Early exposure to alcohol is believed to enhance the risk of alcohol use and/or abuse later in life. A study in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research examines the acceptance of alcohol by infant rats, finding that they are eager to ingest large amounts of highly concentrated alcohol during a short time period, resulting in extremely high concentrations of alcohol in the blood.
"There are numerous avenues for very early alcohol exposure, some depending upon culture," said Norman E. Spear, Distinguished Professor of psychology at Binghamton University and the study's corresponding author. "One way is through the milk of a breastfeeding mother who has consumed alcohol; this is likely since more than half of the pediatricians in the country tell their patients that breastfeeding may be facilitated by consuming alcohol beforehand. It is also common in some parts of Latin America, for example, to place a cotton ball soaked with alcohol on the stomach of a fussy infant, which brings relief in the presence of alcohol's odor, perhaps making it more attractive, and also results in some alcohol intake through inhalation or the skin. Alcohol is also given medicinally to infants in some cultures, placed in the fussy infant's bottle. In addition, exposure to alcohol's odor is likely when parents drink; it is known that this makes alcohol's odor more or less attractive to these children, depending on the circumstances of the drinking. The danger in all of this is that exposure to alcohol early in life may increase its attractiveness and l