Position Paper: Support for Attachment Parenting in Prison

POSITION: Support for Attachment Parenting in Prison 

Women’s Wellness Within: An Organization Serving Criminalized Women (WWW) was formed in response to Julie Bilotta’s tragic birth story. On September 29, 2012, Julie Bilotta was forced to give birth to her first child alone, uncared for, in jail. She was eight months pregnant and on remand at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre, charged with violating release conditions related to a nonviolent drug charge from years before. When Julie went into labour, she was sent to solitary confinement for crying out in pain. She pleaded for help for an entire day. Only when her son’s legs were visible through her vulva did a nurse attend to her and only later still were paramedics called. After the footling breech birth of Gionni Garlow, he was admitted to NICU, Julie had emergency surgery, and mother and child were separated for weeks. Gionni died when he was 13 months old.

WWW believes in, advocates for, and supports mothers in Attachment Parenting. We know that babies do best when breastfed and when contact with their mother is constant. We recognize that sometimes this is not considered possible for safety reasons and in those situations we advocate that resources are used creatively to allow for as much contact as possible to facilitate attachment and breastfeeding.

We also know that breast milk is best and that direct baby-to-breast contact is ideal. We advocate for mothers to be provided with an electric breast pump and time and space to pump if they are separated from their baby by law. We advocate for proper supports to be in place to appropriately store and transport the pumped milk to the baby. We advocate for frequent access visits between mothers and babies when the law requires separation. We advocate for decarceration of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers as our long-term goal.

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Grace Szucs