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Mother Charged For Drunk Breastfeeding: Details Emerge, and the Case Makes Less Sense

The AP reported Monday on the case of Stacey Anvarinia, the North Dakota woman who recently pleaded guilty to felony child neglect for breastfeeding under the influence. She could face 5 years in prison when she is sentenced in August.

As you may remember, the story emerged last week, and initially there were numerous questions lingering. Not to mention a lot of debate on whether alcohol consumption affects breastmilk and therefore the babies who drink it.

But now, a few more details have come out about this case, and it actually makes less sense. Grand Forks Police Lt. Rahn Farder commented on it:

This case is more than just the breast-feeding. It was the totality of the circumstances. It is quite unusual for a mother to be breast-feeding her child as we are conducting an investigation, whether she was intoxicated or not.


Not only does that puzzling quote leave me wanting to interrogate the police force, so do a few other points.


The police arrived at Anvarinia’s home after receiving a domestic disturbance call. Anvarinia said that her boyfriend assaulted her, and the police report said she had swelling on her nose and chin and a scratch on her cheek. Indeed, in the above mug shot, she does look a bit messed up.

The boyfriend was not there at the time they arrived and has not been charged for the alleged assault. Grand Forks authorities also decline to say who currently has custody of Anvarinia’s 6-week-old daughter.

The AP story also included a mention that the woman had a previous criminal record, but did not say what that involved.

Finally, there’s this:

It’s unclear how much Anavarina had to drink. Police never conducted a blood-alcohol test. Investigators believed she was drunk, and her arrest on a charge of child abuse and neglect did not require a test.

‘The majority of our problems are caused by alcohol,’ said Grand Forks Police Capt. Kerwin Kjelstrom. ‘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.’

Oooh. Now I get it. A woman who gave birth 6 weeks earlier and then was allegedly assaulted (in the head, no less) and happened to have a criminal record was perceived to be drunk, so she probably was. Therefore, it was obviously in the best interest of mother and breastfed child that they be separated. Like I said…making less sense all the time.

There are ongoing arguments in the online community about this case. And the more details that emerge, the more discussion there will be, it seems.

Though I don’t agree with most of what the “The Skeptical OB” writes, I do agree with these words, from retired OB Dr. Amy Tuteur,

Since when is breast-feeding while drunk a crime? If she 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.

Image: Grand Forks County Correctional Center

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  1. ::boggle::

    I’m struggling to understand this. So… is the police officer implying that “the totality of the circumstances” form a basis for the neglect charge? For a FELONY neglect charge, at that. i.e., the fact that she was breastfeeding in front of the officers was EVIDENCE of neglect or proof that she was drunk? WTF???

    AND… even though a call was about a domestic disturbance and there was evidence that the woman had sustained some injury, no charges had been brought against the boyfriend who allegedly beat her up? Guess the whole, “I’m a dude… can’t lactate, therefore I’m innocent” defense really works wonders in Grand Forks.

  2. I find it interesting that the argument lies in whether “alcohol consumption affects breast milk and therefore the babies who drink it”.

    The pro or con of that argument aside, maybe we should be focusing more on whether women have the physical/mental capacity while “under the influence” to be taking care of a newborn or child of any age.

  3. Wow. On almost every level.
    This is jacked.
    I know my mom, her mom and most all of my aunts and grandmothers enjoyed the occasional Pabst Blue Ribbon or Schlitz AND those little blue Valium – often at the same time. And, we were all breast-fed
    Glad they weren’t in North Dakota or we would have all been raised without benefit of our mothers.
    AND, the whole spousal abuse issue just floors me. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but were the arresting officers maybe guys? And, perhaps they’d never been beat about the head and shoulders within weeks of giving birth? Just a guess.
    Every day we get more and more stories that support the notion that we are in great need for an overhaul of our judicial system.
    This is beyond ridiculous.

