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

by Michelle Hickman | April 19, 2013 10:55 pm

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.

 

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