Breastfeeding and Alcohol Drinking


As our awareness of pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal care evolves certain behaviors are viewed less and less favorably. For years the tension between breastfeeding mothers and mothers who prefer formula have gotten heated. Women are taking criticism for breastfeeding in public and yet women are also criticized for feeding straight formula. But what about breastfeeding and alcohol drinking?

Recently, a woman in Arkansas was almost arrested upon breastfeeding her 6-month old baby girl after having had a few drinks. Whether it was two beers or something stronger is unclear at this point.

In the case of the Tasha Adams (the mother), she and her family went out to a restaurant for dinner. Adams then indulged in a drink and proceeded to breastfeed her child. A server in the restaurant witnessed this and decided to call the police. It is important to note that Adams was not unable to care for her child as a result of the drink and was lucid and coherent. When the police arrived they questioned Adams and she confessed to having had a drink. However, it turns out that breastfeeding and alcohol drinking is NOT illegal in Arkansas. Adams admitted that had she known it was illegal she never would have done it. The legality is contingent upon whether or not the mother is still able to take proper care of her child after the alcohol. In this case, Adams was still able to do so. But is legality the only concern in this matter?

Habits of pregnant and breastfeeding women have changed dramatically over the course of the past few decades. There was a time when women drank, smoked and did who knows what during their pregnancy. (Surprising humanity has made it this far, huh?). As medicine and natal research advanced, we have discovered that those habits are not only detrimental but can be fatal to babies. Though this seems completely common sense to us, it wasn’t always. Women now are avoiding lunch meats during pregnancies, hair color and other hair products, even stopping use of nail polish. All this is a result of the fact that babies receive everything from their mothers, whether within the wombs or through breastfeeding. Alcohol drinking and breastfeeding obviously fall within that category.

Women who have indulged in a glass or red wine or a beer every now and again during the course of breastfeeding often subscribe to the 2 hour waiting rule between consumption and breastfeeding. Still, some even pump breast milk prior to drinking to ensure the milk is safe. But what about formula? Women who feed their babies formula only do not have to worry about things such as alcohol or lunch meat or nail polish removers.

However, there are many women who approach the situation on both fronts. Relying on breast milk and opting for formula to ensure the child gets everything he or she needs. This could be the smart solution for women who wish to indulge in the occasional drink during the breastfeeding stage of the child’s development. After all, even trace amount of alcohol are carried through the bloodstream to the child whose natural defenses and immunity are not yet strong enough to process cow’s milk, let alone beer, wine or stronger libations.

The questions for these cases are in grey lines. Where does a parent’s decision to behave as he or she wishes end and the safety of the child begins? How do you weigh the pros and cons of formula vs. natural breast milk and safe breastfeeding habits? Breastfeeding and alcohol drinking has certainly come to the forefront due to this incident and it can be expected that firmer rules, regulations and health advisories will soon be on the rise.

Researched by Atar Kishon


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