  4. Rusaiane says:

    I don’t understand this either — if you take away a lactating mother’s baby, there’s a good chance that her milk production will stop, even if she expresses daily. Also, what’s the baby drinking now? Formula? Babies often have a hard time adjusting when they’re switched from breast to bottle and then back.

  5. I agree. I’m now more confused about the case.

  6. This always looked like a domestic violence case to me. How many more women will be afraid to call the police when they are being abused now?

  7. The only way this could make less sense is if Palin started issuing statements for the Grand Rapids Police Dept. Was this guy under the influence when he said this?!?!

  8. Gloria- thanks for the chuckle.
    I mean, really, where was the sense in his issue with her BFing? “We can strip search people, but God forbid a woman feed her child from her breast in front of us. Now *that* is worth investigating.” Weird.
    Plus, if we want to nit-pick, clearly she WASN’T neglecting; she had the child on her breast!
    And the domestic violence part of it? I can’t fathom why they’re not going after this guy.

  9. I still think there’s got to be more to this story that is being reported. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that the police probably suspect drugs but did not have the evidence to prove that in court. So they trumped up this whole nursing-while-apparently-drunk thing to get her into custody.

  10. this is ridiculous! 6 week old babies eat approx every 90 min. Domestic abuse cases take awhile to check out. Odds are she was going to have to nurse while they were there. Really there is NO LAW regarding breastfeeding and drinking and rightly so. Child neglect?!? These Officers need to get the riot act from every woman they know. If more women breastfeed we wouldn’t have to explain ourselves and how this whole ‘lactation thing’ works…

  11. Has anyone contacted LLL or any other Breast-feeding groups about this? This could be a major story if one of those groups got behind her and made this national news. The police work could be considered harassment and she could receive damages.

    It is easy to “commit” crimes today. Even protesting state mandated vaccines labels you a terrorist today (that is NOT an exaggeration). I do not see how whatever crime she committed in the past has anything to do with her breastfeeding her child – or even how well she parents. The statement breastfeeding while conducting an interview is asinine. The baby is not supposed to get hungry because you are a police officer and have questions? This makes me incensed.

  12. From what I understand technically if she was drunk or drinking at the time of breastfeeding it wouldn’t matter because the body takes time to process everything consumed which will eventually (maybe) end up in the breast milk.

    She shouldn’t go to jail or anything for this crap.

    I think lately cops are becoming very anti-woman, maybe it has always been that way but lately it is becoming way more obvious.

    Those hick ass cops should be the ones sitting in jail for being flat out stupid.

    Can you imagine if stupid was a crime? The jails would really be overcrowded wouldn’t they?

    *I see stupid people, they don’t know they’re stupid.*

  13. I agree with Sharon. My friend & I were talking about this the other day & the only reasons we can come up with for why she pled guilty is 1)There’s a lot more to this case than the media is saying & this was a lesser charge. Seems unlikely, because all the cops & prosecutor are doing is making themselves look stupid. 2)She’s low income & only has a public defender who gave her very bad advice. If the only thing they have is basically “It’s weird to breastfeed in front of cops so she must’ve been drunk & that must be somehow bad for the baby,” this case should never have even made it to court. She should’ve been let go with an apology for the trauma they’ve caused her baby & the damage to her breastfeeding relationship.

  14. I have to say, when each of my children were 6 weeks old, I probably appeared “intoxicated” as well…6 weeks of heavy post-partum bleeding coupled with the incredible sleep deprivation that goes along with having a newborn tends to have that effect. I remember actually running into the door frame of our bedroom door because I was almost asleep on my feet. The cops, in this case, need to get a grip. She should file charges against the police department for failure to charge the boyfriend for obvious assault and for defamation of character. This just makes my blood boil!

  15. so… now that baby and mom are separated and baby cant nurse and mom’s supply will vanish- what happens if the baby cant tolerate the formula, doesnt gain weight and is emotionally needy for her mom?

    oh i know- we hit mom with child abuse for ‘failure to thrive baby too’.

    much better to take a baby away from her (allegedly) abused mother than to ask her if she needs help.

