Judges issues injunction in favor of inmate over breastfeeding

jail cell bars,

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A judge has ruled in favor of a new mom behind bars who say it’s her right to breastfeed.

In Santa Fe District Court Friday morning, the judge issued an injunction that allows Monique Hidalgo to breastfeed her 1-month-old daughter during visitations at the Grants Correctional Facility. It also allows her to pump milk while incarcerated with a medically-approved electronic machine.

Hidalgo is behind bars on probation violations in a drug case. In her lawsuit, she says when she gave birth to her baby last month, guards wouldn’t let her breastfeed during visitations or use a medically-approved electronic breast pump.

Lissa Knudsen, chair of the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force, worked closely with Hidalgo on the case and helped connect her to lawyers.

“We’re ecstatic,” Knudsen said in response to the judge’s injunction. “This is not only important for Monique and her baby, but it has implications for all inmates across the state and really, in a way, all women to know that in the state of New Mexico breastfeeding is considered a constitutional right.”

However, some people might feel an inmate doesn’t have the right to breastfeed — or that she shouldn’t have committed a crime if she wants to breastfeed her child.

To that, Knudsen said, “I would also ask them to consider the fact that this is also about the baby, right? This is a dyad. And the baby’s an innocent in this and we know that all of the medical evidence shows that having that mother and child be together and breastfeed enhances the bond that they have.”

Knudsen says in court, the Department of Corrections unsuccessfully argued that allowing a mother to breastfeed could help her smuggle contraband into jail.

KRQE News 13 reached out to DOC. Spokesman Mahesh Sita says guards will follow the judge’s orders, but that DOC will explore legal options going forward.

Another part of the lawsuit claims negligence by jail guards when Hidalgo was placed in ankle shackles during a visit by her child. Hidalgo says she tripped and fell while holding her baby due to the shackles, sending her infant to the NICU to make sure she was OK.

That part of the suit will be fleshed out during the trial, which has yet to be scheduled.

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