When I heard about 'Brooklyn's breastfeeding beer drinking baby brigade' from writer and mom Reedu Taha, I got really angry. Angry because I wasn't invited! I think most breastfeeding moms can agree -- it's really helpful to have a support system especially from other moms who might be going through what you are going through. Plus, moms deserve some socializing, too. And that's how the baby brigade was born. Reedu joined with like-minded moms for some beers with their babies in tow. And I'm hoping to join them next time as well. This is Reedu's story.
There's an old wives' tale that says beer increases a mother's milk production. I took to that advice this past summer, as my husband sneaked a six-pack into the maternity ward at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn just hours after I had given birth to our son. Little did I know that the Bud Light I had on that August night, much to the dismay of my postpartum nurse, would be the first of many centered around breastfeeding.
When my son was about a month old, I came upon a post on the local parents listserv. New mom Netta Rosenman wrote that her 3-week-old son wasn't much of a conversationalist and was appealing to other new moms in the area who might like to sit outside and have a drink. I answered her email, and as it turned out, so did more than a dozen other women.
While some would argue that breastfeeding moms shouldn't be drinking alcohol, Dr. Thomas Hale says differently in the must-have guide to medications and breastfeeding, Medications and Mothers' Milk: Beer, but not ethanol, has been reported in a number of studies to stimulate prolactin levels and breast milk production. Thus it's presumed that the polysaccharide from barley may be the prolactin-stimulating component of beer. Non-alcoholic beer is equally effective.
Later that month Rosenman organized the first meet-up at Bar Great Harry in Brooklyn. Sixteen new moms with babies between 3 weeks and 3 months stormed the bar decked out in Baby Bjorns and pushing bassinet strollers. Most of the babies slept. Others nursed at their moms' breasts. All of us drank beer. We regaled one another with birth stories, poop stories, and bonded over sleep-deprived nights. Rosenman dubbed the group "Spirits & Spit Up," because, well, that's what newborns do.
But the babies have since grown, and lucky for the bar floor, so too have their stomachs (they don't spit up as much anymore). We now meet nearby at The Brazen Head and refers to ourselves simply as "Brews and Babies."
"Being a new mom, especially in winter, can be lonely and isolating," said Christine Chin, who left her prosperous job in finance to raise her now 6-month-old son Lucas. "Beers and Babies has been a great way to meet other new moms in the neighborhood," she added while sipping her Bass Ale.
The majority of moms have returned to their full-time jobs. And much to the chagrin of regulars at The Brazen Head, a small group of breastfeeding moms still meets once per week to throw back a pint. Hold the phone. Don't call social services on us just yet. Our group's beer drinking forays are always carried out with our babies' best interests in mind. In other words, none of us are doing bar slides or belly shots. In fact, typically, no mom has more than one beer.
In December I ordered a beer fittingly called Mother's Milk Stout, which has an alcohol content level higher than my usual Bud Light. It made me a bit loopy. Lucky for me my son was fast asleep in his stroller in the corner of the bar. Lucky for my son I was able to test my breast milk when I got home with Milkscreen, test strips that measures the amount of alcohol in breast milk. The milk, it turned out, was not contaminated. Had it been I would have been able to express it, or as moms affectionately refer to it: "pump and dump."
It's not unusual for customers to walk into The Brazen Head and do a double take when they see a dozen or so strollers and babies. "I wasn't sure if I walked on to a playground or into a bar the first time I saw them here," said a local patron who declined to give his name because he had left work early that day.
"Most customers are fine with it, but a few customers, mostly older grouchy men, were very upset," said Lou Sones, managing partner of The Brazen Head. "They would say to me, 'Lou -- how can you allow this, this is a bar for Christ sakes?' My response was always that this is a neighborhood joint and all people are welcome," said Sones. Sones, who moonlights as an actor, confessed that he lost one customer to us moms. "I learned that as an owner no one person or group of customers should ever control the makeup of your bar. It's just a bad business model," he stressed. "I should also mention that I thought it was very cool." All us moms think Sones, who's been known to place a "reserved for the moms" sign on the banquette when we are coming, is pretty cool, too.
Sure, beers while breastfeeding may seem like a strange, even somewhat controversial mix. But what's more strange to me is not doing what I enjoy, like socializing and having the occasional beer, just because I became a mom.
So, are you going to report me or join me?... for a beer of course! Please share your thoughts!
Reedu lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, adorable baby boy, handicapped pitbull, and two geriatric cats. She blogs at ReeWrite.com about her new life as a mom, natural childbirth, animal rescue, and her fabulous shoe collection that she doesn't get to wear anymore. You can follow her on Twitter @Reedu.
Image via Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr