01 Nov
The Case of The Beer Drinking Breastfeeder

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

One of my best friends just had a baby. We went to dinner with him, the baby’s mama and the new baby.  All was fine, until the baby got hungry and the mama fed the baby. Let me clarify, the mama was drinking and then breastfed the baby. The mama consumed three pints of beer over the course of about three hours and fed the baby three times while I was there. Now, I don’t have kids, and I’m not a doctor, so I didn’t say anything. But, later I brought this up to some friends and they said I should have said/done something.

To make matters worse, the mama posts a lot on Facebook, including things like outrageously long sleeping times for the baby and how she wishes she could drink more to deal with life, but says that breastfeeding limits her alcohol intake. I feel at a loss. I feel like she’s doing things she shouldn’t do and may be hurting her baby in the process. My best friend didn’t say a word the entire night, and actually tends to encourage her drinking.

This situation is really difficult to watch, especially since my husband and I have been trying for years to get pregnant and are having issues. We aren’t even sure if having a child is going to happen for us.

Do I say something? Do I call Child Services? Do I let it go for fear of being that irrational woman who jeopardizes a 20+ year friendship? Help!


Mama Didn’t Just Do That, Did She?


Dear Mama Didn’t Just Do That, Did She?,

First, I am mother, but I am not a medical professional, although, frankly, I really should be. Especially, given the amount of self-help books I’ve read and the number of hypochondriac websites I visit on a weekly basis. But I do believe that you have a right to be alarmed.   I’m not going to sugar coat it, this is a tough situation. Having three drinks in three hours and breastfeeding a baby three times adds up to definite inappropriate behavior. Normally, I try to reserve my judgement of other mothers to the celeb moms I see in Us Weekly, but this case sounds like a very unhealthy state of affairs. Not only was that a possibly damaging amount of alcohol for a child to consume, it’s also dangerous when you consider the responsiveness needed to care for a newborn baby.

It could be that the baby’s mama is overwhelmed and/or depressed, and instead of knowing how to deal with it or whom to turn to, she’s using alcohol to soothe these feelings. Unfortunately, she now has another life depending on her so drinking beer non-stop is not the correct way to fix the situation. It also seems that your friend might be in denial. Don’t misunderstand me—I’m not making excuses for them. I’m simply stating what could be going on.

That being said, you need to have a very serious conversation with your friend. I realize that you may be putting a 20+ year relationship in jeopardy, however, there is a newborn involved who can’t speak up for him/herself. It’s possible that your friend may be upset or angry with you for bringing up the mama’s alcohol consumption, but it’s also possible that he doesn’t even see it. And, it’s also very likely that the mother may need help.

I would try and discuss the situation in terms of your concern for how the mother and baby are doing. Try and leave out the Facebook updates, if possible, since it’s hard to know what she’s really doing and also if the baby’s sleep cycle is related in any way to her possible alcohol consumption.

Keep the discussion concrete. Talk about what you witnessed. You could also try and get your friend to open up about how he feels, how their relationship is faring, and what may be really going on. Make sure your friend understands that this is coming from a place of love and you simply want to help.

Some people may not agree with me, but I would suggest you hold off contacting Child Services unless you witness any other occasions where this woman is drinking heavily and putting her child in real danger. I know this is a difficult situation for you on many levels, but it seems that you are willing to do what is right for your friend and his child.

This is such a complicated subject that I would also like to encourage our readers to weigh in. It’s possible that one of them has had a similar situation and maybe they can tell you what did or didn’t work.

Good Luck,

Tonya TMH

40 Responses to “The Case of The Beer Drinking Breastfeeder”


Comment by MrsJBisMe.

While I haven’t personally seen someone drink alcohol while pregnant or breastfeeding, I can understand you being concerned, and I can’t definitely understand the situation being difficult to watch as my husband and I have been struggling for 5 years to get pregnant. Because the situation is so sticky, I agree with Tonya. I would sit down and have a heart to heart with my best friend. I would let him know that I am not judging, but I have done some research for when I hopefully have a baby, and this is what it says about excessive drinking while breast feeding. Ask if he has noticed signs of postpartum depression, or if there are other factors going on. Go in as a concerned best friend, and not as a nosy, rude, soon-to-be-ex best friend. Good luck. I hope he understands your concern.

