Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mother's Milk

Once upon a time, before the innovation of infant formula, there was only one way to feed your newborn and that was with breast milk; Mother Nature’s invention. My Grandmother told a story of having trouble producing milk with her second child. Her doctor instructed her to go home and ask her husband to make beer in the bathtub. This surprised her, particularly since it was during prohibition. She had heard of bathtub gin but not bathtub beer. Even though she was a “teetotaler”, she followed doctor’s orders without question, succumbing to the home crafted bathtub beer remedy as prescribed. Curious, what could be the rationale behind such professional advice?

Beer has several components that support breastfeeding from the production of milk to the release and let-down. There is a debate over the introduction of alcohol into the bloodstream, which with beer, is minimal once metabolized through the Mother’s system then digested by the baby. Certainly, the consumption of alcohol by a nursing Mother is not promoted, however; the myths are dispelled by LaLeche League International. Home testing kits are available to measure the alcoholic content in breast milk if one subscribes to the “pump and dump” technique.

The grains, barley and hops, in beer have biochemical properties promoting milk production, making non-alcoholic beer an excellent alternative as noted by Berthold Koletzko* and 1Frauke Lehner


Div. Metabolic Diseases and Nutrition, Dr. von Haunersches Kinderspital, University of Munich, Germany


“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.”


Hops is a grain present in beer that creates a relaxing and slightly sedative effect. From the genus cannibus, hops is an effective nervine, promoting sleep. Hops has been used medicinally for centuries throughout Europe, to treat these as well as several other conditions.


Barley is an ancient grain that has algaecide properties and contains all eight essential amino acids. It is high in other nutrients as well. It has been used for many years to increase production of breast milk. This is why beer, with its’ proposed ingredients, is a natural choice for Mother’s who are breastfeeding.

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