Judge Orders Mom to Stop Breastfeeding: Comments


(Northampton County, Pennsylvania, 11/08/2013): Jessica Moser is in a custody dispute with her ex, at the center is 10 month old Jasmine. Jessica is the primary caregiver of Jasmine, and has been breastfeeding her.

The Judge presiding over the custody case, has decided that Jessica must allow visitation with the bio father to include 2 overnights, and to do so she must stop breastfeeding and make baby Jasmine take a bottle. (Jessica reports that Jasmine will refuse a bottle if offered). Jessica claims the Judge questioned why Jasmine is not on formula (as if she is doing something wrong) and reported that she felt threatened that if she did not comply she could lose custody.

Jessica told reporter Catherine Hawley of Wmfz Channel 69 News that she is “very emotional” over the decision and feeling “frustrated”, and “hurt”. She feels breastfeeding is very important to her child and that the Judge “just doesn’t care”.

“Judge Order Northampton Co, mother to stop breastfeeding” by Catherine Howley, Wfmz 69 News. November 8., 2013. http://m.wfmz.com/Judge-orders-Northampton-Co-mother-to-stop-breastfeeding/-/15946050/22880612/-/1yrm3wz/-/index.html

To Consider:

“If your very young child is grieving for the other parent, he will not be able to focus on his relationship with you. Give your child the time he needs to adjust to separation from his primary caregiver.” (Age Appropriate Visitation on Family Education:

http://life.familyeducation.com/divorce/visitation/45566.html#ixzz2kKSO7xyh )

I have been studying various parenting plan guidelines for infants and most recommended plans for infants under the age of 3 recognize that infants need frequent and continuing contact to build trust, and feel secure with a parent. If the parents are separated, or have never been in a continuously relationship (unmarried, separated after child was born, etc) the child will feel more attached to one parent and less with the other. To build a relationship to the “less attached” parent takes time, with a consistent visitation schedule–but should also maintain the relationship with the primary parent because they are the “foundation” for the child’s world, and how they make sense of it.

If an infant is abruptly separated, separated for long periods of time or their daily routine dramatically changes that baby may experience fear, mistrust, emotional distress and develop a poor attachment (which impacts the child’s relationship with a parent and their social relationships). Or alternately, the child’s emotional and physical health may be negatively impacted.

The typical guidelines on visitation for infants are based on the age of the child and their family situation–so that a baby is brought into a more familiar environment where he feels safe, and their routine is kept as consistent as possible. Recommended guidelines are based on the bond the baby has with each parent, how much time the baby has typically spent with each parent, and what their daily life was like before the separation. Cases involving abuse or allegations of abuse are handled differently, and should not apply to these generic recommendations as safety should be a priority.

The recommended visitation schedules, I have seen all share in common, is to gradually introduce the infant to the “less attached” parent to increase familiarity, and develop a secure attachment where the infant feels safe, and is allowed to mature before any major changes occur. The primary caregiver plays a crucial role in that they will still provide a majority of care. Communication between both parents is important to help the child adjust, and better able to tolerate the changes. 

Common visitation schedules for  infants begin with 2 or 3 short visits a week then gradually increase to longer hours and then to overnights. The visits must be consistent in the days they occur, and in their duration. Some parents opt for childhood classes to help with parenting skills, and to enjoy parent-child activities together.

National Network for Child Care, “Divorce Matters – Visitation Do’s and Dont’s” by Lesia Oesterreich, M.S.  http://www.nncc.org/Parent/visitdo.html

Supervised Visitation Network, “A Parent’s Guide To Making Child-Focused Visitation Decisions”: http://www.svnetwork.net/visitation-decisions.asp#infants


As a mother who breastfed my 3 children, here are some thoughts I have, based on my experiences:

1) You cannot just order a Mom to stop breastfeeding and a Baby to suddenly accept a bottle. A breastfed baby will need time to adjust to a bottle, and may refuse to eat or display agitation and emotional distress if suddenly forced to accept a bottle.
2) When a baby is breastfed, the woman’s body adjusts the flow of milk to meet the baby’s nutritional needs, and to accommodate their feeding patterns. If you give a baby a bottle, the milk just pours out--it takes some time and adjustment to find a bottle that is the best fit for the baby, to find a formula that is a best fit for the baby and to get used to a new feeding pattern. This process usually happens gradually, over time, and should be centered around the baby’s level of comfort and how much they are able to ingest/calories they take in.
3) When switching a baby who is exclusively breastfed to formula–that baby’s feeding and sleeping patterns will likely change. You combine that with a baby who is leaving the primary caregiver and going to overnight visits–these are major adjustments being forced on a baby, and with implications that could affect overall health and adjustment. Sleep and nutrition are both crucial factors to a baby’s development.
4) Breastfeeding is not about just “feeding”. Breastfeeding also involved bonding with Mom, feeling secure and comforted, and developing early social skills. Fathers do have an important role in raising and bonding with their babies but their role is different than the mom. A healthy visitation schedule would recognize the importance of mom and dad both, and find a way to compromise to create a visitation schedule that is not overly stressful to the baby, and allows adjustment as the baby matures.
5) A traumatic separation from a primary caregiver could negatively impact the baby’s relationship to it’s father. The baby will not understand visitation or how long the visit is or other adult details. The visitation schedules for a baby this young need to be handled very carefully, and can be extended as the child tolerates so the schedule is age appropriate and meets the specific needs of the baby.
6) There are alot of great community resources to help with parenting skills, bonding and being involved in your baby’s life. Even if you are a non-custodial parent, you can still be active in your child’s life, and still build a healthy, loving relationship. It may be frustrating that the visits progress slowly but having patience, and allowing your child to become familiar to you, and adjust to the changes are important to your child’s emotional and physical health, and will benefit your relationship. Some options to consider include: early childhood education, playgroups with friends, church social or family classes/groups, infant care or parenting classes/groups offered through your medical provider, or family involvement.

“Benefits of Breastfeeding” Healthy Children/American Academy of Pediatricshttp://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding-for-Mom.aspx

“How Breastfeeding Benefits You and Your Baby”: Baby Center: http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-breastfeeding-benefits-you-and-your-baby_8910.bc

About Emily Court

It takes "Just Us" To Fight Injustice in Family Court. I blog to raise awareness about problems existing in the family court system, and use my own story as a personal example of how the systemic failures in family court, and the Guardian ad Litem Program, affect families, in an effort to encourage needed reform. Written by a survivor of domestic violence and homelessness working to create a better life for her children, in a stable home free of violence. In her efforts to rebuild her life, she has not only encountered harassment and intimidation from her alleged abuser but faced systematic failures in family court that have empowered her alleged abuser and put her children at risk. She has spent over a decade trapped in family court until her children finally aged out of the system. Through writing and blogging, FCI is working to raise awareness about domestic violence, and the urgent need for family court reform. She is currently working on a memoir titled "'Til Prayers Are Answered".
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1 Response to Judge Orders Mom to Stop Breastfeeding: Comments

  1. cindy says:

    this is another example of what is happening to he mothers in our country slowly being removed slowly deteriorating our society as if fathers provide the same nurturing of a mother. They do not and never will unless they suddenly have the same hormones that create nurturing feelings, grow breasts and a uterus to grow a baby. Shame on these controlling men taking mothering from their children. Fathers have their role I agree but not taking away from the need of a nurturing mother.

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