports that a new survey it recently conducted shows that eight of ten nurses still recommend a zero-tolerance alcohol policy for breast feeding mothers.

The study also revealed that many midwives and nurses remain highly critical of the Food Administration’s guidelines.

“I think it’s unfortunate that they’ve come up with this formulation,” said one respondent from Sölvesborg in southern Sweden to Sveriges Radio’s survey.

Others were concerned about how parents might interpret the guidance.

“If it’s OK to drink a little, that can become a little more,” wrote a respondent from Uppsala in central Sweden.

“It allows parents to interpret it as if it’s totally fine,” was the response of another nurse from Borås in the west of the country.

Of the 500 nurses and midwives who responded to the Sveriges Radio survey, 80 percent said they continue recommend total abstention from alcohol for women who are currently breast feeding or plan on breast feeding.

While most survey respondents said they usually mention the Food Administration’s perspective on alcohol and breast feeding, some nurses said they choose not to make reference to the recommendations unless they are asked directly, something which upset some mothers.

“They should present all the facts and not take mothers to be idiots. Mothers are capable of collecting facts and then using sound reasoning,” said mother Anna-Marta Antti from Luleå in northern Sweden to Sveriges Radio.

According to the National Food Administration website, alcohol “does not have positive effects for breast feeding”.

However, the guidelines continue as follows:

“However, according to current research, there are no medical risks for children if you drink modest amounts of alcohol when you breast feed, in other words one to two glasses of wine or the equivalent of one or two times per week. The amount of alcohol that children can ingest through breast milk is very small.”

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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