Breast pumping and lactational state exert differential effects on ethanol pharmacokinetics

Julie A. Mennella, M. Yanina Pepino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research revealed that breast stimulation altered the way the lactating body handles alcohol. Its effects depended upon when it occurred relative to drinking. The goal of the present study was to determine whether breast pumping works independently of the physiological and metabolic changes that accompany lactation. To this end, we tested 12 women when they were exclusively breastfeeding 3-5-month-old infants and then again several months after lactation had ceased. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of two groups that differed in the timing of breast pumping relative to drinking a 0.4 g/kg dose of alcohol: one group breast pumped 0.6 h after drinking (pumped after group) and the other pumped 1 h before drinking (pumped before group). For each reproductive stage, subjects were tested on 2 separate days, consuming a standardized meal 1 h before drinking during 1 test day and remaining fasted during the other. Breath alcohol concentrations (BrAC) and temperature readings were obtained before and at fixed intervals after drinking. Pumping before drinking significantly decreased BrAC during both reproductive stages, whereas pumping after drinking resulted in different BrAC time curves during lactation when compared with after lactation. That is, levels were significantly lower during the descending phase of the time curve during than after lactation. The interactions between pumping and reproductive stage were most apparent during fed condition. Furthermore, women were more sensitive to hypothermic effects of both fasting and drinking alcohol during lactation. These findings add to the growing literature that lactating women metabolize alcohol differently, in part, due to the frequent breast stimulation during breastfeeding and the pronounced physiological changes that accompany one of the most energetically costly mammalian activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-148
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Breastfeeding
  • Lactation
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Temperature
  • Women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Biochemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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