For most people, the idea of giving alcohol to a baby or child is horrifying. But it seems there are still a few parents out there who are open to the idea. Questions pop up occasionally in online forums: “Will brandy help my colicky baby?” or “Is it okay to give my baby brandy for her cough?”
Well, how about someone regularly giving their children alcohol to make them sleep better?
A woman on the UK parenting site Mumsnet, calling herself Allwashedup, said a Facebook friend had posted that she put brandy in her children’s tea to put them to sleep. The children were under the age of eight.
“I can’t help but be concerned that these children are being given alcohol but am not sure what to do,” she added.
Some people advised her to do nothing.
“I think you should mind your own with this,” wrote one woman. “At the end of the day, it is down to a parent whether or not they give their child alcohol. I highly doubt that she is giving them lots, and just because you or I disagree doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
Others, however, felt she should report the woman to social services.
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“I know that people must have known what was happening to me as a child and yet did nothing because it was ‘none of their business’,” said one. “I really would report this. If you are overreacting, as many here think you are, she has nothing to fear as SS will see this as completely fine.”
Not surprisingly, the vice-president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Tony Bartone, is very firmly against the idea.
“There is absolutely no safe level of alcohol when it comes to the developing brain, so I would extremely, extremely, significantly counsel anyone against following that practice,” he tells Mamamia. “Young developing brains are very sensitive. I know the quantities being described are very, very small but there is absolutely no reason to use it in such a manner anyway.”
Dr Bartone says sleeping is a complex issue and there are a whole lot of things that parents need to look at if their children are having problems sleeping.
“Making sure they’re going to bed at a regular time, electronic gadgets and gizmos and other distractions not being in any close proximity, making sure they follow the same routine… all these little things are important. Medications of any description – what they’re essentially suggesting here, using alcohol for its potential sedative or relaxant effect – should not be used as a first-up in any child.”
Some parents and grandparents might claim a few drops of brandy never hurt babies before, but Dr Bartone says we know better nowadays.
“As we become more and more aware of scientific evidence, we know that a lot of the things we used to do in the past, although motivated by good intentions, were not ideal.”