Mixing booze, babies not harmless fun



Call me sensitive: my mother was a severe alcoholic. Call me a killjoy: yes, I’ve had my own issues with alcohol. But something just isn’t sitting right when I see the promotion for the upcoming “A Very Mommy Wine Festival.”

Advertised with the tagline “Baby on the hips, wine on the lips,” the event is hosted by MomsTO, which proclaims: “It’s going to be an amazing afternoon of drinking, baby feeding and having hella (sic) good time with some of the coolest moms in Toronto.” “Get Your Wine On. Big Time,” the website blares.

This event is just one of many wine-themed MomsTO gatherings. In fact, the group claims to be re-inventing maternity leave with its weekly “very boozy Rose playdates,” which start at 11:30 on “Fri-yay” mornings. Call me critical, but is there not something intrinsically disturbing about mothers getting “their wine on — big time” while they bounce their babies? Have a gander at the MomsTO trailer reel: a series of happy infants are interspersed with images of glowing wine glasses. Hey, what could go wrong?

Since when did wine and motherhood become synonymous? Is there not something a little creepy about the meme of the wine label: “The most expensive part of having kids is all the wine you have to buy.” How about Indigo selling wine glasses emblazoned with: “Best Mom Ever”? Or Real Simple magazine announcing the “Best. News. Ever.” Namely, Amazon Prime will now deliver wine to your doorstep within the hour.

As North Americans, we live in an alcogenic culture with surround-sound messaging: booze is fun, booze is sophisticated, booze is the fastest way to decompress. No surprise: female risky drinking is on the rise. According to Gerald Thomas, director of alcohol policy at the B.C. Ministry of Health, there has been a steady and statistically significant increasing trend in female drinking in Canada since 2003.

And according to a major study in JAMA Psychiatry last month, the incidence of female alcohol abuse and dependence in the United States increased 83.7 per cent between 2002 and 2013. The researchers warn of a public health crisis, given that high-risk drinking is linked to more than 200 diseases and cancers, as well as psychiatric problems, violence and more.

Meanwhile, in Canada, 62 per cent of babies are born to women between the ages of 25 and 34, the age group with the largest spike in risky drinking. Bear in mind that in this country, roughly 3,000 babies are born each year with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, a totally preventable disability.

I reached out to MomsTO, suggesting we might go for coffee. They didn’t respond. Had they done so, I would have suggested they boost the information on their website.

They might share the news that alcohol consumed by a mother passes easily into her breast milk at concentrations similar to those found in her own blood; that the alcohol level in breast milk peaks 30 to 60 minutes after she drinks; that consuming alcohol while breastfeeding can impair a baby’s motor development. They might share the news that if any of the moms in the community are trying to get pregnant again, there is no known safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed safely during pregnancy. Finally, they might want to have some information on postpartum depression: alcohol is a known depressant.

I am not blaming MomsTO for trying to create a community of mothers. But why wine? I blame our culture, one which pushes such products as Mommyjuice and Happy Bitch wine; one which messages that alcohol is an essential survival tool for overstressed parents.

For those of us who lived through the era of the two-martini playdate, who owned the book Sippy Cups are not for Chardonnay, who remember the tragic story of Diane Schuler driving the wrong way on New York state’s Taconic Parkway with her young daughter and nieces in the car, a jumbo Absolut vodka bottle rolling around in the back, the MomsTO events provoke a profound sense of déjà vu.

I am no prohibitionist; far from it. But this is not harmless fun. More than one young mother I know drove drunk with children in the car; more than one gave birth to a child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. And many more ended up with serious alcohol problems. Their children suffered.

In other words, craving connection is one thing. Mixing booze and babies is another.

Ann Dowsett Johnston is the author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol.

Retreieved from: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2017/09/10/mixing-booze-babies-not-harmless-fun.html

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