MrsJBisMe Reply:

I meant to say, “and I definitely CAN understand. Not can’t. Ugh. Sorry about that. Don’t respond when half asleep. It can change the whole context of the post.


Comment by vodka tonic.

If you’re sober enough to drive, you’re sober enough to breastfeed. So I dunno, was she drinking light beers and just topping the baby off for a minute? Was she slamming Rochefort 10 and then letting the baby guzzle for a half hour?
There’s a lot of variables here.

Links to studies showing slight (but still significant) changes in motor development, but not mental development. So sure, talk to her, but for cryin’outloud, CPS?!?! “Mama Didn’t,” you need to chill out.
It sounds like this is more about your infertility, than the beer.



(sincerely, a gal, whose handle is ‘vodka tonic.’ Ironic? Nah, I haven’t had one in such a long time… I’ve been pregnant and nursing for years, it feels like. But yes, I do drink a beer or two on occasion, no big whoop.)

Cate8 Reply:

Totally agree~


Comment by Cate8.

at least she is breastfeeding….
3 pints (aka tall boys) in 3 hours seems like a good pace. Not sure why the babe needed to nurse so often but then again it could have been just for comfort.
a little beer is fine… but if you see her drunk then that is cause for concern. was this a one time thing? or do you go out with mom every week and toss a cold one down? could be she jokes on her FB about boozing it up …
yes, I know all gets to the babe through the milk… and the effects of mom drinking alcohol usually makes babies fussy

danielle Reply:

The problem with infants and alcohol is that their liver is not mature enough to process the sugar and alochol at the same time. They go into a state of hyperglycemia until the alcohol is processed and they can begin processing the sugar. My husband is a forensic toxologist and he is staunchly opposed to drinking and breastfeeding. If this woman wants to drink to forget her troubles she should formula feed. At the moment she is doing physical harm to her infant by breastfeeding.


Comment by Plano Mom.

Based solely on what is said, the drinking sure seems like a symptom of something else going on rather than full blown alcoholism. I agree that there’s not enough evidence of a true long term danger for CPS to get involved as it was only one night.

However it’s not something to let go – regardless of the underlying cause, you have an opportunity to help someone who may be sliding downhill, and it’s always so much easier to stop before the momentum picks up.


Comment by Regina.

sorry to hear you are having such a hard time having a baby! i had a similar situation when my husband and i were trying to get pregnant years ago. i gently spoke to my friend’s husband and let him know i was there for support. everything turned out okay for my friends’ baby, but i did feel there was cause for alarm. i think it takes a good friend to be honest, gentle, and supportive. good luck figuring this all out. more importantly, sincere best wishes on your journey to motherhood. it’s a lonely, tough road many of us have traveled.


Comment by Bean.

Two thoughts:
1. Mommy seems to be showing signs of post-partum depression. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.

2. Though we in the US are pretty aware of the risks of alcohol & pregnancy/nursing, not all countries are. I had people suggest to me that I have a beer if I was having difficulty producing milk – and my kids are only 6 & 5. Is there any chance Mommy’s from somewhere else & doesn’t know better?

That said, excellent, thoughtful answer.

Karin Reply:

beer does actually help with nursing – something about the barley helps with production and the alcohol relaxes you which helps with let-down. the same think can be accomplished with a bowl of barley cereal and a shoulder massage but who has a masseuse around all the time!

I find that the US is fairly black and white when it comes to stuff like this while most of the world sees it as a bit of a gray (often light gray, at that) area.

Heather B, CLC Reply:

That’s been completely debunked. Just thought you’d wanna know.

Karin Reply:

Barley is used to stimulate milk production (clear link between prolactin production and barley consumption) and relaxation most certainly helps with let-down – that is the one thing that is very clear to anyone who has ever breastfed. Alcohol does dehydrate you which will decrease your milk supply – that’s the “debunk”.

Cate8 Reply:

My midwife has recommended a beer for relaxation for breastfeeding and other pregnancy/postpartum reasons.


