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Debate on Charging Woman with Breast Feeding while Drunk

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A North Dakota woman recently pleaded guilty to child-neglect charges after prosecutors accused her of breast-feeding her infant while drunk, but the case has prompted debate over the legality and wisdom of the charges, the Associated Press reported July 7.

The woman, Stacey Anvarinia, faces five years in prison, and the case has been the subject of intense online discussions, especially on blogs for women and mothers. “Since when is breast-feeding while drunk a crime?” said Amy Tuteur, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist who wrote about the case on her Skeptical OB blog. “No one would have bothered to check what was in the bottle” if Anvarinia was bottle-feeding her child, Tuteur said. “You can do a lot more damage by mixing formula wrong.”

The La Leche League International advises  only “completely sober” women to breast-feed. “Drinking to the point of intoxication, or binge drinking, by breast-feeding mothers has not been adequately studied,” the group says. “Since all of the risks are not understood, drinking to the point of intoxication is not advised.”

Drowsiness, weakness and abnormal weigh gain can affect infants whose mothers drink before breast-feeding, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but the group also said that limited alcohol use is OK for breast-feeding moms.

“A mother who becomes intoxicated should not breast-feed,” said pediatrician Lori Feldman-Winter, the group's head of policy on breast-feeding “After drinking one glass of wine, a woman should abstain from breast-feeding for two to three hours.”

Police never tested Anavarinia's blood-alcohol content. Past attempts to prosecute women for similar offenses have met with limited success.

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