The net (well, MY corner of it, anyway) has been all abuzz with a few stories the last few days - one being the Dr. Wonderful situation and ensuing #bringbiterback movement I've been posting about. The other is a recent episode of the ABC show "What Would You Do?", which features actors portraying controversial situations in public places, and recording the real-life reactions they elicit. Woman abused by her boyfriend, children abandoned by parent, you get the idea. The latest installment features nursing in public.
A woman (an actor) gets comfortable at a cafe and begins "nursing" her very small "baby" (not an actor, but a doll). The manager (also an actor) begins berating her. What will the other customers do? Though there were a few people siding with the manager, others came to her defense, quite vehemently so, and one even correctly cited the law, pointing out that his actions were actually illegal. They changed basic scenarios twice: How would the reaction change if the mother were black? How about if she were very young?
Turns out that the last of the above scenarios garnered both the most patronizing criticism (how about that guy giving the manager legal advice? "Don't make physical contact!") AND the most vigorous support (I was cheering the woman who stepped up the most; she was great), but then they added a twist to the original scenario. Same white mother of average age, only this time . . . she orders a beer.
I knew what was coming, and though it is generally considered fine for a nursing mother to have a single glass of wine or beer (much more info here), most people don't know this. It was no surprise when a customer joined the manager in condemning the mother. But then the actress makes matters worse, respondingto their condemnations by saying "She sleeps better at night!"
Dou-la-la's face --------> palm. Dou-la-la's head ------> desk.
Thanks, actress. Well, really, thanks producers. A good segment of your viewing audience walked away with the impression that moms who drink minimally are doing so to knock their babies out. I can somewhat excuse the actress for being on the spot and sadly not knowing any better, but that was just plain unnecessary to include without also including any actual information.
FOR THE RECORD: I am not supporting excessive amounts of alcohol. And yes, the threshold for "excessive" when you're nursing is more conservative than when you're not, if you're a regular drinker. Parenting when you're inebriated is risky IN GENERAL. But sending the message to mothers that having A beer once in a while is morally wrong, dangerous, verboten? I feel (and it goes without saying that this is my opinion) that this adds to the impression that the breastfeeding life is unpleasantly and unrealistically restrictive, and I think this is doubleplusungood.
From the trusty Kellymom.com link above:
- Current research says that occasional use of alcohol (1-2 drinks) is not harmful to the nursing baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs classifies alcohol (ethanol) as a “Maternal Medication Usually Compatible With Breastfeeding.”
- Many experts recommend against drinking more than 1-2 drinks per week.
- It is recommended that nursing moms avoid breastfeeding during and for 2-3 hours after drinking (Hale 2002).
- There is no need to pump & dump milk after drinking alcohol, other than for mom's comfort -- pumping & dumping does not speed the elimination of alcohol from the milk.
In general, if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed. Less than 2% of the alcohol consumed by the mother reaches her blood and milk. [Anne notes: in other words, one beer is not going to "help her sleep at night."] Alcohol peaks in mom's blood and milk approximately 1/2-1 hour after drinking (but there is considerable variation from person to person, depending upon how much food was eaten in the same time period, mom's body weight and percentage of body fat, etc.). Alcohol does not accumulate in breastmilk, but leaves the milk as it leaves the blood; so when your blood alcohol levels are back down, so are your milk alcohol levels.In short, the whole "If you drink it, your baby must be drinking equal or even similar amounts of it" line of reasoning is based on nothing. Again, in no way am I endorsing alcohol abuse. And I do understand erring on the side of caution; I do the same - for all my griping here, the number of drinks I've had since Lily was born two years ago don't even enter into double digits, and I used to be a social drinker. It's just a shame that an episode that was otherwise rather supportive of breastfeeding had to end on such an off note.
I wonder what would have happened had they included a toddler variation. Wait, maybe I don't want to know - though I will also say that I actually nurse Lily in public all the time and have detected only two hairy eyeballs, belonging to separate people. And we don't live in a particularly progressive area, to say the least. So there IS hope!
Ultimately, as my wise friend Jennifer observed and thus summarized the whole thing: "When we stop using the phrase 'public breastfeeding', we will have GOTTEN IT!"
I'll drink to that.
Side note that is only a side note because of the general subject range of this blog: If you're up for a real blood pressure elevator, watch one of the other segments of this show, also available from the original link - the one on whether the public will step in with an obviously abused woman.
In the first scenario, a white, modestly dressed woman gets defenders almost immediately, from multiple sources.
Dress the same woman provocatively, and no one steps in.
Dress a BLACK woman provocatively? Not only does nobody step in, she is thought to be a prostitute, and he a pimp. Oh, how I wish I were making that up.
God help us all.