Implications of Breastfeeding in Custody and Parenting Time Determinations

Effects and Complications of a Baby’s Breastfeeding Needs when Determining Child Custody in New Jersey

Implications of Breastfeeding in Custody and Parenting Time Determinations in Caldwell NJThe birth of a baby is a joyous occasion, but it also brings a significant responsibility to protect and care for the new life. This responsibility, when parents separate or divorce, becomes more complex.  Co-parenting decisions, such as caring for the baby and scheduling parenting time, can be particularly challenging when the child is breastfeeding.  During the first 8-10 weeks of life, breastfeeding should be “on demand” (about every 90 minutes to 3 hours).  Frequent feedings stimulate milk production, and skin-to-skin contact creates a bond between mother and baby.  Those first weeks can make scheduling parenting time difficult, as pumping so early in the baby’s life can lower the mother’s milk production and does not provide the same nutrients and immunological support for the child.   Every case is different but remains the same: when the parents, together, put the child before themselves, it is possible to create a custody plan that meets the needs of all three family members.

Early Implementation of Newborn Custody Plans

Both parents have the equal right to spend time with their baby.  A parenting plan can be implemented as soon as the child is born.  The courts prefer that the parents create their plan, but the judge will decide for them if it is impossible.  The parents must acknowledge that their decisions should be what is best for the child, not what is most convenient for them.  They can make a scaled custody plan for extended visits once the child’s feeding schedule changes.  For example, the father can visit for 2 hours four times weekly for the first few months.  If the parents’ relationship is amicable, the father could have more extended visits at his ex-wife’s house to allow for feedings as necessary.  Whether the court created the proposed agreement or not, the child’s best interest, a paramount consideration, will always be the deciding factor.

Ensuring Your Child’s Right to Thrive Mentally and Physically

In New Jersey, the best interest of the child means the court’s decisions support a child’s intrinsic right to be happy, protected, and emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy.  It includes the right of the child to participate in both parent’s lives and develop a close relationship. The parenting plan must give the parents equal opportunity to build a strong relationship with their child. Breastfeeding creates a unique bond between the mother and the baby. It nourishes the child, provides comfort, security, and warmth, and can reduce anxiety or stress.  There is little doubt that it is good for the baby, but the father should be included from the get-go.

The best interest of the child includes the parent’s mental and physical health.  A peaceful existence between parents offers less stress for everyone involved. When there is a new baby, relatives from both sides want to become a part of the child’s life.  Developing a relationship with extended relatives is in the child’s best interests.  The child also has a right to be exposed to both parents’ religious and cultural aspects.  The most important takeaway from this principle is the adult’s obligation to always act in favor of the child’s needs, health, and happiness.

The Financial and Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

It comes as no surprise that breastfeeding is 100% cheaper than formula.  The expense is significantly less even when factoring in using bottles and a breast pump.  A can of formula costs anywhere from $30 to $50.  Using breastfeeding in combination with formula necessitates the use of 5 cans per month at a cost of between $150 and $250.  Bottle-fed babies are more prone to viral infections due to improperly washed bottles and nipples.  Bottle feeding also can make babies prone to ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and meningitis.  Medical costs could affect the family budget if the baby is sick more frequently.

How Can the Cessation of Breastfeeding Prompt Adjustments to Your Child Custody Plan?

When the child is no longer breastfeeding, the parents should create a new plan and have it ratified by the court. More overnight visits and consecutive days or alternating weekends are now possibilities. However, it is essential that the parents coordinate the feeding and sleeping schedules and house rules regarding behavior, screen time, and treats. It can be confusing for a young child to live in two separate environments, which could result in behavioral problems.

Creating a Child-Centered Custody Plan when Your Baby is Breastfeeding

The biggest challenge is for parents to realize that any custody decision isn’t about their needs but the needs of their child.  Most of the time, couples divorce because there is an emotional disconnect, trust issues, infidelity, money problems, etc.   So, coming together to create a mutually beneficial plan may prove overwhelming. A breastfeeding infant should be fed on demand, which means visitation would have to be very short. That could affect the bonding relationship between the father and the child. The best alternative would be to have the father in the baby’s home for a longer visit, with the mother there to breastfeed. However, this may not be possible for estranged couples. As the child grows and eats solid food, the parenting plan can be adjusted according to the child’s level of independence.  This can cause a certain amount of heartache on the mother’s part as she may be reticent to give the father more visitation time.

Custody and Breastfeeding Lawyers in Wayne, NJA New Jersey Judge’s Purpose in Deciding Custody while Breastfeeding

A judge’s job is to find balance while protecting the best interest principle.  New Jersey judges prefer that couples create a plan either on their own or through mediation, but when that isn’t possible, the undertaking is on them.  What judges seek most is to create harmony and balance through a custody plan that is fair and provides for the child’s nutritional and emotional needs. Some judges support breastfeeding at least until the child is a year or more old, while others don’t see breastfeeding as completely necessary.  A mother may need to acquiesce to the father’s use of formula or pump and store milk for visitation times.  It is the judge’s job to protect the child’s relationship and development with both parents, even when that means using alternatives to breastfeeding part of the time.

Contact a Woodland Park Child Custody Lawyer for Help with Breastfeeding and Child Custody Matters

The sooner you and your former spouse create a visitation plan, the better for you, your ex, and your child. Once the baby arrives, there will be so much to do, and a formal custody plan will provide stability.  If you cannot agree, our seasoned child custody attorneys at The Montanari Law Group can help you create a plan you can agree upon. Our extensive experience in child custody cases allows us to provide advice and suggestions and tell you what documents, evaluations, or special witnesses you may need for your case. Custody disputes are complex, and we handle these matters with the commitment and skilled legal insight they demand.  We want to help you make the best decisions for your family and ensure these plans are carried out to the benefit of you and your child.  Call us today at (973) 233-4396, and we can begin taking the steps needed to protect your child’s health and well-being in a custody or parenting time situation involving a breastfeeding baby. You can also reach us by following this link.


To speak with one of our highly knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today at (973)-233-4396 or toll-free at (888)-877-7985. You can also complete the form below to begin your conversation. We are a personalized, boutique-style law firm that offers free initial consultations and flexible appointment options.