Comment by Edith Ann.

As a former investigator for CPS, you do have enough to make a report. Worst case scenario, they require her to stop drinking. Best case scenario, they put services in place to help this woman cope and care for her baby. All you have to do is investigate one child death where the parent was intoxicated or high and not aware they rolled over on their baby and smothered him.

The writer needs to support the father and do all the other things for her friend that were suggested.

But, in the best interst of the child, and because it is not healthy for babies to ingest alcohol, I recommend that CPS be contacted. In Texas, it’s the law. There is more at risk here than a friendship.

sisterfunkhaus Reply:

Or, worst case scenario, they take the baby and/or make her life a living hell over what could be an isolated incident. I have had a couple of friends who had CPS invade their lives, once was a jealous ex wife making a false report, the other was a friend who took her infant son to the ER for a broken leg (turns out his baby sitter did it.) Both of these families went through absolute hell. CPS did nothing to make the situation easier on them, or to “help” them. To me, CPS is a latch ditch the child’s life is in danger place to call.

vodka tonic Reply:

No, worst case scenario, you ruin a bunch of lives over a couple of beers. CPS workers are notoriously overworked, underpaid, hyper-reactive and ineffective.

Do the research. Kellymom is a good source. Studies show that there is a slight (but significant) delay in baby’s motor development of regular drinkers that are nursing — we’re talking mothers who average one drink per day. There is no change in mental development. The experts say, “If you’re sober enough to drive, you’re sober enough to nurse.” Studies wrap up to say that mothers who average less than one drink per day in a week have 1 year old babies that show no difference in development, over mothers who never drink alcohol while nursing.

What’s also unclear — was she drinking a lite beer? Or slamming Rochfort 10s? There’s a huge difference in alcohol content with different beers. She also doesn’t say if mom was just comfort nursing for a few minutes, or letting the baby guzzle for a half hour. Oh, and how old the baby? Also, an unknown. “Just” had a baby could mean 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months old… Eh, in any case, research shows that less than 2% of her alcohol dose reaches her milk.

In the end, I think this has more to do with the protester’s fertility problems, and less to do with beer. Next, are you going to suggest you take custody, while she takes care of her “drinking problems?”

I'm a big ol' b with a captial B! Reply:

Sorry, but I’m not sure I can take this seriously from someone who likes to use the handle, “Vodka Tonic”

vodka tonic Reply:

LOL, it’s just a handle, not a lifestyle. Much like yours.

Last time I had a drink? Probably 4th of July. ??

MrsJBisMe Reply:

I find your last paragraph offensive. What the Mom does to her own body is her own business, but the fact that she is drinking so much and breast feeding (no matter how long she is breast feeding) is a cause for concern. From everything the asker wrote, I’d bet dollars to donuts there is an underlying issue that needs addressed. But I have suffered from infertility for 5 years, so maybe I’m just jealous. Puh-lease.

vodka tonic Reply:

“Mama Didn’t…” is the one who said this was “difficult” for her, because she was having fertility problems.

If her infertility is unrelated to her reaction, why did she bring it up?

Cate8 Reply:

Child Protective Services?? are you f*&^ing kidding me? Waste the resources? Don’t get me going…. My X called them on me and embarassed all the kids and myself. He was wrong of course and just evil and mean since he lost ALL custody .


Comment by Edith Ann.

*worst case scenario—(in the mother’s view)


Comment by StephanieG.

As hard as this might be for you, you’ve go to put your personal situation with not being able to conceive aside. I know how it feels to see everyone and their sister knocked up when you’re trying so desparately to get pregnant. However, that’s not what’s at stake here, so it shouldn’t figure in to the equation.

I agree that a call to CPS is in order. I think chances are slim that you save your friendship with this person when you intervene. You’re likely to lose your friend, and he still may not do anything to stop the abuse to the baby. A call to CPS is confidential, and he may never know it was you. And it will get the mama and the daddy and the baby the help they need.

As gutwrenching as it would be to see your friend lose his baby, it would be so much worse to see the parents do long term damage to the child. He may not be swilling beer and nursing at the same time, but make no mistake, if he’s allowing it to happen on his watch, he is every bit as guilty as she is.

vodka tonic Reply:

Are you serious?! CPS?!

