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Program will allow incarcerated moms to pump breast milk

Michigan Sen. Sue Shink (D-Northfield Twp.) chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections and Judiciary.
Rick Pluta
Michigan Sen. Sue Shink (D-Northfield Twp.) chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections and Judiciary.

A new state program will allow incarcerated mothers of newborns to breast milk send home for their babies.

These are women who gave birth just before they were sent to prison or not long after starting their sentences, which are typically short, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. Mothers who participate will express milk to be picked up at the Women’s Huron Valley Correction Facility by a designated family member or caregiver.

Kyle Kaminski with the Michigan Department of Corrections said the program is important for the health and development of newborns, but it also helps incarcerated mothers maintain connections with their families.

“So, this is one way in which it certainly helps the newborn, but it can also help the entire family during that absence of the parent,” he said. Kaminski said there is typically a very small number of mothers of newborns in prison.

He said women have been allowed to breast feed during family visits and also to express milk to relieve pressure from lactation. The milk is then thrown out in those cases.

That is waste, said the head of a legislative budget panel that appropriates prison funding.

“Even though they’re incarcerated, they’re still a mom,” said state Sen. Sue Shink (D-Northfield Twp.) She and Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) have been working with social welfare groups to get the program rolling.

Danielle Atkinson with the social justice group Mothering Justice said even if a mother is in prison, the system should also take into account what is best for the child.

“We know that (breast milk) is the best food,” she said. “It promotes good health outcomes. It’s about bonding and nurturing and being able to express milk gives incarcerated individuals an opportunity to maintain that connection with their child.”

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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