Why are Changes Needed?
Michigan currently lacks any laws to promote, support, or protect the special health needs of mothers who wish to breastfeed their children. The status quo treatment of mother-inmates, which requires separation of mother and infant, undermines the health of both the mother and her child, and evidence suggests it can negatively impact families over multiple generations.
Get to Know the Campaign
There is no law in Michigan that protects breastfeeding for the incarcerated. The following organizations work to advance the rights of the incarcerated and their families.
Women Behind Bars (WBB) National Women’s Law Center: A state-by-state report card and analysis of federal policies on conditions of confinement for pregnant and parenting women and the effect on their children
American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) National Prison Project: dedicated to ensuring that our nation’s prisons comply with the Constitution.
ACLU of Michigan office located in Detroit: works for prisoner rights, women’s rights, and reproductive freedom
American Friends Service Committee Michigan Criminal Justice Program, located in Ypsilanti: works for prisoner rights and expansion of services
Free Siwatu: seeks justice for Siwatu Salama-Ra, a mother and environmental activist in Detroit, who was incarcerated throughout her pregnancy and birth, and denied the right to provide breast milk to her son.
Michigan WIC Agencies can provide support and education for families dealing with incarceration.
Mothering Justice: a statewide organization working to improve the lives of Michigan families by equipping the next generation of mother activists
Women in Prison Project (WIPP): ensures that prison conditions for women are as humane as possible and carries out advocacy campaigns for women prisoners.
Michigan Prison Doula Initiative: Humanity in Child Birth, Behind Bars, and Beyond. A nonprofit organization providing non-medical pregnancy, birth, and postpartum support to individuals affected by imprisonment.
UM Prison Birth Project supports the Michigan Prison Doula Initiative and advocates for restorative and reproductive justice efforts.
Anael’s Story “I’m raising my baby in prison” 2009
Alabama Prison Birth Project, which includes the Mother’s Milk Initiative, works to improve the health of newborns birthed by women in custody while strengthening maternal bonds and maternal self-efficacy. There are other such programs in Michigan and Minnesota.
2019 MIBFN Incarceration Policy Positions
- Lactation accommodation policies should be adopted for all incarcerated mothers.
- Milk expression programs should be adopted for all incarcerated mothers.
- Humane birthing practices that support laboring women and their infants should be adopted and provided for all incarcerated mothers.
- Whenever possible, incarcerated mothers should have direct access to baby through Prison Nursery Programs.
- Community-based alternatives to incarceration should be provided as viable sentencing options for mothers.
- Policies should support treatment as an alternative to punishment through trauma-based services.
- Incarcerated mothers should receive services that focus on the parenting relationship between mother and child.
To view the full policy position, download the position paper here.
- Have you supported a breastfeeding mom who was pregnant or lactating during the time she was imprisoned?
- Are you a healthcare professional who cared for an incarcerated mother before, during and/or after the birth of her child?
- Are you a lawyer who represented a pregnant or lactating mother who was incarcerated?
- Do you work in the prison system and interact with incarcerated mothers who are pregnant or have recently given birth and are lactating?
- Are you a mother who was incarcerated after giving birth and continued to express breast milk for your child?
Click here to share your story.
- Utilize the Breastfeeding and Incarceration resource list (English | Spanish | Arabic | Burmese | Japanese)
- View and customize prison sample lactation policies
- Customize the sample letter to the judge (English | Arabic | Burmese | Japanese)
- Use another sample letter to the judge (Word | PDF)