Breastfeeding & Child Custody
One child custody issue in particular has gained national headlines this month: The story involves the issue of custody affecting such parental choices as breastfeeding. Specifically, one judge ordered a mother who had been breastfeeding her daughter for seven months – since the child’s birth – to make every effort to place the child on a feeding schedule that involves bottles in order to accommodate visitation with the child’s father.
The story has a number of parents in an uproar, given that the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics’ both strongly support breastfeeding and its ability to protect newborns from disease. Many also have concerns about infants potentially having difficulty switching from whatever feeding method that they are used to, to something new. The topic reflects a number of concerns and disputes involving what happens with divorce and custody proceedings when a child is so young.
New York Law: Best Interest of the Child
Ultimately, custody arrangements for children come down to what is determined to be in their best interest. Therefore, in cases like these, it is entirely possible that certain experts would get involved, including the baby’s pediatrician, as well as others, to weigh in on the topic of feeding infants and whether and how changes in feeding schedules can affect children.
The courts make custody decisions based on weighing a number of factors, as dictated by New York law, such as:
- Child care arrangements
- Any evidence of a substance abuse issue
- Any history of abuse, abandonment, or neglect
- Parents’ abilities to provide for the child, financially
- What is best for the child’s stability
- Whether one parent was a primary caretaker for the child prior to divorce or separation
- Any mental health issues that either/both parents suffer
- Any history of domestic violence
- (For older children) the child’s preference
- Conditions of each home environment
- Educational opportunities
- The location of any sibling(s)
- Parents’ behavior in court
Parents who feel strongly about a child being exclusively breastfed as opposed to bottle fed, or even placed on formula, when necessary, could make the argument that continuing to breastfeed is necessary for the child’s stability, while the other parent could similarly use these factors to argue that exclusive breastfeeding really isn’t included in any of these factors and it is in the best interest for the child to spend time with both parents, even if that means experiencing some changes in feeding habits.
Contact an Attorney for Help
There are instances where some claim that the breastfeeding argument is used as a means of keeping fathers away from their children. However, it is also important to note that there are parents who justifiably feel that breastfeeding is best for the health of their child.
It is also important to note that some parents are able to come to an agreement that will allow mothers to continue breastfeeding, while also providing for visitation rights, outside of litigation.
If you have any questions or concerns about child custody issues, contact our New York child custody attorneys at the Law Office of Robert S. Sunshine, P.C. today to find out how we can be of assistance.