Sobriety and motherhood: I stopped drinking for my baby

Guest post by REDACTED mom
Sobriety and motherhood

Hi, my name is REDACTED, and I’m an alcoholic. Before I found out I was pregnant I drank on a regular basis. Not enough to affect my work, but enough to affect my personal life. Instead of dealing with my issues in a healthy manner, I used alcohol as a coping mechanism. For example, instead of a glass of wine or a beer after work, I would have a shot of tequila with my ex-husband and then when he went to the bathroom, I would sneak another one and not tell him about it.

Not good.

When I found out I was pregnant, I quit drinking full stop. It wasn’t easy. I was going through an emotionally challenging time without my go-to friend, alcohol. Thankfully, the scent of alcohol from an open bottle of wine and even on the breath of others made me nauseous in the first trimester. I knew that I did not want to put my child at risk by drinking while pregnant. I wanted to give him the best start possible. I had other women who had children explain how an occasional glass of wine while pregnant was okay, but I did not feel safe explaining why an occasional glass of anything wasn’t okay for me.

After I had the baby, I was worried that I would give in to temptation and start drinking again. I was breastfeeding, and it meant a lot to me, so pumping and dumping wasn’t something I wanted to do on a regular basis. I have to admit I had a beer or a glass of wine a few times over the course of my son’s first year, and yes, I did pump and dump. I felt guilty for drinking, I felt guilty for pumping and dumping, and I felt like I failed myself and my son. And you know, the glass of beer or wine just wasn’t as satisfying as I remembered.

I was able to use breastfeeding as the excuse for why I wasn’t drinking when I went to industry events or company happy hours. I received grief from my co-workers and manager after I was done breastfeeding, but still not drinking. I ended up telling a few co-workers and my manager that I had a history of alcohol mis-use, and I didn’t want to be that kind of mother. I knew it was going to be really hard not to drink after I was done breastfeeding; I never expected peer pressure to drink in a professional environment.

My son is now 16 months old. I feel safer in my recovery. I still think about drinking from time to time, but when I do, I quickly think about how much joy I feel hearing my son’s laugh and being sober for every moment of his life compared to the momentary pleasure I experienced from alcohol.

For those of you trying to struggling with recovery, please find comfort in the knowledge that you aren’t alone. Ask for help. Reach out to other mothers. Go to meetings. Do what you need to do to feel safe and be there for your children.

There are tons of resources for those recovering from alcoholism that range from the fun (like this post about mocktails on Offbeat Bride) to serious and/or support groups (Alcoholics Anonymous being the most well-known). There’s no way for us to know what might work for you, but if you’re in a similar position as this post author and looking for help, it’s out there.

Comments on Sobriety and motherhood: I stopped drinking for my baby

  1. My husband quit drinking this year and it has been amazing. He was in an accident and realized that he could have given our sons the biggest regret of his own childhood: growing up without a father.

    He just said recently that he never felt like he was separated from us until he stopped drinking and realized how much closer he became with his children. Good for you, and best of luck with your recovery.

  2. Bravo, Mama! You definitely have your priorities straight and sadly sometimes not even a precious baby can make people get those in order. Keep going! Your son is lucky to have you as a mommy!

  3. Kudos to you for recognizing that your relationship to alcohol isn’t “casual”! It sounds like your overall consumption was relatively low which makes it even more impressive that you detected it.

    I hear you on the industry event dilemma. I’m not much of a drinker and it doesn’t take much for me to get tipsy so when I’m “out and about” sometimes I’ll refuse any alcohol outright. But man, I can’t tell you the number of times people have tried to cajole me into drinking. Peer pressure: it’s not just for teens!

    • “But man, I can’t tell you the number of times people have tried to cajole me into drinking. Peer pressure: it’s not just for teens!”

      This! I am an occasional drinker, but usually only once in a while socially and never more than one or two… I don’t like the feeling of being drunk, so I don’t go there. It is SHOCKING how much this bothers some people. I’m hanging out, having a good time, not really concerned about it… why is anyone else? So strange to be in my mid 30s and still having to defend my choice not to drink. Wuh?

    • Yes! I’ve 27, and have never had a drink of alcohol ever. The only alcohol I’ve ever consumed has been in cooking, in Nyquil when I’m sick, and maybe trace amounts from kissing someone who was drinking. I get heckled ALL the time for not drinking, especially since I don’t have a specific reason like religion (I’m actually an atheist) or an alcoholic family. I get especially sick of the comments like, “Oh, I’d love to be there when you get wasted for the first time!” Um, who said I was planning on getting wasted? I’ve gone this long without ever drinking…I don’t see a reason to start now.

    • Although I think this is a great and moving story, I don’t think I’d call it a “mirror” story or even necessarily a related one:

      This is a story about addiction followed by total sobriety, a personal journey of self-change (therefore categorized as “Tough Stuff”). The other was one person’s rules for responsible use (therefore categorized as “It worked for me”).

      Although they both are in the same broad realm (substance use + parenting) the subjects are night and day. It’s a bit like hearing a story about a woman leaving her severely abusive, authoritarian husband and relating it to a story about ways to make the division of labor in your marriage more egalitarian. (One is about fixing a badly broken situation, the other is about negotiating a working day-to-day existence).

