The issue of breastfeeding in child custody cases

It is important for children to have a healthy relationship with their parents. Particularly in the early stages of a child's development, a strong parent-child bond is important. Even though parents in Florida who are no longer together may disagree with how much time a child should spend with the other parent, generally, it is in the best interest of the child to spend time with each parent. But, what if a visitation schedule interferes with a child's nutritional needs, and is not in the child's best interest? Should it still be enforced?

Florida residents may find it interesting to learn that according to recent reports a mother, who is still breastfeeding her 10-month-old daughter, was upset when a judge presiding over her child custody case ordered her to cease breastfeeding her daughter so that the father of the infant girl could exercise overnight visitations with the child. According to the mother of the 10-month-old, her infant daughter does not drink from bottles. The mother states that the judge indicated that if she does not comply with the court order, she could lose custody of the child.

According to the International Lactation Consultant Association, whether or not the issue of breastfeeding is considered in child custody cases varies from state to state. Following this news, one commentator noted that even though the father has visitation rights, the father's right to see his daughter must not trump the best interests of the child standard. However, she noted that generally separated and divorced parents are able to draft a workable visitation plan which takes into consideration issues that may interfere with one parent's parenting time such as breastfeeding needs, or some other activity. In this case, however, the commentator disagreed with the judge's decision.

Presently in Florida several statutes are in place that address breastfeeding issues, such as where a mother is allowed to nurse her child and when it will not be consider a lewd act. However, there is limited information on breastfeeding and its consideration in child custody cases, visitation matters and parenting time plans.

Source: Huffington Post, "Mother Says Judge Ordered Her To Stop Breastfeeding So Baby's Dad Can Have Child Overnight," Nov. 12, 2013

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