Do the research — both into how CPS works/doesn’t work, and the effects of alcohol consumption while nursing.

I’m sure glad I don’t have hyper-reactive friends like this!

StephanieG Reply:

As a former breastfeeding mom, I can assure you I do know the risks of drinking while nursing. I pumped and dumped many times, but I never fed alcohol to the baby who depended on me to keep her safe and happy.

Call me hyper-reactive if you wish, but as the adult child of an alcoholic, I will always err on the side of caution.

The fact that the baby daddy encourages the drinking is the thing that frightens me the most. Mom may be suffering PPD, and he’s encouraging her to booze it up. Nobody wins there, especially that baby who can’t speak for itself.

Getting CPS involved means a professional with access to and knowledge of family services comes in and helps the entire family.

Call me judgmental if you wish, but the family clearly needs outside help, and CPS can do that.

vodka tonic Reply:

You don’t need to pump and dump. Read the research. Your milk filters much like your blood. So once your blood level is sober, so is your milk.

CPS is not the clearing house for PPD or social drinking. There are better resources… try talking directly to her, if you are concerned. Better to take it to her OB for a referral, rather than the CPS net. Talk about hitting a fly with a hammer!

Edith Ann Reply:

@vodkatonic (and I agree-what a wonderful screen name) even though you claim there is a point where the alcohol levels may be okay for you to drink and nurse–WHY WOULD YOU? I’m sure one cigarette is probably harmless, too, so why not have a smoke with your drink?

Again–why would you allow your baby to ingest something that is harmful to him? That’s insane!


Comment by Megan.

I would suggest going to your friend first, voicing your concern that his wife is suffering from PPD and that it could adversely affect both of them. If that doesn’t work, you should make the call to CPS. Your friend will then know it was you, but I believe after all is said and done he will know that you did the right thing (especially since you gave him the opportunity to deal with it first).

You have to consider the possbility that he might be suffering from a bit of depression also (that happened to me and my husband after the birth of our son).


Comment by FreestylinMamma.

I don’t think you need to call child services as if yet. However, as a new mom myself I can tell you that I would never consume so much alcohol while nursing my baby. This is coming from a gal who loves her wine, anything ending


Comment by Happy Baker.

I went through some pretty serious PPD with my first child, and know how overwhelming it can be. It’s not something to be taken lightly or ignored, and in hindsight, I would’ve given my left foot for a friend to have stepped in and said “Hey. Is everything okay? I’m worried about you” because I never even KNEW I was having PPD until I had my second child and didn’t experience it at all. I thought back and realized, “Wow, this is totally different. How did I not recognize it??”

I agree that you should set aside the Facebook updates and personal feelings about conceiving. It may color you opinion, but it’s not entirely relevant. I joke quite often on Facebook about wanting a cocktail or sitting down with a bottle of wine after the kids are in bed, but in reality, I rarely drink. People have different online personas that might not be entirely consistent with what they actually do. And for what it’s worth, my daughter has always slept somewhat excessively. She’s just a sleeper. My son is the total opposite. Kids’ patterns are all different.

I do, however, feel very strongly that if your friend’s wife isn’t concerned about what she’s putting into her baby’s body, there may be issues of apathy going on that could really indicate some depressive issues. Those should be addressed. Just like everyone else said, bring it up from a place of concern and love, not judgment.

If nothing changes and you still see her tossing back the alcohol while nursing, perhaps then it might be time to call in a more official intervention. I seriously doubt she’d lose her children, but they could help with counseling and prevention.

Good luck!


Comment by I'm a big ol' b with a captial B!.

Let’s forget about the friend for a minute and think about you. You need to live with yourself and look yourself in the mirror in the morning. What would you regret more? Not saying something or saying something? Which would you have a harder time living with? How would you advise a friend who is asking you the same question?


Comment by Suzy Mac.


Her drinking that amount in 3 hours is within limits; they have greatly relaxed the guidelines when it comes to drinking and breastfeeding. More than a drink an hour? That is not advised. But now, they say if you are “sober enough to drive you are sober enough to breastfeed”.

