The Trump’s Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy May Affect Breastfeeding Baby and Mother’s Health


Several weeks ago many headlines about Trump’s immigration policy broke my heart. At least 2000 young infants were ripped off from their parents since late April on the US-Mexico borders as they are seeking asylum. They crossed the border illegally as they have no proper documents. To be clear, there is no official policy stating that every family crossing the border without legal documents has to be separated. But when an adult is caught crossing border illegally, they are supposed to be criminally prosecuted. If this happens to a parent, it means their children have to be separated from their parents.
But the most horrible news was a few week ago when an undocumented immigrant mother from Honduras said federal officials took her daughter away from her while she was breastfeeding in a detention centre. CNN first reported the incident, the mother was placed in handcuffs after she resisted. The mother who had her daughter ripped from her breast is not just emotional; it is physical too.
In lactation science, there are several probable risks after this incident. There are two hormones that are directly involved in breastfeeding, one of them is oxytocin, the “love hormone”. It releases good feeling, relaxing for mothers and induces breastmilk ejection. When a baby suckles, the mother’s brain’s posterior lobe secretes oxytocin and it releases breastmilk. If a baby ripped off from the breast while she was breastfeeding, the breast was still full of milk and that could be pain for the mother.
When something touches a baby’s palate, he or she starts to suckle it and it is when the oxytocin comes in too. The baby’s tongue presses milk from the ducts into baby’s mouth. Therefore, it is important to break the suction with finger, before remove the baby from the breast. If the baby was pulled without breaking the suction first, it will traumatize mother’s nipple. Furthermore, the mother continue making milk, and without it being expressed, the breast could be engorged, swollen and could develop mastitis, which in severe stage need surgical drainage.
As for the baby, the separation will likely affect his or her psychological development as young infant need attachment to build strong connection to the environment. Baby that is not breastfed has higher risk to ear infection, gastroenteritis and pneumonia. Even though it has not reached the target rate from WHO, breastfeeding rate in developing countries is higher than in developed countries. Breastfeeding save million life from the making of formula milk with unhygienic water or where the clean water is inaccessible. Honduras is one of developing countries where the mother and baby benefits from breastfeeding. Separating breastfeeding children from their parents will have long term consequences.
The International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) and the Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee (LEAARC) stand together in opposition to policies that unnecessarily separate a parent from their infant. I do hope that US government will make a new procedure to process the illegal immigrant without sacrificing the children’s future.
ps. the image is not related to the article :)

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