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Saturday, February 10, 2007Wow, this is a tough one folks. There's a story in the news right now from South Carolina that revolves around the problems produced by shared custody of a breastfeeding eight month old.
From WCBD News in Charleston, SC:
Many mothers may not think twice about their right to breastfeed, but not Melissa Garris. She says, "My baby went from being with me 24/7 to being with his daddy for an entire week."
A judge granted split custody of Garris' four month-old son to her husband during an emergency hearing. The couple is separated and lives an hour apart.
Garris' Attorney Leigh Hunter said, "There used to be a tender age doctrine where there was a presumption the child would be with the mother during the tender years, but that's no longer the case here in South Carolina. We are going more towards the trend of giving dad a lot more time." Garris is battling that trend. Her son is now eight months-old.
According to Hunter, neither Melissa or Carl Garris claims the other parent endangers the baby, but Melissa Garris says babies need stability and consistency, especially when it comes to breast feeding. "That's what women were made for. They're made to nurture babies. That's why women have breasts," Garris told News 2's Jenny Fisher.
In light of the story, the South Carolina Breastfeeding Action Committee is pushing for legislation that would guarantee custody to a breastfeeding mother UNLESS there is indication that the child would be in danger. Maine, Michigan and Utah already consider breastfeeding when awarding custody.
Again...it's a tough one.
When you've got two loving, wonderful parents, joint custody is usually the best option for all. Children need to spend time with both their mother and their father. However, if you take a child under the age of one, you're putting the breastfeeding relationship at serious risk by having the extended separations that can come with joint custody. (I think nurslings that are a year and older could probably be a little more flexible in terms of drinking expressed milk for a few days and then picking up nursing when they're with mom again...but that's just my opinion.)
On the other hand, I hate to think of a loving father missing those tender years of his child's life. I'd like to think that parents would work to make sure they lived close enough together that they could work the situation out on their own, but we all know that's not always possible.
For health reasons, I've really got to side with the mothers on this one. Not every mom can maintain a supply through pumping, especially when you're talking about pumping 24/7 instead of simply during the few hours that mom is at work. There's also the issue that not every breastfed baby will even take a bottle.
So what do you think? At what point does it become ok to ask a mom to share custody of a breastfed child? When they're a year? When they're two? When they self-wean? Would you support laws of this type?
Labels: In the News