Breastfeeding advantage: father’s visitation to child blocked by breastfeeding ex-wife

Breastfeeding advantage fathers visitation to child blocked by breastfeeding ex-wife

If a father’s child is still under the age of 5, it is very common for the mother to use breastfeeding as a way to get more custody time. It’s the “Breastfeeding Advantage” in children custody dispute. Breastfeeding has become an important factor in child custody assignment after a divorce, particularly for infants and young children.

The court may give the breastfeeding parent a preference in custody, even though it is always said that the court will consider a range of factors, including the ability of each parent to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs, the parent-child bond, and any other relevant factors, in addition to breastfeeding. Although it does not necessarily mean that the breastfeeding mother will automatically be granted primary custody, the mother, however, has an advantage in arranging the visitation time as well as blocking visitation.

Breastfeeding advantage can last for years

For a new born infant, breastfeeding is a necessity. However, as the infant grows, even the professionals in the family court are not sure about the nature of breastfeeding. As a result, you may sometimes see mothers who claim she is still breastfeeding her 8-year-old son. The court usually has no choice other than respecting her decision and continue to allow her to minimize the visitation time of the father.

There are a few data points we have to learn:

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by continued breastfeeding with the introduction of complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with the goal of continuing breastfeeding for at least the first year of life and as long as it is mutually desired by the mother and child.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States reported that most mothers initiate breastfeeding, with 84.1% of infants being breastfed at birth. However, by 6 months, only 57.6% of infants are still being breastfed, and by 12 months, the percentage drops to 35.9%.

While there is no specific “normal” length of time for breastfeeding, the WHO and AAP recommendations provide a general guideline for optimal breastfeeding duration. However, the family court might easily accept “exceptions” from the mothers. The majority of the court still believed that individual circumstances, including the mother’s and child’s health, work and home situations, and personal preferences, may influence the length of time a mother breastfeeds her child.

What the mother might say to block visitation of father

Here are some possible reasons why a breastfeeding mother may be concerned about visitation and what steps she may take:

“Our child might get infected!”

A breastfeeding mother may be concerned about the child’s health and well-being during visitation, particularly if the child is very young and vulnerable to illnesses. If the other parent or someone in their household is ill or has been exposed to a contagious disease, the breastfeeding mother may request that visitation be rescheduled until the other parent or household member is no longer contagious.

“It is not safe to breastfeed when we are not home!”

Safety concerns: If the breastfeeding mother has concerns about the other parent’s ability to provide a safe and secure environment for the child, she may request that visitation be supervised or take place in a public location. For example, if the other parent has a history of substance abuse or domestic violence, the breastfeeding mother may be concerned that the child may be exposed to these risks during visitation.

“The baby wouldn’t eat when someone else (Dad) is there!”

If the child is still breastfeeding frequently, the breastfeeding mother may be concerned that the child will not be able to feed adequately during visitation. In this case, the mother may need to work with the other parent to arrange visitation times that do not conflict with the child’s feeding schedule, or the mother may need to pump breast milk for the child to take during visitation.

“Workarounds” to exhaust the father

If you look around the formal documents by the judicial system, you will hear they saying that a breastfeeding mother does not have the right to unilaterally block the visitation rights of her divorced husband or the child’s other parent. You will also find quite a few organizations like here and here reminding people for the fathers’ rights to maintain a reasonable visitation schedule even the mother is doing breastfeeding.

However, the mother can work around that court order by making visitation arrangements to accommodate her breastfeeding. For example, the mother may schedule visitation around the baby’s feeding schedule, but told the arriving father that the baby is already asleep and don’t walk her up. The mother might ask the father to visit during shorter intervals or more frequently to accommodate the child’s needs, and as a result the father got over-tired by running to the house at 8pm and only allowed to stay for 20 minutes.

Supposedly, children generally become less reliant on breastfeeding as they get older. However, the mother still can make the call to decide when the breastfeeding need to take place, and use that as an excuse to cut a full-day visitation into a 2-hour hurry.

The father might be tempted to petition the court for a modification of the custody order but usually have insufficient evidences that the mother maliciously manipulate the breastfeeding schedule. The father even had a hard time to prove that the breastfeeding really happened or it was just a lie. As a result, breastfeeding remain one of the most effective weapon of the mother side to obstruct vistation of fathers.