Should a Mother Be Arrested for Drinking and Breastfeeding?

Having a new baby is hard. Often it feels like you are constantly being bombarded by advice from family, friends and even strangers, all of whom insist they can help make it easier even when the tips they provide are confusing, wrong or just not applicable. Usually, it’s easy to dismiss that “help” as well meaning. Often, it comes across more as meddling.

Other times, it can get you arrested.

According to ThinkProgress, Arkansas mother Tasha Adams was arrested last year for child endangerment. The charge was levied at her by a waitress in a restaurant who claims she saw her with “multiple glasses in front of her” at a restaurant. Adams, on the other hand, said she had two beers over the course of an hour and a half.

The charges were dropped against Adams last week because police said they didn’t have enough evidence for a case. Of course, there was no less evidence than there was when the police arrested her in the first place, demanding that Adams hand over her child to other family so they could take her in to jail.

There isn’t any law against drinking and breastfeeding, of course, and many lactation experts actually say a beer can potentially increase milk supply or help with let down (usually due to relaxation) although they warn mothers to avoid heavy drinking and consider waiting after a drink before feeding or pumping just to play it safe. The police did not give Adams a breathalyzer to see if she was in fact drunk before arresting her, instead making a “judgement call,” a call neither Adams’ family or the restaurant management seemed to believe should be made by anyone other than Adams, judging by the fact that the waitress couldn’t get anyone else to intervene.

What becomes clear from this incident is that we’ve gone beyond society figuratively policing mothers to society really, truly and literally policing them. Unable to get anyone else to agree with her personal opinion that a nursing mother shouldn’t drink, the waitress in question literally brought in authority figures not to enforce a law, since none was broken, but to enforce a judgement on whether or not Adams was being a good mother. Now, apparently, that is a crime and can fall under the blanket charge of “endangering a child.”

Former Care2 author Annie Urban writing at her own blog noticed this increase in policing last year when the story first broke, calling feminist blog Jezebel to the carpet for failing to acknowledge the harm they perpetuated by jumping on the “bad mother” bandwagon and supporting police action against Adams. “By judging alcohol and breastfeeding as ‘dangerous’, they may cause women to wean early if they want to be able to enjoy an occasional drink or they may make them feel so judged that they simply drink at home instead of going out and socializing,” Urban argued. “So we judge, judge, judge (of course the alcohol and breastfeeding thing isn’t all that is being judged)…because ‘who is thinking of the children?’, but we don’t provide support.”

“Everyone is happy to step in and judge moms, but who is going to step in and help?” asked Urban.

We already have politicians demanding free pregnancy tests in bar bathrooms but not subsidized birth control, making it clear that a woman’s most important goal should be ensuring she is not endangering any potential child, rather than helping her prevent a pregnancy she doesn’t want. Now, we see this scrutiny of her continuing once she gives birth, literally calling it “endangerment” and putting her in jail if someone believes her parenting isn’t good enough.

At what point is it finally too much?

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jerome S
Jerome S8 months ago


Jim Ven
Jim V8 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Lee Rowan
Lee Rowan3 years ago

From what I've heard of this episode, the woman and her friends had been there drinking for hours and had become loud and obstreperous. No one who wasn't there really knows the facts. But I've seldom known a waitress to call the cops on a customer because it mostly leads to grief for the waitress.

Also, this story has been posted and re-posted and it all happened a year ago.

My guess is the woman was out drinking to excess and pulled the 'sacred motherhood' line to avoid prosecution. There would have been evidence - the bar tab - but I'm sure her friends would have backed her up so the waitress was the only opposing voice.

News flash: nursing mothers DO, often, drink too much and yes, it DOES affect their baby. Not as much as drinking while pregnant, but anything that goes into a woman's digestive tract will affect her milk.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

They should always harass the weak and innocent. Arrest them if need be, let that robber, rapist, or vandal go.

If you can't tell I am being sarcastic, you are probably in favor of the robber, rapist, or vandal.

Brian Steele
Brian Steele3 years ago

Is there a similar "law" against drinking while pregnant? Having 4 kids, all of whom were exclusively breastfed and never once given a bottle of artificial milk, I appreciate what my wife went through in effectively giving up alcohol for such a long period, but I also know that a moderate amount is in no way harmful to the baby and certainly doesn't warrant a call to the police.

If we called the police every time something happened in a restaurant, they might as well post an officer there permanently for every time children ran around and were not controlled effectively.

Mary B.
Mary B3 years ago

No, women should not be arrested for drinking during the time period when they are breast feeding, whether it be just 3 months, or 2 years. Hopefully, most women understand that I'm refering to non-excessive drinking. A lot more damage is being done by republicans who will cut out WIC and foodstamps. Arrest them.

Gregg DesElms
Gregg DesElms3 years ago

Just FYI, everyone...

Fri 4 Apr 2014 | SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) -- A judge sentenced a South Carolina woman to 20 years in prison Friday for killing her 6-week-old daughter with what prosecutors say was an overdose of morphine delivered through her breast milk.


The 20-year sentence was the minimum after a Spartanburg County jury found Greene guilty of homicide by child abuse Friday. She could have faced up to life behind bars. Greene will have to serve 16 years before she is eligible for parole. She said nothing in court and quietly shuffled out of the courtroom, her hands and feet shackled, after she was sentenced.


[Prosecutor Barry] Barnette doesn't want his prosecution to stop women from breastfeeding. He took this case personally because his wife had a miscarriage in 1989. She is a nurse and personally reviewed the case.

"We make sacrifices every day for our children," Barnette said. "She decided she was going to have her drugs and sacrifice the health, and ultimately the life, of her child."


Gregg L. DesElms
Napa, California USA
gregg at greggdeselms dot com

Veritas nihil veretur nisi abscondi.
Veritas nimium altercando amittitur.

Edgar Zuim
Edgar Z3 years ago

This is not a normal attitude.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

And once again, moderate amounts of alcohol should not present a threat to the baby's health, so it is really no one else's business.

Janis Keller
janis keller3 years ago

Kevin B. I commend your abstaining from alcohol. However, you were not a breastfeeding mother that was drinking, that is the big difference. Im talking about breastfeeding mothers who drink