Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

06 December 2007

Breast feeding is a fundamental right for both mother and child

Today at the Chicago Moms Blog & our sister sites, we are tackling the issue of breastfeeding. This is my contribution.

I don't want to get into the politics of breastfeeding in public (I support it, I've done it) or whether you are a bad mom if you use formula (done that too). I do want to get into what I think is at the base of many of the arguments and that is not whether mothers should breastfeed, but the idea that breastfeeding is a fundamental right. If we saw it that way, we wouldn't have to fight to keep formula out of our goody bags at the hospital, stand tall after 20 hours of labor when the nurse insists on giving the baby a "little something", or to discreetly nurse while on an airplane.

Because if we were really a world of people who cared about children & cute lil babies, we wouldn't deny an infant their sole source of nourishment.

Sayda Umanzor's child was denied:

On Oct. 26, Sayda Umanzor, who sometimes spells her first name Saida, was arrested at home on Maple Street in Conneaut when immigration agents, working in conjunction with Ashtabula County sheriff's deputies, came with a warrant for her brother-in law, who also lived in the house.

Umanzor, 27, admitted to being in the country illegally, she said in an earlier interview.

The federal agents determined that Umanzor had been ordered deported in July 2006, after missing an immigration court hearing. They arrested her as a federal fugitive.

Soon after, caseworkers for the Ashtabula County Children Services Board arrived to take custody of Umanzor's two children at home, as well as the three children of her sister, an illegal immigrant, who was at work.

A crying Umanzor handed over her 9-month-old baby Brittany.

At Bedford Heights Jail, Umanzor complained that her breasts became painfully engorged with milk. Brittany, suddenly without mother's milk, cried incessantly and refused baby formula for days, Dahlberg said.

Janipher Maseko's infant was denied [h/t]:
I was transferred to Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire. I arrived at midnight. I told them I had just had a baby and had been separated from my kids, but they just gave me a paracetamol. I was distraught. My children weren't with me. I was crying all the time. I couldn't eat. They put me on antidepressants.

During the two weeks I was there, no one organised for me to see my kids or told me how they were. Whenever I asked one of the officers, "Please, I have to see my kids. I am breastfeeding. I am in pain," all they said was, "Have a paracetamol." I was told to take drugs to dry my milk. But I wanted Colin back, I wanted to breastfeed because I knew it was best for him.
Unless a woman has physically harmed someone, there is no reason to keep her from her nursing child. I repeat NONE. We jail pregnant women all the time. Some times she might even get proper medical treatment. But our jail & prison system is set up to deal with the medical realities of the incarcerated (most of the time, ok some of the time). Bottom line, I'm sure that here in the USA or in the UK someone could have reunited the mothers with their infants in a secure hospital room or something while they await trial/deportation AND allow the mothers to nurse their children. And until we get to that point, we're going to keep fighting all the smaller battles over and over and over.

Technorati tags: breastfeeding, nursing, Chicago Moms Blog

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