Metro Morning

Very Mommy Wine Festival sparks debate about safe drinking and motherhood

A Toronto wine festival has opened a debate about how much new moms should drink and whether babies and alcohol can safely mix.

Event organizer defends festival as a chance for women to combat isolation

A wine festival in Toronto for moms has raised questions about how much breastfeeding mothers can safely drink. (CBC)

A Toronto wine festival has opened a debate about how much new moms should drink and whether babies and alcohol can safely mix.

A Very Mommy Wine Festival, being held today, promises an afternoon of food, parenting talks, and "wine from all over the world" in the company of 500 other mothers.  

Event organizer Alana Kayfetz said on Metro Morning that the daytime event represents a chance for new mothers to break from "isolation and loneliness." 
Alana Kayfetz spoke to Metro Morning and defended A Very Mommy Wine Festival, the event she helped organize, describing it as an important opportunity for women to battle the loneliness that can often accompany motherhood. (CBC Toronto)

The wine, she said, is to "grease the marketing wheels ... what we're really doing is giving people permission to have a good time."

But Ann Dowsett Johnston, author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, says "putting babies and wine together, I think, is risky."

Breastfeeding and pregnancy

"You've got women who are probably breastfeeding, which isn't totally safe when you're drinking," said Dowsett Johnston on Metro Morning, pointing out that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder should also be a concern.

"I'm sure a lot of these women are going to be trying to get pregnant again and 50 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned," she said. 

A still from a promotional video for the wine festival. Published on Instagram, it shows moms and their kids eating, drinking and chatting. (momstoronto/Instagram)

The government of Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines say that for women planning to become pregnant or about to breastfeed, "the safest choice is to avoid alcohol."

Meanwhile, a handout from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada says that when it comes to breastfeeding, "low-level, occasional alcohol consumption is not likely to pose a problem to an infant, but heavy alcohol consumption or binge drinking should be avoided."

Drinking a 'slippery slope'

For Dowsett Johnston, another large part of the problem is the way an event like Wednesday's reinforces alcohol companies' marketing to women.

"I call it 'pinking the culture'… with wines like Girls Night Out and Mommy Juice Wine,'" she said. "The female gender has been totally in the crosshairs of the alcohol industry." 

According to a 2015 report by the Public Health Agency of Canada, risky drinking was on the rise among women, especially those 35 and older, between 2004-2013, jumping from 44 per cent to 56 per cent. 

Kayfetz acknowledged that drinking could be a "slippery slope," but argued that drinking to excess is not part of her events, with most attendees having a glass of wine or two over several hours. 
A T-shirt advertised on the MomsTO Instagram page. (momstoronto/Instagram)

"When they have a glass of wine and they're socializing, what's really happening there is the wisdom exchange," she said. 

"A Very Mommy Wine Festival" is being put on by MomsTO, an organization founded by Kayfetz that bills itself as a "millennial mom movement" that seeks to reinvent "how maternity leave works and how it feels."

Past MomsTO events have included Mom's Night Out and Boozy Mommy Playdate.   

With files from Metro Morning