A server at Gusano’s Pizzeria in Conway, Arkansas called the police after she saw a patron (Tasha Adams) drinking alcohol while breastfeeding her child at the same time.
The server said said she was fired shortly after the incident, but Gusano’s said the call to the police was not the reason she lost her job.
In light of this incident, I think we should discuss the many issues surrounding the consumption of alcohol while nursing.
It is not against the law for nursing or pregnant women to consume alcohol.
Tasha Adams was arrested for endangering the welfare of a minor, but I am not sure how those charges could legally be made, unless she was intoxicated to the point where she could not take care of her child and there was no other adult with her who could take on the responsibility of caring for the infant. * (See the update at the bottom of this post.)
Truth: When your blood alcohol level reaches its peak from drinking, so do peak levels of alcohol in breastmilk.
“For normal social-type drinking, the highest BAC is usually achieved within 30 minutes after completion of consumption, though it could take as long as 60 minutes. When large amounts of alcohol are consumed over a short time interval, or when a large quantity of food is eaten with the alcohol, the absorption phase may not be complete for up to two (2) hours after last consumption.” – Source
Myth: Pumping and dumping is a way to speed up removing alcohol in breastmilk
pumping and dumping is needed to rid the body of alcohol in breastmilk, even if the blood alcohol level has since dropped to normal levels and the breastfeeding mother is sober.
Truth: Sorry, you can’t speed up the process. On the flip side, if your alcohol level has returned to normal, so has your breastmilk. There is no need to pump and dump unless you are engorged and uncomfortable. Other than that, it serves no purpose.
What do we know? Obviously we do know the strong connection between moderate to heavy alcohol consumption while pregnant and birth defects, but what about breastfeeding and alcohol consumption? The risks are not as well defined.
From Dr. Jack Newman: “Reasonable alcohol intake should not be discouraged at all. As is the case with most drugs, very little alcohol comes out in the milk. The mother can take some alcohol and continue breastfeeding as she normally does. Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for nursing mothers.”
Jennifer Heisleman Ingalls wrote an article on alcohol consumption for Evolutionary Parenting, which stated: “The alcohol content of the breastmilk of a legally intoxicated mama (0.08 BAC) to the alcohol content of orange juice is approximately 0.09% ethanol-by-volume (aka ABV). The legally intoxicated mama will have breastmilk which has an ABV concentration that closely mirrors her BAC, approximately 0.08. That means that mama’s breastmilk when legally intoxicated is less alcoholic than orange juice! And for mamas who only consume one alcohol beverage, their BAC (and thus the ABV of their breastmilk) is considerably lower than that found in even the most innocuous of fresh juices.”
So, can alcohol abuse have negative effects on breastfed babies?
Yes. Excessive drinking by the breastfeeding mother may result in slow weight gain or failure to thrive in her baby. – Source
Daily consumption of alcohol (1+ drinks daily) has been associated with a decrease in gross motor development. –Source
Common sense says you need to work on your own healthy habits in order to provide your child the best nourishment from your body.
- Am I able to drive? According to Kellymom.com the general rule is if you’re sober enough to drive, you’re sober enough to breastfeed.
- How much alcohol should I be drinking for my size? A smaller person metabolizes alcohol slower than a heavier person.
- What is my game plan? Are you in a situation where you may drink, but you would be uncomfortable breastfeeding based on the amount you may consume? Plan to express your milk or time your consumption right so that the alcohol is able to leave your system before your baby will need to nurse.
- How does my partner feel? If you have a spouse or partner, it is important to keep them involved in the breastfeeding relationship especially in all of its complexities (whenever possible). Research and have these conversations with your partner before making a decision regarding this topic.
* Update: Tasha Adams’ attorney, Reggie Koch, has since been in contact with us. He said that his client had only 2 beers in a 1 1/2- 2 hour period, and the servers that night have corroborated this story. Additionally, she had a large meal and never was breastfeeding and drinking simultaneously. Mr Koch also said his client never at any point through the evening felt the effects of the alcohol she was consuming.
The woman who called the police was an employee of the restaurant, but she was not on duty, nor was she in any way serving at Tasha Adams’ table. According to Mr. Koch, she was only in the restaurant for 10 to 20 minutes before calling the police.