(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”.
“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:
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:
“Benefits of Breastfeeding” Healthy Children/American Academy of Pediatrics: http://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