Supporting Mothering Through Breastfeeding While Incarcerated

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Title: Supporting Mothering Through Breastfeeding While Incarcerated

Ryman Hall B4 (Gaylord Opryland)
Deborah Allen, MSN, RNC, IBCLC , Women's Services, Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, Richmond, VA
Brenda Baker, PhD, RNC, CNS , Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, Richmond, VA

Discipline: Advanced Practice (AP), Childbearing (CB), Newborn Care (N), Women’s Health (WH)

Learning Objectives:
  1. Identify current trends in incarceration of childbearing women.
  2. Discuss national trends supporting exclusive breastfeeding
  3. Examine the relationship of breastfeeding on the development of maternal infant attachment.
Submission Description:
Background: More than one 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 non-violent crimes. It is estimated the 8-10% 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 twelve months; therefore on average pregnant prisoners spend 6-12 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 baby.  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.

Case:  A mother from a local jail delivered a term newborn at an urban medical center. Collaboratively the health care 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 while awaiting his mother's release from jail. 
Conclusion: For incarcerated women pumping and storing breast milk is a simple and uncomplicated way to promote maternal infant attachment and improve health for both mother and infant. Nurses working with mothers who are incarcerated have the opportunity to change the mothering experience for incarcerated mothers and their newborns.

Keywords: Breastfeeding, Incarcerated, Pregnancy