I’ll admit it.  

I drink.

And I breastfeed my child.

Often at the same time.

I’m expected to feel guilty about having a drink and nursing my child. But I don’t. Because I’ve realized something: As a society, we treat mothers like infants.

We baby them. And, of course, we should. New mothers, especially, need our help and compassion.

But we baby them. We treat mothers like helpless children who can’t know what’s good or safe. From the time the stick turns blue, someone is telling mothers what to eat, drink, wear, buy, and how to act.

It’s enough to make anyone want a drink.

A former wine-maker, I am a passionate wine lover.  Once I became a first-time mother, my curiosity led me to research breastfeeding and alcohol consumption in greater depth.

What I Found

What I discovered surprised me: I couldn’t find any evidence that healthy, low-risk mothers who drink alcohol while breastfeeding are harming their children. In fact, I found the opposite. Educated, breastfeeding mothers who consumed alcohol had children who were scoring higher on the developmental scale than mothers who abstained from alcohol entirely.

This large scale study, completed in 2002 and promptly ignored, tracked families for 15 years, and attempted to replicate findings from an earlier study that found developmental delays in children whose mothers drank and breastfed.

Unearthing reports of the original study, completed in the 1970s, found that breastfeeding moms who consumed alcohol had one-year olds with significant gross motor developmental delays.

But here’s the problem: The mothers in the earlier study, which showed developmental delays in their children, ingested more alcohol, were twice as likely to smoke cigarettes, and 14 times more likely to get high using marijuana.

The older study does not accurately reflect the habits of today’s breastfeeding mothers.

Social Standing vs. Alcohol Consumption

Here’s what may be the most important piece of the puzzle: Researchers noted that the surprising results may correlate to socioeconomic status: The women participating in the most time-intensive portion of the study – which included reporting alcohol intake and breastmilk consumption in detail – tended have a higher socioeconomic standing. They earned more, learned more, worked more. They were not considered at-risk mothers, unlike many in the earlier study.

The Centers for Diseases Control released a study showing alcohol consumption while pregnant is more common with college-educated professionals in their 30s. Many – I’m going to say most – of these mothers are just like me. We’re dedicated to providing our children with every opportunity and the best education possible.

The conversation about breastfeeding and alcohol consumption needs to be reopened. We need to recognize breastfeeding mothers are not just stay-at-home milk factories, and should be permitted to engage in adult activities that are not harmful to their children.

“…Prohibiting alcohol is another way we make life unnecessarily restrictive for breastfeeding mothers…” states Dr. Jack Newman, a pediatrician world-renowned for his International Breastfeeding Centre.

“Unnecessarily restrictive,” those two words sum up being a mother today. As breastfeeding mothers, I am expected to martyr my adulthood on the cross of motherhood, even if there’s no evidence that I need to.

This mother refuses. After much research, discussion, and education, I’ll safely enjoy alcohol in moderation, and strive towards full-term breastfeeding. I’ll rest easy knowing my child is reaching, and in many cases surpassing, every developmental milestone.

I’ll drink to that.


Ashley Trexler is dedicated to busting through expectations about what it means to be an unmarried mom today. She loves honest talk about parenting and life choices. Follow her at http://liesaboutparenting.com.


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  1. Right on, Ashley – score another one for common sense! (Sent it right over to my eight-month-old granddaughter’s Mommy.) Love your wit; puts me in mind of Lee Salk (baby brother to Jonas, the polio vaccine dude), a pediatrician who wrote, “What Every Child Would Like His Parents to Know.” You’re on the same page: “Keep Calm and Let Your Heart (and Millions of Years of Imprinting) Guide You.” Got us through the child-rearing phase, and you’re on the same page. Stay with it!

  2. Absolutely! My family is French (and they used to own a vineyard in the mountains). The idea of giving up wine especially is only acceptable at death. When my great grandmother was 101, she went to the doctor and his tip to keep healthy was to keep up the glass of wine a day and the cognac! And I’m pretty sure her mother drank while she was a baby.

  3. Thanks for this Ashley! This reminds me of Dr. Spock’s book which talked a lot about common sense. I’ll never forget a comment his first book garnered. A mother said something like, “It’s like you think I can make good decisoins on my own.”

  4. Oh Ashley… if you’d live in France and someone told you to withdraw from the one glass of red in the evening: You’d have an army of French backing you, ready to run that silly person into the ground. So cheers!

  5. Ashley, cheers to you for having the courage to make your own, informed decisions on all aspects of parenting. What a fantastic role model mum you are, raising a child who will grow up believing in their own intelligence, intuition and right to enjoy life, unfettered by social pressure – just as you are. Love to buy you a drink to celebrate.

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