While it is common knowledge that no amount of alcohol consumption is safe during pregnancy, the jury is still out on whether alcoholic beverages should be banned for breast-feeding moms. While some believe it has been proven safe by beer-drinking mothers over many generations and may even increase milk production, others strongly disagree. Some even feel it is their duty to call the police when they see a breast-feeding mother drinking.
One such woman, Jackie Conners of Conway, Ark., spoke up about what she saw as a situation of child endangerment through breast-feeding. A waitress at Gusano’s Restaurant, Conners witnessed a customer in the restaurant breast-feeding her infant while she appeared to be inebriating while drinking what appeared to be mixed drinks: “… looked like Long Islands, but regardless if it was that or not, then it was strong liquor that was in those glasses.”
A mother herself, Conners took the matter seriously and though she was not on the clock at the time, she informed management of the situation. As it is typically the bartender who should decide which customers are banned from alcoholic beverage consumption, the manager informed Conners they had already decided not to cut off the breast-feeding mom from drinking.
Unsatisfied and still preoccupied, Conners decided to involve the law. The decision ended up costing her job and Conners was fired just a week later. “No one else was doing anything. Even if I knew my job was on the line… I would still do it again,” Conner says.
According to the mother in question, 28-year-old mother of three Tasha Adams, was only drinking beer and had only consumed two over the course of a few hours along with pizza and spinach dip. When confronted by the police, Adams simply stated she did not know it was illegal to drink alcoholic beverages while breast-feeding and admitted to having two drinks. Though there is no specific law in Arkansas against breast-feeding mothers drinking alcohol, the officers decided to arrest Adams for child endangerment.
Adams’ primary concern was being separated from her six-month-old baby, so she asked police if she could bring the baby with her. The officers declined and said she had to call a sober family member to come pick up her infant. Adams remains adamant that she was sober enough to take care of her child and said she wished the police would have given her a Breathalyzer test so she could prove her sobriety. Unfortunately, that is only an option for suspected drunken drivers, though Deputy City Attorney Chuck Clawson ended up dropping the charges against Adams.
Was Conners right to report Adams for drinking while breast-feeding, and more importantly, should there be laws in place to ban what Adams did? According to those who have tested the amount of alcohol in breast milk, it should only be banned if it were also illegal to give babies other beverages containing similar quantities of alcohol, such as orange juice.
One such study on the forensic toxicology of breast milk tested the alcohol content of one woman’s milk immediately after drinking a mixed drink, at two hours, and again at three hours after consumption. The sample taken immediately after consumption had the equivalent of a 0.0274 proof beverage, which would be comparable to mixing a single one ounce shot of vodka with over 70 liters of mixer (2919 oz.). The percentage continued to drop over time until it was undetectable at three hours after consumption.
But even if they are not banned, breast-feeding mothers should not order alcoholic beverages just yet. A study conducted back in 1989 found that even these minuscule amounts may be enough to cause developmental damage. When analyzing alcohol consumption during breast-feeding in relation to the infant’s development at one year of age, researchers found a significant drop in motor development in those who had been regularly exposed to alcohol in their mother’s milk. Though there were no significant differences in mental development, the researchers concluded the motor development differences of infants whose mothers consumed alcoholic beverages daily while breast-feeding were enough to cause a slight but significant detrimental effect.
By Mimi Mudd