Drinking and breastfeeding

by Walter Olson on July 7, 2009

A North Dakota woman has pleaded guilty to child neglect and faces a possible five years in prison. But was the baby endangered? [AP/Austin American-Statesman via DRJ/Patterico] More: Deputy Headmistress (citing work of Thomas Hale); Wilfred Laurier University Press.

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The Curious Lactivist's Blog
07.13.09 at 11:50 am

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1 Amy Alkon 07.07.09 at 8:49 pm

Either the alcohol is or isn’t passed on to the baby while breastfeeding. If there’s no science on this, the woman has been convicted based on speculation, fueled by antipathy to drinking and being drunk. I’m not a fan of drunks but whether drunk mothers endanger their babies certainly wasn’t laid out in that article.

2 BG 07.07.09 at 11:24 pm

Having been a member of LLL there is a difference between recommended and permissible. I doubt this child was in danger due to breastfeeding but it’s quite likely that if the mother is an alcoholic there could be a case made for neglect.

The standard text to consult on drugs and breastfeeding is pharmacologist Dr. Thomas Hale’s Medications and Mothers’ Milk which he updates every 2 years. I gave my copy to our GP so can’t look up anything about alcohol in it but I do know it is there.

3 Bob Lipton 07.08.09 at 8:12 am

I have issues with the assumption that if the mother is a drunk she is negligent. Negligence should be proven by a series of actions or inactions. Drunkenness might explain the the negligence, but is not inherently the negligence.

Bob

4 William Nuesslein 07.09.09 at 7:46 am

The article referenced above seems to confuse blood and milk. Obviously mother’s milk is made before nursing, that is why women have breasts. Nutrition of a fetus comes from Mother’s blood, and alcohol can be passed directly. How well does the mammary gland process alcohol?

Carry for children is a lot of work and we, as a society, should help women keep there fertility in line with their capacity to cope. My mother and her siblings were raised in foster homes because my grandmother was too fertile for he abilities. Birth control is absolutely wonderful.

5 Wacky Hermit 07.09.09 at 9:42 am

I’ve read breastfeeding books that advocate a small amount of wine or beer for a high-strung mother, so that she can relax enough for her milk to let down. If Mom’s not relaxed, the milk won’t let down and there are a lot of negative consequences to that. There are healthier ways to relax than to drink, but still… if Mom’s tried everything already and it hasn’t worked, would it be better for her to get mastitis from backed-up mammaries (and have to go on antibiotics that would be passed on to her child, and endure excruciating pain) than to possibly pass a tiny bit of alcohol on to her child? Believe me, I’ve had mastitis, and it’d be a tough choice between that and unmedicated labor (which I’ve also experienced).

6 R 07.10.09 at 10:02 am

It’s unclear how much Anavarina had to drink. Police never conducted a blood-alcohol test. Investigators believed she was drunk, and her arrest on a charge of child abuse and neglect did not require a test.

They didn’t even establish that she was drinking at all- and yet, they got her to plead guilty? This woman really needed a better lawyer!

7 The Mommy Blawger 07.18.09 at 5:35 pm

Alcohol passes into breastmilk in the same concentration as it occurs in the blood. And a moderate amount of alcohol is not dangerous to an infant. The main danger to a baby from his mother’s drinking is not the alcohol he gets from the breastmilk, but that an impaired mother will not be able to properly care for a baby – for instance, if she passes out or drops him or whatever.

Wacky Hermit – childcare books notwithstanding, alcohol will actually decrease milk production. It increases prolactin but decreases oxytocin. So while a mother may feel “fuller” (and more relaxed), the breasts will release less milk. Still, almost every health authority says that a drink or two from time to time is fine.

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