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Breast milk or alcohol: which is worse for your baby?

By Alice Bradley

Good news, ladies! Binge drinking will not harm your unborn fetus! Balance that 40-ounce on your ballooning midsection, and damn the naysayers!
A recent study performed at Oxford University showed that a single incident of binge drinking is not likely to harm a fetus. (Binge drinking, incidentally, is defined as five or more drinks in a single night—a number that would permanently damage me, much less my unborn child. But then, I am a delicate flower.) While other studies have shown that binge drinking during pregnancy can wreak havoc on brain development, researchers concluded that it’s routine binge drinking that’s a problem, and not the occasional binge.

Now, one might ask why this is worth being studied. Are we looking to encourage binge drinking during pregnancy? Do we just want to watch pregnant women go nuts for one night of their gestation? One would hope not. The study does have implications for the moderate consumption of alcohol during pregnancy, though. (If a binge won’t harm a baby, could this mean that a pregnant woman who ingests a single glass of wine is not, in fact, the devil?) Not to mention, there are undoubtedly women out there who may have had a few too many before they realized they were knocked up. So here, hungover, panicky pregnant women: everything’s probably okay. But for the rest of you, this study should not be your excuse to break open a box of wine and curl in bed with it and your giant crazy straw. I know that’s what you were planning.

While drinking during pregnancy may have been given a bad rap, drinking after pregnancy is a problem—when it’s your child and the drink she is drinking is your breast milk. Because hey, guess what—you’re making her fat!

Ahem. Let’s try that again. A study has shown that adiponectin, a protein found in breast milk, is directly related to childhood obesity. The higher the levels of adiponectin in the milk, the more likely the child is to be overweight by the age of two. What this means is still unclear, because high levels of adiponectin in adults actually correlates with a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease. One possibility is that infants can’t adequately absorb the protein. But there’s no definitive answer, and as we know, breast milk has numerous benefits for babies. Including, strangely enough, a lower risk of obesity. The mind reels, does it not?

While scientists argue the merits of breastfeeding, here’s one conclusion everyone’s happy to agree upon: breastfeeding doesn’t cause sagging. Yet another study interviewed over 100 women who sought out breast lifts or augmentation. Turns out they couldn’t find a difference in the degree of saggage between the breastfeeders and the non-breastfeeders. The factors that actually affected the relative perkiness of the women’s chests were age, number of pregnancies, and whether or not the patient was a smoker. Smoking, it seems, breaks down a protein in the skin called elastin. As the skin breaks down, the boobs clatter to the floor. Did you need another reason not to smoke? There you go.

In conclusion: you can drink during pregnancy, maybe, or maybe not; you should still breastfeed, because researchers are nuts, probably; if your breasts are less than perky, blame the ravages of time, and not your baby’s appetite. I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned a lot today.

Related Content:

Because Mother Nature made bottles for a reason
What to suspect when you’re expecting
Hey, fat-obsessed America!

Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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But… studies clearly show that breastfed babies have a lowered risk of obesity than formula-fed babies. Did they look at the protein alone, and then just notice that it’s also in breastmilk? Who knows how it might react differently in the body depending on where it comes from?


Back in the day (also known as the magical year 1975), when my mother was pregnant with me, her doctor encouraged her to drink a glass of wine every night to help her sleep. Considering that I ended up spending several years of my elementary and middle school career in gifted and talented class “exploring my creativity,” it seems that it did not hamper my brain development.
Or maybe it did, and if she hadn’t followed her doctor’s advice, I’d be a full on genius. DANGIT, Mom. What were you thinking?


You are such a talent. I love the way you write!
Happy Weekend!

All Adither

I keep reading reports that breastfeeding reduces a child’s chances of developing asthma and food allergies. At the same time I read that ingesting peanuts while pregnant can cause an already predisposed baby to develop peanut allergies. Check and check. I nursed. I ate peanuts. He has asthma and food allergies.
Yeah, let me know when you figure it out amongst yourselves, scientist people.


Holy crap. I need a drink after reading all that. Speaking of which, my doctor told me frankly that a glass of wine here and there is not going to hurt anyone. She said that frankly, “Americans are puritanical when it comes to drinking” but she did admit that she does not normally say such things to her patients because of liability. Is this there where I mention she is a Crunchy Granola, former La Leche League leader? But is also a conservative Catholic who was joking when my son was born in time for her to rush to Mass?… Read more »


Quoting: As the skin breaks down, the boobs clatter to the floor.
I’m writing this down in my book of wildly funny things.
Thank you!


Such good points… I love this. We featured this post in the weekly web wrap at


The British study about binge-drinking was no doubt borne (ha ha ha) from the fact that the press over here is OBSESSED with binge-drinking, and anything relating to it is big news. The study is perhaps meant to calm fears over young, binge-aholic pregnant women, perhaps most of all those who are regular binge-drinkers and don’t realise they’re pregnant until after a weekend’s debauchery. People really do drink a lot here – 12-14 vodkas in one night was pretty routine for me as a student, and all the members of my social circle were the same or worse. Thankfully none… Read more »


I think, perhaps, that you may have just broken my brain.

Karen Vogel

Wow – and I thought the sagging boobs were just due to gravity. I guess I’ll stop standing on my head now – thanks.