Check out this link from one of the most trusted breastfeeding sites out there:

I have 6 years breastfeeding experience all together, and have been active in La Leche League. Whereas I never drank while I nursed my first, I now enjoy a glass of wine now and then with my third child(I am still nursing my 26 month old). He is perfectly healthy and has suffered no ill effects from his Mom’s occasional indulgence.

The fact that she is saying she WISHES she could drink more but doesn’t because she is breastfeeding means #1) she knows to keep it within limits and #2)this is just a WISH..not an ACTION. Please don’t jeopardize this woman’s future and family by by calling CYS..it will become a nightmare for her, even when she is found “fit” (my best friend is a lawyer and tells me horror stories).

I would be more concerned about her apparent level of stress..have you offered to help her with the baby? Have her pump her milk and leave him with you while she takes a break? That may be the best way to help her, not to judge and criticize her for doing something lactation professionals consider safe in moderation.

kokopuff Reply:

This is the most sane reply yet. Yes, have you thought of helping the family out instead of judging their behavior and calling CPS? Geez, bake a casserole, offer to babysit and maybe do some laundry for them.


Comment by Meredith L..

Firstly, I am so sorry about your challenges in trying to conceive. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to bear witness to that situation under your circumstances. However, I do think that this is separate – if you aren’t already, seek counseling to discuss some of your feelings surrounding TTC.

That said, you are not wrong that this is a delicate situation. As one of the PPs said, a helpless newborn who cannot speak up for himself is involved here.

As a mother, my child-free friends generally fall into two categories: those who love children, want to understand parenthood, and try to help me with the approach of, “I heard of this…what are your thoughts?”, versus some friends who just don’t like kids, don’t get what’s going on, and oversimplify all my problems and their solutions. Since you are clearly a concerned, compassionate human being, I assume you fall into the first category. In that case, the way to approach this would be with a tone of, “I know I’m not an expert, but…” Ask questions. Let your friends explain. It may be that talking it out sheds light on what they are doing. Sometimes we just don’t see what’s right in front of us, you know? Bring up these: http://www.amazon.com/Milkscreen-Home-Detect-Alcohol-Breast/dp/B000UEA96G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320170786&sr=8-1 and ask if your friends have heard of them, and if so, what do they think?

The key is to not put your friend on the defensive, and the trick to that is to approach him as YOU being the one with questions and asking for advice “just in case, one day…”

I know what I’ve presented here is not a complete solution, but hopefully it’s a starting place for you. Major :::HUGS::: and good luck in your TTC.


Comment by Evin Cooper.

It really depends on so much. The baby’s age, the mother’s body weight and what she was drinking. I was encouraged to drink a STOUT beer every few days to increase milk supply, and it really did help. I never EVER drink when I’m the only adult around, not even 1 beer, but a single beer in an evening isn’t a problem.
I don’t drink much so 3 beers in 3 hours sounds like A LOT to me. It takes about 4 hours for the booze to get from mom’s bottle of beer to the boob, so maybe she planned to pump and dump when she got home? The milk she was feeding the baby was booze-free, assuming she didn’t do any pre-party drinking.

Cate8 Reply:

I agree


Comment by Jennifer.

Whoa! I would suggest you all 1. Get the facts about nursing and alcohol and 2. Encourage your friend to consult her PEDIATRICIAN!! If there is a problem with the baby the DOCTOR will do what is necessary to keep the baby safe. I nursed 3 children and was a La Leche League Leader during that time. Be a great friend by offering to help her with the baby. Hold it so she can get a shower. Bring the family dinner. Do things that are constructive to help her make the transition to being a new mom. And when you are successful with your pregnancy hopes, she will do the same for you.

vodka tonic Reply:

Thank you for your fact-based and reasonable response. I am completely dumbfounded by the near-hysteria.

Cate8 Reply:

oh, vodka tonic, I totally agree. some ladies have gotten their panties in a twist!

kokopuff Reply:

No doubt. And apparently you’re only allowed to comment if your email handle is Virgin Mary.

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