March 26, 2014 -- A mother, who was thrown in jail and charged with endangering the welfare of a child after breastfeeding her baby while drinking, said she didn’t know she was possibly breaking the law.
“I did drink. I did breastfeed,” Tasha Adams told ABC News’ “20/20” in her first on-camera interview. “I didn’t know it was illegal. If I knew it was illegal, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Last week, Chuck Clawson, the deputy city attorney for Conway, Ark., dropped Adams’ child endangerment charge because there wasn’t enough evidence to prove she had one too many drinks to care for her child.
The 28-year-old is a stay-at-home mother to her three children: 6-year-old Cal, 2-year-old Hyd, and 8-month-old Ana. Adams and her family live in Toad Suck, Ark., a small town where alcohol is banned. But unlike Toad Suck, Conway, Ark., is not a dry town.
After the funeral of a family friend, Adams and her parents stopped for dinner at Gusano’s Restaurant in Conway. Adams also brought her baby, Ana, because the 6-month-old was still nursing at the time.
“We had a pizza, and then we had a big old thing of spinach dip,” Adams said. “Then, I had a beer with that, and then I had another one later on after.”
Over the course of an hour and a half, Adams said she had two beers and nothing more. But when Jackie Conners, an off-duty waitress, showed up early for an after-hours staff meeting, she said she saw something very different that disturbed her.
“They looked like they were having a good time, just drinking,” Conners told “20/20.” “Things started getting louder and louder, and then the baby started getting fussy.”
According to Conners, Adams began to breastfeed Ana, but she wasn’t drinking beer.
“There were several drinks in front of her, about ... two or three drinks in front of her already, when I got there,” Conners said. “I watched the bartender make them, looked like Long Islands. But regardless if it was that or not, then it was strong liquor that was in those glasses.”
Conners reported Adams to management but was told the manager had already decided not to cut the drinking and breastfeeding mother off. Gusano’s Restaurant management would not respond to repeated requests for comment from “20/20.”
After consulting with her own mom what to do about the situation, Conners, who has a daughter of her own, called the police.
“And they said, ‘Ma’am, we’ve got a report that you were drinking alcohol while breastfeeding,’” Adams recalled. “I said, ‘OK, I didn’t know that was illegal.’”
Adams was right. Arkansas law doesn’t say anything about drinking and breastfeeding. But after Adams admitted that she had two drinks, the officers made a judgment call: they told Adams to call a sober family member to drive her baby home and then arrested her for endangering the welfare of a child.
“I can’t believe this, you know,” Adams said. “I’m so ... I’m more worried about my kid, because I even asked them. I said, ‘Can I bring her with me?’”
Adams said she is very cautious about breastfeeding, and that baby Ana never had formula before because Adams believes it is less healthy than breast milk. She insisted that she wasn’t drunk when she was breastfeeding at the restaurant.
“If I’m drunk, I feel, you know, that I’m not able to take care of my kids,” Adams said. “I wish they would’ve given me a Breathalyzer so it could be proven.”
Conway, Ark., police told “20/20” that they only give a Breathalyzer test to suspected drunken drivers. Although police arrested Adams for endangering her baby, ABC News contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a practicing ob-gyn, told “20/20” that surprisingly little research has been done on drinking while nursing.
“Conventional wisdom will say that breastfeeding is best for both the mother and the baby, and that moderate consumption, which really means once and a while to consume a drink, probably will not do any harm for the baby,” Ashton said. “But we have to remember that alcohol is a toxin. It’s especially toxic to the newborn's brain, to the developing brain.”
It is unclear how much alcohol gets into the mother’s milk while drinking, and the science is imprecise. Still, there are options for nursing mothers who want to have a drink now and then, said Ashton.
“You have the option of pumping in advance, pumping and storing milk or saying at the last minute, ‘You know what, I want to have a fun night tonight. I’m going to drink probably more than one drink, and so for the next six hours, I’m going to give my baby formula.’”
Conners, who said she was just trying to do the right thing, was fired the week after she called the police on Adams.
“If I was ever in that situation again, I would still do the same thing, because that baby can’t speak up for itself,” Conners said. “No one else was doing anything. Even if I knew my job was on the line and it was right around the holidays, I would still do it again.”
“Whether it was right or wrong in my eyes is different, you know, but if she really thought my baby was in danger, you know, maybe she done the right thing,” Adams said.
“I’ll say it till the day I die,” said Adams.
“I was sober enough to breastfeed my kid.”