  16. There’s apparently much more to the story than just breastfeeding under the influence. The belief that she was intoxicated was reinforced by the fact that she answered the door holding her 6-week old son upside down by one leg and began shaking him when he started crying. The police officer(s) asked her to stop and finally she started breastfeeding him to calm him down. There seemed to be a genuine and concretely based concern for the welfare of the child, beyond whether or not he was getting too much alcohol in the breastmilk, however that’s much more sensational than “mother shakes baby.” And her record isn’t just a few run-ins with the law, it’s more like 28, IIRC, enough that there’s a definite pattern and history that could explain the apparent harshness of her recommended sentence.

  17. Rachel,
    You’re reporting “news” that I can’t find anywhere except a v. conservative discussion forum.
    Do you have any links to provide for us so we can read about her abuse and criminal history?
    Also, shaking a baby is indeed v. serious, and I’m sure my blog would have been about that if that was what was reported and she was charged with.
    If she was shaking a baby in front of the officers, why wouldn’t they charge her with abuse instead of neglect?
    (Also, from everything I’ve read–click on the various links–the baby is a girl, not boy.)

    I’m confused. Again, any resources you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

  18. Oh…all. Before you click on that link in my last comment, please know that it was provided through my first blog on the topic, and in no way do I support what is written on the discussion board.
    (Actually, it scares me a bit.)

  19. Suzann Kelly says:

    So this mother is having her baby taken away from her because she was drinking, but the boyfriend gets off free of assault charges? If the police don;t even know how many drinks this mom had, enough to endanger the baby or not, then I see no reason why they arrested her and not the boyfriend who could have endangered the baby as well as hurting the mom. He’s the one that needs to be taken in. And as far as the breatfeeding goes and bottle issue, heck she could have drank while pumping and then put the breast milk in a bottle for later. The cops would have never known that whould they’ve?

  20. k…I’d first like to say,WTF!? She gets beat up, arrested for breastfeading drunk, and sounds like she got arrested for breast feading in front of the cops. This realy burns my ass. Any child care provider will tell you if your baby is hungry, FEED THE BABY! anywhere anytime.if I’m in public and i see a mother BFing, I think she is a good mother. Their is nothing wrong with it and you should definitly not get into trouble for it. I take this as more evidence that our judicial system is in the crapper. OH,… i almost forgot! the boyfriend who beat her about the head and shoulders(while taking care of her infant). no charges? Well i guesse the police must have forgoten too…

  21. this reminds me when my father was haveing a dibatic reaction from not takeing his meds one day of being arrested for DUI. My question is when did cops go to medical school, and why they dont wear that certificate on thier uniforms instead of a badge? if they going to arrest for medical problems and blaim it on acahol?
    I also wonder why the cops let the person that assulted this woman walk and not go arrest them if she was assulted that to is a crime.
    my thoughts on this delema is ” COPS ARE NOT DOCTORS and DOCTORS ARE NOT COPS” if you impersonate a cop you go to jail !!! so its only fair if a cop impersonates a doctor he to should go to jail!!!!!!!

  22. DR.J P SOTO PhD. says:


  23. this are ridiculas charges for breastfeeding i think women are neglecting their kids by not breastfeeding

  24. sorry doc, i desided a long time ago that m.d. does not stand for me diety. you are not god so i refuse to feel chastised by you outburst and be quiet like a good little patient, ok? too bad, shut-the-fuck-up, you already broke several laws by releasing private medical information so nothing you say now has any value at all. the issue is the cops wanted this womyn and trumped up a charge to get her and they don’t care about the child. they should be charged with abuse, not her. if she has pleaded to anything it is because she has been threatend with worse charges and probably the loss of her child. the cops hoped the public (thats you and me, folks)would be too stupid to care that this womyn is being abused by the cops so they can make a “bigger and better” arrest. i defy any official on the department to come out here and say that i am wrong in this assessment. come on guys, come out and say hi to your fans! this is more than you tax dollars folks, remember these guys carry guns and we don’t. there is a little known law called “insite police” the punishment can be imediate and final with no appeal cause your dead. it’s scarey out there, take care of each other cause they wont.

