Breastfeeding in Incarcerated Settings in the United States: A National Survey of Frequency and Policies

Ifeyinwa V. Asiodu, Lauren Beal, Carolyn Sufrin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives: To assess the existence of prison and jail policies and practices that allow incarcerated women to breastfeed while in custody, and prevalence of women in custody who pumped human milk for their infants. Methods: We surveyed 22 state prison systems and 6 county jails from 2016 to 2017 about policies related to breastfeeding and other programs for pregnant and parenting women in custody. In addition, 11 prisons and 5 jails reported 6 months of monthly, prospective data on the number of women pumping human milk, as well as information on placement of infants born to women in custody. Results: Eleven prisons and five jails had policies that supported the practice of expressed milk, either through pumping or breastfeeding. Over 6 months at these sites that allowed lactation, there were 207 women who gave birth in the prisons and an average of 8 women/month who pumped human milk; at the jails, there were 67 women who gave birth and an average of 6 women/month who pumped human milk. Most infants born to women in custody were placed in the care of a family member. Conclusions: Breastfeeding and the provision of human milk are critical public health issues. Our data show inconsistent implementation of policies and practices supportive of breastfeeding in prisons and jails. However, there are institutions in the United States that are supportive of incarcerated women's breastfeeding and lactation needs. Further research is needed to identify the barriers and facilitators associated with implementing supportive breastfeeding policies and practices in the carceral system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)710-716
Number of pages7
JournalBreastfeeding Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • breastfeeding
  • equity
  • incarcerated women
  • lactation
  • policies and practices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Health Policy
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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