Breastfeeding and Custody
When a new baby is born, the parents will face an overwhelming number of decisions about the child’s upbringing and welfare. Where will the child primarily reside? Cloth diapers or disposable diapers? Which pediatrician should they use? One of the important decisions is whether the child will be breastfed. Science supports the oft-repeated mantra of “breast is best,” but when the parents no longer reside together because of separation or divorce, the breastfeeding can present some challenges for visitation and that would not otherwise be present. A New Jersey court will always make a decision for custody and parenting time based on what is in the child’s best interest. New Jersey statute does not specifically enumerate breastfeeding as a factor in deciding best interest, but making sure the child is appropriate fed and cared does obviously fall into that set of considerations.
When a child is still a tiny infant, he or she will probably eat every couple of hours. This means that if the child is exclusively breastfed, it may not be possible at that age for the child to be away from the mother for extended periods of time. As the child grows older, he or she will go longer between feedings, making it easier for the father to have longer visitation times. Parents can build into a parenting time agreement provisions that gradually increases a father’s residential time with the child to reflect the child’s aging and changing needs. For a very young infant, it may be appropriate, for example, for the father to have frequent, short visitation with the child. As the child gets older, the father can have longer visitation periods that may be less frequent. Forming a bond with the father is just as important as forming a bond with the mother. Having frequent contact with the baby is not impossible just because the child is exclusively breast fed.
In many cases it may be possible for a mother to pump milk and provide the father with a supply so that he can give bottles during his parenting time, thereby reducing the complications posed by the child having to be with the mother to eat. Parents should be aware, however, that not all babies will willingly take a bottle, and so they should be sensitive to the child’s individual needs and preferences.
We have extensive experience in helping our clients craft custody agreements that are tailor-made to fit their child’s individual needs. at (732) 529-6937 for an appointment. Our Edison s can talk about your case and your child.