Incarcerated Mother Denied Right to Pump; Husband Seeks Donor Milk for Baby

On April 16th, the Best For Babes Nursing In Public Hotline received a plea to help a 23 year old mother and her exclusively breastfeeding 3 month old baby who were forced to separate.

According to the mother, 3 years ago she “ran with the wrong crowd and got into some trouble,” but after posting bail and while awaiting her final court ruling she began to turn her life around.  In that interim, she married and gave birth to a daughter.  The mistakes of her past remained however, and she was recently sentenced to jail.  incarcerated mom dad and baby

On Sunday April 14th, the mother nursed her 3-month old baby one last time before entering Taos County Adult Dentention Center.  She immediately asked the county jail for provisions to pump her breastmilk and was denied.  Needless to say this situation has left her husband and baby’s father, in a very difficult position as he is now left to be a single father of an exclusively breastfed baby without access to the breastmilk his baby needs.  Since his wife entered the detention center, he has been advocating for her right to pump her milk, and even made arrangements for the pumped milk to be stored and picked up to feed their infant daughter. Expressing breastmilk for a new and lactating mother is a medical necessity, he argues.

What looked like it might be a victory and a resolution to the situation at hand, soon proved misleading.  Thanks to the birthing and breastfeeding community who helped the father speak out, the mother was finally granted permission to use a pump.  He reports that the first time his wife was allowed to pump was around 3:00 am on April 17th, 3 days and far too long after her initial request for medical need. The problem which seemed to be solved didn’t stop there. The amount of breastmilk being given to the family is only 2 bags per day of 2 ounces each — 4 ounces of milk is far too little to feed an exclusively breastfed 3 month old baby. In addition, this means the mother is not being given regular and adequate to pump for her to maintain her milk supply and suffer no ill effects from infrequent milk removal. The husband reports that even though his wife has limited communication with him, she has let him know that she is experiencing extreme breast pain and that he believes from her descriptions that a breast infection may have formed.

The baby is now taking a bottle through which she receives a limited supply of breastmilk, but is having a hard time digesting the supplemented formula.

The father has agreed to allow me the privilege of helping to locate donor breastmilk for his baby.  At this time, the family cannot afford shipping costs for donor milk, since he had to quit his fairly new job to care for the baby, and has been taking every odd job he can find time for, such as selling newspapers on the side of the road to get by while a family member watches his daughter.  If you would like to donate your milk to help this family, give us a call on our Best For Babes Nursing In Public Hotline 855-NIP-FREE and we will help connect you with this family. 

Albuquerque Channel 13 News reached out to me wanting to cover this story of a father who is advocating for his wife’s right for proper medical attention in regards to expressing her milk and is also struggling to feed his baby.  He prefers not to be interviewed by any media outlet but to work solely with Best for Babes and our Take Action network of compassionate and influential friends and advocates.   I have been working with the family, the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force, and Birth Behind Bars to advocate for the health of this mom and baby.  

The father reports that his wife has been transferred out of county jail and into a womans  correctional facility in Grants, NM where he will begin the process of advocating for his wife all over again.  He hopes that Judge Jeff McElroy will reconsider the family’s request for the mother and baby to remain together in a Carlsbad, NM correctional facility and that the media exposure will encourage people to contact Judge McElroy, asking for his sympathy in this situation.

If you would like to donate your milk to help this family, give us a call on our Best For Babes Nursing In Public Hotline 855-NIP-FREE and we will help connect you with this family. 

Please help us keep the NIP Harassment Hotline Alive!  Donate!

Ed. Note:   1) Best for Babes does not have any opinion or comment on the mother’s incarceration;   2) We do, however, believe that babies deserve their mother’s milk if the mother is willing to and can provide it, and that babies’ health and welfare should not be penalized if their mother is incarcerated.  In addition, some babies do not tolerate formula well; 3) Inability to breastfeed or pump as needed results in engorgement, extreme pain, and very likely, mastitis, in which case the mother will require treatment including possibly antibiotics and surgical interventions;  4) Studies show that the act of breastfeeding is an act of giving that can protect a new mother’s mental health and lower her risk of depression.  For any mother who is separated from her child– for whatever reason –being able to continue to give to her baby through pumping, can be very healing and esteem-building.  We believe that all women in prison should have the right to pump for their children.

