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Breastfeeding mother avoids jail time after starting online petition

Posted at 8:59 AM, Apr 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-08 08:59:39-04

LAS VEGAS — A Las Vegas woman charged with a crime will not be doing jail time, and it’s because she’s breastfeeding.

Kristen Fleming stared an online campaign that caught on and created a lot of controversy.

A judge reversed his decision on Monday. He initially sentenced Fleming, mother to twin 6-month-olds, to jail time. Some have applauded the judge’s change of heart while others call it a double standard.

“My biggest concern is the stress they’ve would’ve gone through because they don’t use bottles,” Fleming said.

In January 2015, Fleming got into a fight with her husband. Police arrested the 33-year-old.

“I admitted to the cop. He asked what was going on and I admitted shoving him. They immediately put me under arrest for domestic violence,” she said.

Fleming was charged with a misdemeanor despite the fact that her husband requested charges be dropped. She spent six days in jail and discovered she was pregnant two weeks later.

“You’re talking about someone who never had a traffic ticket, never been in trouble. I just figured I’d plead my case to the judge,” Fleming said.

Fleming said she was ordered to take anger management classes within a year of her arrest but between her pregnancy and her new life as a mom, she couldn’t attend them. In February, she went to a judge to ask for more time.

“I got before the judge. He just told me I had a whole year,” she said. “He almost took me to jail right there and there. I told him I’m breastfeeding my babies, and he said, ‘Fine, I’m giving you a week to pump.'”

At first, Fleming said, Judge Martin Hastings was not interested in her concerns about breastfeeding.

“If you deprive these children, for example, of me, for 14 days and they go through a traumatic experience, it can cause them lifetime side effects,” Fleming said.

When Hastings said Fleming would have to spend 14 days in jail, she launched a petition.

“I was really surprised at the success,” she said. “I had people commenting from New Zealand, the UK, Ireland, Canada. It was worldwide.”

Suzie Owens, lead lactation consultant at St. Rose Dominican Hospital, said Fleming’s children likely wouldn’t have suffered negative consequences.

“No, if she has established a great breastfeeding routine and has support and knows how to protect and maintain her milk supply [there wouldn’t be negative consequences],” Owens said.

Fleming said her story has created backlash and that’s she’s receiving hateful messages.

“For people to tell me, ‘You’re just making excuses,’ I would love for them to take bottles. I would actually get an eight-hour night sleep,” she said.

Fleming said her attorneys asked Hastings to drop her charges. That request was denied. Fleming has until August to complete house arrest.