This is my second week back to work after a busy and rewarding maternity leave. My little guys are settling in to daycare, and I am settling back in to my job in family health promotion. One of the first things that came across my desk was an advertisement for a mom-focused event that promoted a combination of “boozing,” breastfeeding, and stress relief for moms. It caught my attention and got me digging a little deeper into the world of alcohol advertising to moms. What I found was that marketing of alcohol to moms, and women in general, is big business and there are a few things we need to consider.
1. There’s no gender equity with alcohol-drinking. Drinking alcohol is riskier for women.
I’m not saying women and moms shouldn’t enjoy a drink on occasion, and I’m also not saying that drinking alcohol isn’t risky for men, but I want to highlight a fact: alcohol puts women at a greater risk of certain illnesses than men, including breast cancer, stroke, diabetes and liver disease. Learn more.
2. Alcohol and stress
A lot of the “mommy marketing” of alcohol plays on the desire of busy moms to de-stress and wind down after a long, hard day. We know from local studies that over the past 10 years, the number of women who are drinking in a riskier way has been going up. And even though alcohol is becoming easier to find everywhere we go (e.g. grocery stores, farmers markets) I think it’s important for us to remember that it’s not a normal stress relief product. Alcohol is a drug with potentially addictive properties. In this video, Ann Dowsett-Johnson shares her personal experience with how alcohol changed her life.
3. Mom-specific considerations
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding have other alcohol-related effects to consider.
September 9 is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Awareness Day. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term used to describe the range of effects that can occur when a baby is exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. The effects may include mental, behavioral, physical issues and/or learning disabilities that can range from mild to severe. FASD is the leading preventable cause of cognitive and developmental disability in Canada. Research tells us that the more someone drinks during pregnancy, the more likely their child is to have FASD; but it’s important to note that there is no safe amount or safe time to drink during pregnancy.
When a breastfeeding mom has a drink it takes hours for her body to digest the alcohol so that it is not transferred to the baby through her breastmilk. Every woman is different, and the time to wait after drinking alcohol and before breastfeeding can vary depending on your body weight, metabolism and the amount of alcohol consumed. Only time lowers the amount of alcohol in breastmilk. ‘Pumping and dumping’ does not eliminate it faster.
As a general guideline, but depending on your body weight, it could take two to three hours for the alcohol from one standard drink to clear out of your body. And it will take another two to three hours for each additional drink to clear out (e.g., 3 drinks = 6 to 9 hours).
We know that infants who are exposed to alcohol in breastmilk might eat less and experience impaired motor development and changes in sleep patterns. This is especially true for younger babies (during the first three months), because their systems are still immature and it is harder to clear the alcohol from their body. It seems to me that events that promote breastfeeding and drinking at the same time are not taking into consideration these potentially serious consequences, at a disservice to moms and babies. For more information on alcohol and breastfeeding see this brochure from Best Start (PDF).
If you or someone you know needs help with alcohol and you live in Guelph or Wellington County you can contact HERE 24/7 or your primary health care provider. If you live in Dufferin County, you can talk to your primary health care provider for help. If you would like to speak with a public health nurse about parenting, including questions about alcohol and pregnancy or breastfeeding, please call Let’s Talk Parenting at 1-800-265-7293 ext. 3616.