Does Mommyjuice become babyjuice?

All of this claptrap about “Mommyjuice” had me wondering: to what extent does Mommyjuice become babyjuice? That is, how much alcohol is translated into the breastmilk of lactating women who imbibe? I could tear through pages of search results on PubMed, or I could trust the La Leche League and the American Academy of Pediatricians to have done that work already. Nothing substitutes for a primary literature review but, well…a girl has to allocate limited resources somehow. Keeping with their respective personalities (organazationalities?), the AAP is very conservative, LLL more reasonable. Ooops…I mean more restrictive.

From The American Academy of Physicians policy statement on “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk” (and for what else besides breastfeeding are we inclined to use human milk, dare I ask?) last revised in 2005:

“Breastfeeding mothers should avoid the use of alcoholic beverages,because alcohol is concentrated in breast milk and its use caninhibit milk production. An occasional celebratory single, small alcoholic drink is acceptable, but breastfeeding should be avoidedfor 2 hours after the drink.”

If I wanted to be punchy, I’d take note that that occasional AAP-sanctioned drink needs to be celebratory. Maybe consolatory or commiserating drinks inherently carry greater health risks?

La Leche League FAQs, last revised in 2008, go into a bit more detail. Acknowledging that “breastfeeding mothers receive conflicting advice about whether alcohol consumption can have an effect on their baby,” the general gist of the article is that alcohol consumption in moderation is just fine. Their research agrees that alcohol passes into breastmilk and, furthermore, that alcohol in breastmilk has deleterious effects on infants — “drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness, and decreased linear growth” (big surprise!) but that alcohol concentrations in breastmilk are inconsequential after 2-3 hours. The bottom line? “Adult metabolism of alcohol is approximately 1 ounce in 3 hours, so mothers who ingest alcohol in moderate amounts can generally return to breastfeeding as soon as they feel neurologically normal. Chronic or heavy consumers of alcohol should not breastfeed.” Good commonsense rules the day once again.

I’m not one to extrapolate from the specific to the general, but I can’t let this topic pass without mention of a family yarn that has firmly rooted in the Szymanski Book of Classic Stories. My mother drank — moderately, I’m sure — while breastfeeding me, under the guidance of her (good Eastern European, I believe) pediatrician. The good doctor even advised that the iron and B-vitamins in dark beer might be beneficial for a breastfeeding woman. My Irish-German mother was happy to follow his advice with a pint of Guinness once or twice a week. When I took a liking to Guinness at an unusually early age, then, my parents concluded that a touch of Guinness-flavored breastmilk might have had something to do with my acquistion of that acquired taste.

 Anectodatal to be sure. But, should I ever find myself breastfeeding an infant of my own, I might partake of a weekly glass of Oregon pinot noir just in case.

Ergo, “mommyjuice” does become babyjuice to some extent, but ’tisn’t necessarily a bad thing if mommy doesn’t hit that juice bottle too often.

Does Chardonnay smell?

I’ve recently begun sharing evening meals – and, therefore, wine – with someone with a self-described smell impairment. He isn’t quite anosmic – he can pick out eau du dead skunk in the middle of the road – but the dense aroma of caramelizing onions that suffused my apartment the other evening totally escaped him.

Understanding that the vast majority of his wine-related sensory experience involves his tongue, not his nose, makes his impressions fascinating. Much of what we commonly experience as “taste” is actually smell. This is especially transparent in wine tasting: just try tasting the same wine out of a Dixie cup with your nose pinched and then out of an expansive glass that allows for lots of swirling and focuses volatiles towards your nose.

Often, in tasting a wine, I haven’t an axe-murderer’s chance in heaven of teasing out what is smell and what is pure taste. But now my smell-impaired friend and I can play “do you taste what I taste?” If my friend’s answer is yes, I’ll put my bets on it being a true flavor. If no, my perception is most likely my nose’s doing.

He picked up on the sour, dirty socky-ness of TCA in a “corked” wine. He tasted the bright cherries and raspberries in a well-aged Finger Lakes Merlot, though the overlay of thyme and bay that delighted me escaped him. Tobacco in a Walla Walla (Washington) Syrah is usually a no. Chocolate in the same Syrah is a toss-up. He gets the spice of Hungarian oak and the red bell pepper of pyrazines. In general, fruit comes across more than herbs or vegetation or flowers and, in general, reds are easier than whites. 

The Chardonnay that accompanied this evening’s roast chicken (with Meyer lemon, caramelized onions, and parsley) over spaghetti squash (with Parmesan and feta cheeses), steam-sautéed crucifers (with currants and Aleppo pepper), and a bit of mango-radish salad is an excellent case-in-point. To me, the Folie à Deux 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay was exemplary of its type. Melon, oak, and vanilla on the nose. Lemon, butter, and vanilla on the palate. Sharp acidity up front on the tongue balanced by some perceptible residual sugar (the main point at which this wine deviates from the classic California oaky Chard profile.) Long finish dominated by butter and oak. Yummy, if a little on the sweet-tart side for my taste. 

His redux: acidity and sugar, yes; lemon, yes; vanilla, no; melon, no. Oak and butter, sort of, if you allow his amalgamating those flavors into “rum.”

I’m now hypothesizing that some wines – like Chardonnay – owe a higher proportion of their character to aroma than others – like, say, Carménère (which my companion tends to enjoy a lot.) Hypotheses require testing to be bolstered up or smashed down, and post-hoc analysis just won’t do since I haven’t heretofore paid attention to the right factors in the right way. Awwww, shucks. We’ll just need to drink – and talk about – more wine.

Folie à Deux 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay – $18 (media sample)