Tag Archives: safety

Healthy Happy Hour

25 Jun

When my toddler helps empty the recycling and holds up a bottle saying “Mama beer?” I feel a motherly pang. However, when I search my conscience I realize that I’d rather my child find beer bottles than pop cans. She sees the adults around her cook and eat healthy foods and enjoy snacks in moderation. She watches us drink water and coffee and beer/wine (and occasionally cocktails, which is her only reference point for juice). We’re healthy, loving, responsible grownups who actively engage with smart, physically active kids. Even digging deep into my mom psyche, I can’t feel guilty about alcohol being part of our lifestyle.

I didn’t drink while I was pregnant. I intended to, but as it happened I had a huge aversion to alcohol–that’s actually how I realized I was pregnant. My pregnancy nausea was moderate but persistent and pretty much everything except really spicy teriyaki set me off for a very long time. After the nausea was (mostly) resolved, even smelling alcohol made me queasy. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to enjoy a glass of wine with my sweetie and a little relieved I didn’t have to deal with people giving me dirty looks while I drank it. Both scientific evidence and several thousands of generations of humans (including our own) show that it’s safe for the average pregnant woman to consume some amount of alcohol without causing serious harm to her fetus. There are always exceptions and I’m not here to debate the issue–though you’re free to do so.

This post in The Awl is a lovely summary of how morally/emotionally fuzzy the issue of drinking while pregnant can be: “Moderation has served me well in life up to this point and I’d like to think that I have good instincts. What are instincts in a pregnancy, though? We’re told to listen to the voice inside of us that says when it’s time to relax and take it easy, when it’s time to call the doctor. But my instincts also led me to think I know my body well enough to know how to treat it when I’m pregnant which includes drinking. Which is or isn’t wrong. So should I not have listened to myself? Or listen at some times and not others?”

The science on drinking while nursing is much more clear and the evidence is overwhelming that moderate alcohol consumption does not harm a breastfed infant.. Alcohol content in breast milk is the same as alcohol blood volume (ABV). Even if your ABV is high enough to impair your ability to drive a car, your breastmilk will not significantly harm your baby. Alcohol inhibits production and some studies show that babies will refuse the breast if significant amounts of alcohol are present in the milk. If you’re pumping and storing milk, there’s a chance you’ll expose the baby to more total alcohol than if you’re nursing directly. There is no need to or benefit from pumping milk & disposing of it. “Pump & dump” does not clear your system of alcohol.

Here’s the bigger picture: if you’re drunk enough that you’re seriously worried about alcohol content of your milk, you’re probably too drunk to safely & responsibly parent. Forget about nursing–you probably shouldn’t be holding an infant or caring for a young child alone. If you’re concerned about your alcohol consumption (amount and/or frequency) talk to your health care provider–not your pediatrician.

I’m not joking when I say beer makes me a better parent. When I’ve had a beer, I’m more relaxed and find it easier to let the little things (messy play, a little whining) go. When I’ve had a beer, I can laugh more freely and forget how irritated I was about the kid not napping or the rice burning.  Continue reading