 

Birth and Breastfeeding in Prison

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8 Comments | Last revised on 04/19/2013


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8 Responses to Incarcerated Mother Denied Right to Pump; Husband Seeks Donor Milk for Baby

  1. Midwife says:

    Please have the husband call National Advocates for Pregnant Women. They advocate for the rights of pregnant women and mothers and they should be able to help this mother pump and get access to medical treatment if she in fact has a breast infection.

  2. A friend suggested someone call her local WIC office and see if there is a local milk bank.

  3. Jackie says:

    It would be really great to advise the mom on how to hand-express. Then, she could keep her milk supply going, and with regular collection times, even if just at mealtimes, and breastmilk bags, since breastmilk keeps up to 4 hours fresh, she should be able to reestablishong a supply. At the very least, she should get an extra half an ounce tovan ounce if she hand-expresses after she pumps. It is a little painful at first, but that wears off.

  4. RS says:

    While overseas in Guam I was arrested for someone fabricating a stupid lie (which is also now being dismissed because they have no evidence!) And I was exclusively breastfeeding my 6 month old daughter at the time of my arrest. I was in jail for 45 days. I was the primary care giver for our daughter, and my husband was active duty in the military. My daughter had never been with a babysitter for more than 3 hours, and it was just thrown in her face to just accept a new person around, and forced to be fed formula.
    One officer was kind enough to allow me to pump, the first 2 days, but other officers very much disagreed because I was a “prisoner” and shouldn’t have those rights. Needless to say I suffered HORRIBLE physical and emotional pain. The hurt of knowing all my daughter wanted was my milk literally killed me and caused so many sleepless nights. I could literally feel my daughter cry for me at night, and most breastfeeding moms would agree this is very possible.
    I even asked for medical attention for the bad pain and lumps in my breasts, and didn’t receive it til weeks later. My husband called to talk to me to get milk and they refused to let him. I had to use my shower time and cell sink to express milk by hand to relieve the extreme pain.
    I can absolutely relate 100% to this poor woman and family!!!
    She CAN get a Drs. order, and court order to still be allowed to pump! Their daughter’s health is so much more important than any other legality they want to shove in your face.
    This family is in my thoughts, and I hurt for them. I really hope some day, a law will be put in place for situations like this! Not every one in jail is a criminal! Some of us are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. :(

    • Joey Tura says:

      Oh mama my heart just cracked for you. Hugs!!! I had no idea that this was even possible. Such a basic human right being denied like that. Oh my god. I hope so much that you and your daughter recovered physically and emotionally.

  5. Darah Soria says:

    Check out Human Milk 4 Human Babies and see if you can find a Facebook page in NM!!! These are milk shares and won’t be as devastatingly costly as milk banks. Best of luck to the family, I was in the same position (not incarcerated but hospitalized for mental disorder) and it was awful. The staff wasted no time humiliating me and making me feel awful about pumping. I got lucky and found a friend with a surplus of milk to help my husband out with my son. Love and luck. <3 Hang in there!

  6. Krystal B says:

    There is now a milk bank in Albuquerque. In fact, today is there first day and they are doing a drive. It is located at Dar a Luz birth center. Also, I am willing to donate.

  7. Evelyn says:

    Why in heaven’s name are babies punished for something that they are completely innocent of? No baby should be suddenly and violently separated from their mother and primary caregiver. This causes inestimable emotional and psychological trauma. Our penal system needs radical revision. Mothers should not be separated from their babies unless our goal is to use the jail to create more inmates. This is very disturbing and cruel. Babies need their mothers. Find another way to punish the women, but don’t separate them from their babies unless they are a danger to that baby and to the rest of society. Otherwise those who do the separating are the ones who need to be punished.

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