Babies, Breast Feeding, Divorce and Visitation
Breast Feeding Babies and Divorce
As we all know, the instant a baby is born, life changes forever. Unfortunately for some, a bundle of joy has the power to make or break a relationship already teetering on the edge. As Phoenix divorce and visitation attorneys, we have seen more than our share of newborn infants who become the subject of passionate divorce battles between their parents.
In 9 out of 10 of those cases, we see mothers clinging to their infants, insisting that the father should have little to no visitation (parenting time) because of the breast-feeding and bonding that is “necessary” to the normal development of the child.
As a mother to a toddler and an Arizona divorce lawyer, I have mixed emotions when it comes to dividing parenting time between mom and dad during a child’s infanthood.
None of it is related to psychological research nor physiological data. It all boils down to my emotions as a momma vs. my experience and training as a family law lawyer.
The Momma in Me
I had my first (and only) child at the ripe, “old” age of 40. Paloma came 5 weeks earlier than predicted. When my water broke, I was in the midst of preparing for making it through childbirth in one piece. I wasn’t at all prepared for what would happen once she got here.
I was in love with her the moment I saw her sweet face. I was also shell-shocked. For the first time since I could remember, I was completely paralyzed by fear and uncertainty.
In the days and weeks to follow, my life would be a blur caused by unstable hormones, lack of sleep and my desire to instantaneously satisfy every need of my baby daughter. I wanted to protect her. I wanted her to feel safe. I wanted her to get all the love she deserved.
There was a large part of me that felt I was the only person who could give Paloma all of these things. In spite of having people to help, I took on a lot more than I really had to during those early weeks and months. From my perspective, I had “incubated” Paloma in my womb, and I needed to continue to nourish her, as I was her sole source of nutrition through breast feeding for six months (until she started eating solid foods).
I can’t begin to fathom how painful it would have been to be told she needed to be with someone else (even her Father) and away from me for more than a few hours. My heart would have been broken. I would have worried. I would have cried. I would have experienced “withdrawals,” and I probably would have imagined that she would have experienced some form of suffering, too.
Paloma is almost three now.
It wasn’t that long ago that I actually “cut” the umbilical cord to let her go stay with someone else overnight. She was happy to go. I cried for two days.
When Paloma returned from her “vacay,” she was as happy as a clam. In the middle of my personal fits of missing her, I was able to enjoy some “me” time, without guilt or checking my watch, for the first time since she had been born.
This helped me get some perspective on a few things. The fact that my hormones are waaaaay better than they were in the months following her birth is a plus, too. So now, I am clear that there is a different side to the “baby-only-needs-mommy” way of thinking that plagues mothers of new babies.
(BTW-I love ya moms. You have the hardest job on the planet. You are the toughest people on the planet. I am one of you. Consider this, though…)
The Divorce Lawyer’s Side of Things
Children do best when they have two fit, committed parents in their lives. Parents who are no longer together can still meet the needs of their kids by minimizing conflict and doing their best to productively co-parent. In the opinion of this divorce lawyer, the age of the child doesn’t matter.
Whether a child is four months, four or fourteen…that child deserves the presence of both of his parents. The bonding that happens early in life is just as important to a father (and the child) as it is to the mother (and the child). Many women go back to work shortly after the birth of an infant. (I did.) Many women still manage to juggle deadlines, meetings and a breast pump so their child can get what s/he needs. (I did.)
When two parents are divorcing and they share children in common, the bottom line interest is what is best for the children. Assuming both parents are emotionally, physically and mentally stable, what is best is for the children is to have two parents who are allowed to be actively involved. What is best for the children is to have two parents who can share in the joys of teaching and learning from their offspring. What is best for the children is to receive the love of both parents without drama, restriction or conflict.
The Reality of the Situation
When you have a baby, things can get rough even if you have a two parent household. Life gets very complicated when you start juggling work schedules, daycare schedules, sleep schedules, feeding schedules, laundry schedules… You get it.
If you are a parent to a new baby and wondering about breast feeding, divorce and visitation, be real with yourself and your soon-to-be-ex. Before you insist on being the primary residential parent (based on the “principle” of the matter), are you going to be able to juggle all of these things on your own? Do you really want to juggle all these things on your own? Would there be any benefit to you OR the baby in allowing the “other” parent take on his or her rightful share of the child-rearing responsibilities?
If you are awarded “most” of the parenting time, will you be the best parent you can be, given the fact you will be shouldering the brunt of the responsibility? Will the fatigue and overwhelmingness that plagues every new parent be reflected in the way that you handle normal newborn challenges? How can you create the most loving, secure and peaceful existence for your child?
I don’t know whether your judge will buy the “breastfeeding” divorce story I often hear. I do know it is painful for either parent to separate from their newborn child for hours, much less days. I also know modern technology (the breast pump) allows a child to receive mommy’s milk even when mommy isn’t around.
With every ounce of my heart and soul, I believe that each child deserves all the love and time that each of his sound, stable parents are able to give him. For the sake of your newborn baby, strike a balance with your soon-to-be ex. Someday, your child will thank you for it. And, as a matter of fact, when you realize how much the ex is helping carry the responsibility of the child you created together, you just might thank that ex for his or her time spent with your child, too.