BISMARCK, N.D. - Police responding to a domestic disturbance arrived at Stacey Anvarinia's home to find the mother breast-feeding her 6-week-old baby in front of them. And she was drunk, they said.I am all in favor of sobriety, but it appears that no one really knows whether drunken breastfeeding is harmful or not:
Officers arrested the woman, who later pleaded guilty to child neglect and faces up to five years in prison.
The breast-feeding advocacy group La Leche League International advises women to nurse their children only when "completely sober."If alcohol intoxication were really the issue, the obvious thing to do would have been to measure the alcohol level and compare it to what the experts say is medically safe. But no chance of that:
In published advice to mothers, the group says: "Drinking to the point of intoxication, or binge drinking, by breast-feeding mothers has not been adequately studied. Since all of the risks are not understood, drinking to the point of intoxication is not advised."
It's unclear how much Anavarina had to drink. Police never conducted a blood-alcohol test. Investigators believed she was drunk, and her arrest on a charge of child abuse and neglect did not require a test.In other words, if these cops see something out of the ordinary, they just handcuff someone and blame it on drunkenness. Nobody seems to care much whether some actual crime was committed.
"The majority of our problems are caused by alcohol," said Grand Forks Police Capt. Kerwin Kjelstrom. "Our officers handle it so much that it is pretty much a general knowledge thing to know when someone is intoxicated. It's pretty obvious." ...
"This case is more than just the breast-feeding. It was the totality of the circumstances," said Grand Forks Police Lt. Rahn Farder. "It is quite unusual for a mother to be breast-feeding her child as we are conducting an investigation, whether she was intoxicated or not."
This case has also been criticized by an obstetrician on the Skeptical OB's blog:
Ms. Anvarinia was charged with felony child neglect solely because she was breastfeeding. Since there is no scientific evidence that breastfeeding while intoxicated is harmful to an infant, the officers and prosecutors simply made up the "crime." In that, I suspect, they were influenced by the current American hysteria over what children eat. Not a day passes when Americans aren't bombarded with messages about the "dangers" of childhood obesity, the "dangers" of sugar, the "dangers" of salt, etc.Fatherhood has already been criminalized.
Moreover, Americans seem chronically unable to understand the concept of risk. They routinely obsess about trivial or even non-existent risks, and they wrongly ascribe far more risk to "dangers" they perceive as uncontrollable (alcohol inadvertently given to a baby through breastmilk) than those over which they think they have control (rolling over and suffocating a baby sleeping in the same bed). Couple that with lack of familiarity with breastfeeding, and suddenly it is a "crime" to breastfeed while intoxicated.
This incident is deeply troubling for another reason. It is an attempt to criminalize mothering if it does not meet entirely arbitrary standards.