      • Correct, the subjects are like night and day. One is about controlling negative substance use and the other about controlling positive substance use. I was just making an observation.

  4. i also used getting pregnant as an excuse to quit drinking. i used to easily drink a bottle of wine a night and justify it to myself because it was ‘just wine’. my partner has had many issues with addiction (with drinking and opiates) and he cut out everything but pot and i cut out everything period. it was a great thing to do together as well as individually. our baby was born two weeks ago and i’m loving the breastfeeding excuse. my mom brought me several bottles of wine to my baby shower and they are happily on the highest shelf in my kitchen where i can’t really see them. i’m a better person with almost a year of sobriety. i don’t see a lot of friends i used to drink with anymore and that’s okay. i’ve found that i like sitting with my family at home a lot more.

  5. Congrats on your sobriety!

    I just wanted to draw attention to part of your story. I know that for you, avoiding alcohol is important because you have that history of mis-use. But I just wanted to point out, for other moms who might be reading the story, that ‘pumping and dumping’ is not necessarily required after drinking while breastfeeding. Most of my breastfeeding books, and many doctors, say that you can breastfeed as normal after moderate drinking. I often have a glass of wine or two with dinner and just breastfeed my son as normal.

    • Yes. I feel strange posting it here but it’s not automatically necessary to dump after a drink. There are strips to test in order to teach each mom how, on average, she metabolizes the alcohol. However, as always – do what works best for you and yours.

    • Also, if you leave the milk in your breasts (if you can take it) the alcohol will be processed out of it, as it is from the rest of your body. So when you’re sober, your milk is clean.

      • Yes, the alcohol will evaporate from your milk like it does from your blood. So if you are uncomfortable feeding your child while you’re drunk (and I’m not, but some are) just wait until you’re sober again, and your milk will be alcohol-free. No need to dump it.

        • And the alcohol content of your milk will be the same as your BAC, which means if you have a BAC of 0.04% after having a beer, that’s exactly the % of alcohol that will be in your milk. It’s not like you’re giving your baby a beer with a 5% alcohol content. And since most people can process about one drink per hour, that’s all you really need to wait if you want no alcohol in your milk whatsoever. Pumping and dumping is almost never necessary.

          I know this has little to do with the point of the post. I just wanted to help clear that up in case anyone reading this thinks they need to either not drink or pump and dump while breastfeeding.

          • Yes, I was going to add that I don’t wait to be sober before I breastfeed, but no everyone will do that.

    • Ok, cool! First: thanks for the info, all! This is definitely a topic that a lot of people wonder about. Having said that, I want to note that even though the information here is undoubtedly solid, it’s always best to check with your healthcare provider to confirm that the amount of alcohol you’re drinking is ok IF you’re concerned.

      Again: I don’t doubt what you guys are saying, but we’re not a medical website or qualified to supply this kind of info, so I don’t want to give the impression that we’re doing so.

      Over & out!

      • Oh, yes, thanks for the reminder that I forgot to include references!

        Here is La Leche League’s article on the compatibility of breastmilk and alcohol consumption. The article itself includes its own references to studies, etc. so people can check those if they wish.

        It has this to say about pumping and dumping:

        “Do I have to pump and dump after drinking an alcoholic beverage?

        “As alcohol leaves the bloodstream, it leaves the breastmilk. Since alcohol is not “trapped” in breastmilk (it returns to the bloodstream as mother’s blood alcohol level declines), pumping and dumping will not remove it. Pumping and dumping, drinking a lot of water, resting, or drinking coffee will not speed up the rate of the elimination of alcohol from your body.”

  6. Good for you!

    And in response to the author talking about her co-workers, here’s something I’ll never understand: the pressure others place on people to drink. I’ve got a friend who really doesn’t want to drink (and really really shouldn’t) but receives grief from all of her “friends” when she doesn’t imbibe. No one should feel pressured to drink, ever.

    • I agree that no one should feel pressured to drink but sadly we often are.
      My go-to option when I don’t feel like drinking is to offer to drive. Where I am, the party culture has delightfully shifted so that designated drivers are off limits for pressure and sometimes get their non alcoholic drinks for free.

      If that is an option, it can be useful and win you points with friends.

  7. I used to do events, and never drank on the job… despite the pressure to partake. I used to slip the barman a tip and he’d make virgin version of whatever was being drunk and serve it to me throughout the evening. Same glass, same garnish, same colouring… nobody ever knew.

    • Brilliant! It takes next to nothing to get me realy tipsy, and why would I not want to be perfectly on my game during work functions?! But I do feel the need to have something in my hand to occupy me when the conversation lulls (or I’m sitting in a corner without knowing anyone…) so having a mocktail sounds perfect. There is only so much coke I can drink.

  8. You are doing really well, good job! I am so worried that I will not even recognize an addiction like that. I am just realizing that I have an obsessive personality, which does and is affecting my social and home life, and I am starting to realize exactly how difficult (almost impossible I sometimes feel!) it can be to overcome it. So good job, HUGS, and thank you for sharing so that you can be a realistic inspiration. You are not only a role model to your child, but to us. 🙂

  9. wow, go you! you have just given your son the best gift ever! I grew up with parents who had serious substance abuse issues and I suffered because of it. my quality of life suffered, attention and being put in risky situations. Go you!!

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