12 Ways New Moms Can Curb Parenting Stress, Minus the Alcohol

by Shakima “Kima” Tozay, LICSW

There is no debating it, being a parent is STRESSFUL. For new moms, focusing on self-care can feel overwhelming, selfish, and seem nearly impossible to put into practice. So, having a drink of wine with friends after a busy day is  a harmless way to cure stress and loneliness, right? Wrong, pandemic stress coupled with a growing “Mommy Wine Culture” has led more and more women to turn to  alcohol as a form of  stress relief.  

Research on the emotional impact of the pandemic has revealed an alarming surge in alcohol use by women. In the article The Mommy Wine Culture Needs to Go, the author Abby Johnson argues that “drinking daily as a mother is not self-care; it’s functional alcoholism”.  She also asserts that society needs to stop encouraging alcoholism, noting  that high-risk drinking, defined as drinking four or more drinks a day for women and exceeding that amount weekly, for a year, is up by 58% among women according to a 2017 study by JAMA Psychiatry

Pregnant and postpartum mothers addicted to alcohol and drugs face significant challenges adjusting to parenting their babies. These mothers are at greater risk of experiencing negative consequences. For example, when addiction is largely left untreated, mother and baby are at higher risk for developing physical, developmental, and mental health conditions that may impair daily functioning. Equally troubling is that because of addiction these mothers risk losing custody of their young children compared to other parents. That is why learning healthy coping to manage daily stress and parenting isolation is so important.

If you are a parent and are looking for ways to manage stress without the social pressure to drink alcohol, here are a few suggestions:

1. Get enough sleep each night. Research has found that a core 6-7 hours will do the trick.

2.  Practice self-reflection activities like journaling, collaging, mindfulness  meditation or repeating a mantra each day. 

3. Engage in something physical such as taking a brisk walk to calm nerves. 

4. Read a book or join a book club to increase socialization and expand your knowledge.

5. Attend a Yoga class by yourself or with a friend. 

6. Take up a new hobby by enrolling in a class (in person or virtual). Learn something new!

7. Replace drinking alcohol with another healthier alternative for example, try a new flavored  smoothie, tea or coffee drink.

8. Change up your routine or friendship groups if necessary. We are who we associate with.

9. Talk to a mental health therapist or substance abuse counselor if you need professional support.

10. Enlist the help of an accountability partner such as a close friend or family member who understands your situation and won’t judge you.  

11. When the urge to drink arises, ride the urge like a wave. Set a timer and wait 20-30 minutes before you reach for an alcoholic beverage. Call a friend to help distract you.

12. Speak with a professional or chat with your doctor about seeing a therapist. Other resources like the Perinatal Support Washington Warm Line: 1-888-404-7763 or Postpartum Support International helpline at 1-800-944-4773 are also available.

In the end, mothers who experience addiction often neglect themselves and don’t receive  the perinatal mental health care they desperately need. “Mommy Wine Culture” only adds negative pressure for new mothers. That’s where mental health  and peer support providers such as Doulas play a critical role. By educating new moms about the importance of self-care and the risks of drinking alcohol to cope with stress, providers  empower mothers  to make healthier choices for themselves and their babies.

To learn more here are some additional articles on this topic: 

I’m a Mom Who Drank Alcohol Daily Amid COVID-19. Here’s What Women Need to Know.  

35 Sober Women on How They Navigate ‘Wine Mom’ Culture  

Becoming Sober Made Me Realize How Problematic ‘Wine Mom’ Culture Really Is  

Hotline Resources

Washington Recovery Helpline 1-866-789-1511 

The Washington Recovery Help Line is an anonymous and confidential help line that provides crisis intervention and referral services for Washington State residents. 

Websites, Books & Articles

Perinatal Support Washington Perinatal Mental Health Support Resources | Perinatal Support Washington

ACOG Substance Use Disorder in Pregnancy | ACOG and Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders | ACOG

SAMHSA Guidelines Clinical Guidance for Treating Pregnant and Parenting Women With Opioid Use Disorder and Their Infants (samhsa.gov)