March 9, 2020

CHE Staff Secures Large Donation for Prison Breastfeeding Program

The donation came about through UAMS’ partnership with the Hawkins’ Growing Together program. Growing Together was formed to support the needs of incarcerated pregnant and postpartum women in Arkansas. It includes a lactation program, prenatal education classes, and a mental health support group. Childbirth support will launch soon as part of a pilot grant provided by UAMS’ Translational Research Institute.

Dr. Zelinski with boxes

Melissa Zelinski, Ph.D. with donated boxes from Medela.

Marybeth Curtis, B.S.N., a nurse educator in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, saw the need for breastfeeding supplies and contacted Medela.

Medela gave hospital-grade breast pumps, storage bags, maternity and nursing shirts, lanolin, and other products to the new breastfeeding initiative. The items were donated through Hope Rises, a Little Rock non-profit that offers services to women impacted by addiction, trauma and incarceration.

Annemarie McGahagan, SPAN nutrition coordinator at UAMS, is breastfeeding coordinator for the CDC State Physical Activity and Nutrition grant that helps support Growing Together.

“When Annemarie shared with me the need for breast pumps and supplies for the Growing Together program, my first response was to reach out to Medela,” said Curtis. “I have always been amazed at their generosity. I have learned that acts of charity are waiting all around us once you make the need known.”

Melissa Zielinski, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, spearheads UAMS’ involvement with Growing Together.

Hope Rises Board - Medela

Board members of Little Rock non-profit, Hope Rises.

“Gender-responsive programs like Growing Together are critical. Many people don’t realize that over 75% of incarcerated women are of childbearing age and about 4% are pregnant at intake to prison. Few prisons have specialty services available to meet incarcerated pregnant women’s needs. It will take time, but we are working toward that goal,” said Zielinski.

All pregnant women at the Hawkins Unit receive their routine pre- and postnatal care and deliver their babies at UAMS.

Other groups have joined in the Growing Together initiative: UAMS lactation specialists, the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, doctoral-level psychology student interns from UAMS and the University of Central Arkansas who co-lead mental health support groups, retired RNs with the Presbyterian Women USA who teach prenatal classes for the women, and one volunteer who offered to sew lactation capes for the women who would like to use them when breastfeeding during visitation.

For more information, contact Zielinski at