Supporting Mothering Through Breastfeeding for Incarcerated Women
Article first published online: 11 JUN 2013
© 2013 AWHONN, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing
Special Issue: 2013 Convention Proceedings
Volume 42, Issue s1, page S103, June 2013
How to Cite
Allen, D. and Baker, B. (2013), Supporting Mothering Through Breastfeeding for Incarcerated Women. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 42: S103. doi: 10.1111/1552-6909.12203
- Issue published online: 11 JUN 2013
- Article first published online: 11 JUN 2013
More than 1 million women are under the control of the criminal justice system, representing the fastest growing group of prisoners. Women serving prison sentences most commonly have been convicted of drug-related offenses followed by nonviolent crimes. It is estimated that 8% to 10% of women entering prison are pregnant. A disproportionally large number of women in prison have a history of physical or sexual abuse, substance abuse, and are mothers of minor children. Statistics indicate the average prison time for women is 12 months; therefore, on average, pregnant prisoners spend 6 to 12 months in prison after the birth of a child, a critical time period in the mothering experience.
Breastfeeding offers immunological, developmental, and psychosocial benefits to mother and infant. Additionally, breastfeeding contributes to positive maternal self-image and development of maternal–infant relationship. Currently, little is known about the experience of mothering while incarcerated or the benefits of breastfeeding in this population.
A mother from a local jail delivered a term newborn at an urban medical center. Collaboratively the healthcare team, mother, father, and guards created a breastfeeding and pumping plan supporting the mother's desire to breastfeed. The newborn was discharged with the father who would pick up breast milk daily from the jail to feed the newborn. The jail agreed to allow the mother to pump in her cell and store milk in the medical unit refrigerator. At 10 days of age, the newborn's nutritional needs were met with expressed breast milk.
For incarcerated women, pumping and storing breast milk is a simple and uncomplicated way to promote maternal–infant attachment and improve health for mother and infant. Nurses working with mothers who are incarcerated have the opportunity to change the mothering experience for incarcerated mothers and their newborns.