Women’s experiences of breastfeeding in prison

Laura Abbott, Patricia Scott

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The benefit of breastfeeding on the long-term health and wellbeing for mother and baby is abundant. The effects on bonding between mother and baby are significant and physiological immunity is paramount in protecting the child in later life. Women are free to choose whether they wish to carry out this activity however, perinatal women in prison are less able to make this decision due to systems of power and control enforced within the prison estate and which too frequently render these new mothers powerless in this decision. This paper forms part of wider research to explore women’s perinatal experiences whilst in prison and aims to consider how women learn about breastfeeding and the post-natal experience of breastfeeding, lactation and, expressing milk for separated babies in prison. During 2015-2016 audio-recorded semi-structured interviews sought to discover the experiences of 28 pregnant women and new mothers in prison in England. Women were either pregnant in prison at the time of interview, residing with their babies on a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) within a prison, separated post-natal from their babies or interviewed post release. NVivo assisted data analysis enabled the deconstruction of events and interactions associated with their experience of breastfeeding. Extracts from interview transcripts highlight the women’s voices regarding their breastfeeding experiences coupled with the interwoven reflections of the midwife as researcher. There is a clear need to more fully consider the benefits of breastfeeding for these women and how this essential human function may be maximized in the prison setting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-23
Number of pages7
JournalMIDIRS Midwifery Digest
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Prison,
  • Women's Health
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth Charter


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