  25. Former Personal Care Provider says:

    The point about Ms. Anvarinia having obvious head injuries should, it seems to me, be the primary focus in the investigation. Cops aren’t doctors, but they’re required to hold current certification in basic emergency medical care. Mine is expired, but I had to keep it current for a number of years, and I recall the section on head injury always included a caution to suspect brain trauma whenever you see “odd or unusual behavior.” A childhood friend of mine might be alive today if the sheriff who questioned him on a snowy country road late at night hadn’t assumed slurred speech indicated drunkeness rather than a snowmobile crash that caused a head injury (the snowmobile was later found somewhere on a trail in the woods). The recent famous case of that actress who died of brain trauma after signing a refusal of treatment is a similar case. Those of us who want to act in a way to bring about real change should contact the police chief and (CC) the mayor of Grand Forks and your own town to ask if their basic emergency medical care certification includes a rigorous section about head injuries.

  26. Who the hell is Dr. Soto, because he/she sounds like a whackjob!! And these investigating officers sound more like Keystone Cops!

    Anyway…any decent mother knows, when your baby is hungry, YOU FEED YOUR BABY – whether by bottle or breast, you feed your baby, regardless of what is going on! Geez!! Not complicated at all. If someone if offended, well, that’s their problem, not mom’s and not baby’s.

    I guess we should rest assured that these officers are such experts at detecting intoxication that they don’t even require breath or blood analysis to reach such a conclusion. And the jerk that smacked this woman around…are the cops too lazy or too stupid not to find him and charge him with assualt?? They probably just think she deserved it and made jokes about it back at the station.

    How sad, that this woman called the police for their “service” and “protection” for her and her baby and ended up in handcuffs herself. Makes me want to throw up!

    I am almost hoping there is much more to this story than meets the eye: Otherwise, this tragic outcome sends too many disturbing messages about domestic violence and how atrociously it can be dealt with by the very people we depend on to protect us from it.

  27. JT09:
    Sure! There’s much more to this story! In fact, they COULD find the alleged abuser. He was on the witness list to testify against her. He’s Delbert Harrison:

    Did you know that she was given 6 months in jail? Yep:

    She could go get substance abuse treatment, instead. Wait, that is until the police were called to her place again and she had apparently slashed someone’s tires (we should all hope they were Delbert’s) and possibly her own wrists:

    The whole story is tragic. An utter failure of common sense and the system overall.

  28. Reese Linnell-Morton says:

    This police department needs to understand that you can’t just invent legal standing!It’s beyond stupid,and it makes me wonder why any DA would continue this sham! I am confused as to why her “Lawyer” even allowed her to plead guilty,instead of asking the judge to dismiss all charges?
    So,within 48hours this woman has been battered by her spouse,6 weeks after giving birth no less!Reached out to receive help from her local police,only to have “A gigantic bunch of lunacy at her door”.Then arrested for providing her baby food from her breast,do these morons also arrest women for exposing there ankles?On a few occasions after having 4-6 glasses of red wine over a few hours,I breast-fed.How that turns into”Felony Child Neglect”in Grand Forks is making up law as you go.I guess we can call it magic or pretend law?If this judge does not through this out and firmly suggest that the GFPD,DA publicly admit how ignorant and silly there behavior has been.

    I live in Canada so there is not much I can do to help,but if I could i would take her case. (PB) I hope someone can help out with proper legal counsel.It’s cases like this that make me embarassed to be part of the justice system!Just awful!

    Reese Linnell-Morton, Canada

  29. I am confused as to why her “Lawyer” even allowed her to plead guilty,instead of asking the judge to dismiss all charges?


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