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North Dakota Woman Faces Probable Jail Time for Breastfeeding While Intoxicated

posted 11:07 AM EST, Wed July 08, 2009
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North Dakota Woman Faces Probable Jail Time for Breastfeeding While Intoxicated © Photo by by Bethany L King

A mom caught breastfeeding while intoxicated faces up to 5 years in prison. The arresting police department defends the arrest despite great controversy. Many agree that the police were right to protect the infant, others ask, "where do we draw the line?"

Police responding to a domestic assault call in Grand Forks North Dakota found 26 year old Stacey Anvarina sitting on the couch with a swollen nose and a scratched face. Her boyfriend, who was alleged to have assaulted the woman, was not present.

Anvarina was found breastfeeding her 6 week old infant, police determined that she was intoxicated, and arrested her for child neglect. She has pled guilty and faces a possible jail sentence of 5 years. Her boyfriend was not charged with any crime.

The case has sparked much controversial attention, with many applauding the police for their efforts in safeguarding the welfare of an at-risk child, and others wondering if police went too far. Those who argue against the sensibility of the arrest point to trampled rights of privacy and the deterrent effect for all women considering breastfeeding as a healthier choice for their children.

Dr. Amy Tuteur, who runs the website, The Skeptical OB and who is a retired gynecologist and obstetrician, wrote on her site, "Since when is breast-feeding while drunk a crime? If the 26-year-old woman had been bottle-feeding her baby, no one would have bothered to check what was in the bottle. You can do a lot more damage by mixing formula wrong."

No controlled studies have examined the consequences of alcohol consumption by breast feeding mothers (due largely to ethical reasons) but doctors advise against excessive alcohol intake by breastfeeding mothers.

Police did not conduct a blood alcohol test on Anavarina, although Grand Forks Police Capt. Kerwin Kjelstrom explained that it wasn't necessary, saying, "The majority of our problems are caused by alcohol. Our officers handle it so much that it is pretty much a general knowledge thing to know when someone is intoxicated. It's pretty obvious."

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