Monique Hidalgo, an inmate in a New Mexico prison, is fighting for her right to breastfeed her newborn daughter

By Julie Mazziotta
August 15, 2017 12:17 PM
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New Mexico Department of Corrections

An incarcerated mom at a New Mexico prison is fighting to regain her right to breastfeed her newborn daughter.

Monique Hidalgo, 33, gave birth to her daughter, Isabella, three months ago while serving a three-year sentence for parole violations after a drug case.

She successfully sued the New Mexico Corrections Department to allow women in prison to breastfeed their children, after a Santa Fe judge ruled on June 30 that stopping incarcerated mothers from feeding their children violates the state constitution.

But Hidalgo’s right to nurse Isabella was quickly taken away, because Hidalgo tested positive for buprenorphine, an opioid medication she was given to prevent postpartum depression.

Hidalgo’s lawyer, Amber Fayerberg, says the system is working against the new mom, as the jail provided her with the opioid.

“If the Department’s lactation program is to be successful, it must permit mothers to continue to take those medications prescribed during pregnancy,” Fayerberg told the Huffington Post.

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And Hidalgo’s doctor at the University of New Mexico Hospital, Lawrence Leeman, says it’s vital for her to breastfeed because Isabella was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome from the exposure to opioids in utero. Leeman says it’s treatable with skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding.

“Most of the babies go through the same thing — they are a little shaky, their muscles are tighter, and often they will have trouble feeding,” he told the Huffington Post.

Fayerberg says they may petition the court to allow Hidalgo to continue breastfeeding Isabella.

“It’s important to remember, she’s not just an inmate,” Fayerberg said. “She’s a person, and a mother.”