Mexican mother Monique Hidalgo with opioid-use disorder, fights against prison norm that she couldn’t breastfeed her newborn during family visits
Monique Hidalgo is a mother who has shown great courage by standing up for her right to breastfeed.Lissa Knudsen, chair of the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force
Hidalgo gave birth to her daughter, Isabella, in May.
Lawrence Leeman, a doctor at the University of New Mexico Hospital who cared for both Hidalgo and her daughter, said prison authorities urged him to discharge Hidalgo shortly afterwards. He declined to do so, stating that she needed more time to wean off of the methadone she had been taking for eight months.
If she was any other patient of his, he explained, she would have been prescribed methadone or buprenorphine after pregnancy as it is safe to use while nursing. Instead, he said, he had to halt the drug use over two weeks ― not nearly enough time ― as the prison does not generally allow inmates to take it.
There was another big reason why Leeman wanted Hidalgo to remain in the hospital after labor: She was a crucial part of her daughter’s treatment plan. Isabella was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), an increasingly common but treatable condition that can result from exposure to opioids in utero.
“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 said.
Many experts now believe that breastfeeding and skin-on-skin contact with their mothers can help infants with NAS recover more quickly and reduce the amount of medication needed to treat their symptoms.