Foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a disorder indicated by distinct facial characteristics, growth retardation, and poor intellectual and attention deficit, can occur when mothers drink alcohol heavily during pregnancy.
Researchers at the University of Cape Town in South Africa tested the visual acuity of 131 six-and-a-half month old babies, interviewing each mother to ascertain her alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Twenty-two out of 131 infants met the criteria for being diagnosed with FAS, and their visual acuity was significantly poorer than those without FAS, report the scientists in the October issue of The Journal of Pediatrics .
In addition, it is not just regular alcohol consumption that can do the damage, according to the researchers mothers.
"Half of the infants with low TAC (Teller Acuity Cards) scores who did not meet the criteria for full FAS were born to mothers who reported binge drinking - more than five drinks on one occasion - during pregnancy," report the scientists.
But the authors warned that in-depth, ophthalmologic evaluations of the study infants throughout childhood are necessary, to determine the actual extent of visual abnormalities due to prenatal alcohol exposure.
Recent scientific investigations into maternal nutrition have thrown up a host of positive and negative dietary factors.
Women who eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and protein before pregnancy may lower the risk of having a child who develops leukaemia, suggests a recent study.
While women wanting to boost their babies' cognitive development need to tread a fine line between fish consumption to avoid excess mercury, and enjoying the potential 'brain' benefits of the fatty acid omega-3.
And a mother-to-be, warned scientists recently, should drink no more than three cups of coffee a day on new research that suggests high levels of coffee consumption may be linked to an increased risk of foetal death.