In custody dispute, Va. judge orders breastfeeding mom to use bottle – The Washington Post

A Virginia mother’s plan to breastfeed — and her daughter’s food supply — ran into an obstacle that advocates say is common: a custody dispute.

Ramirez said she and her daughter’s father split shortly after the birth, and the father moved out of their Northern Virginia home. On Nov. 28, a Prince William County judge ordered that the father be permitted to visit the baby four days per week ahead of overnight visits slated to begin in February.

There was an additional condition. “Mother is to make every effort to place the child on a feeding schedule and use a bottle,” the order read.

Ramirez wasn’t sure what to do. Authorities agreed that “breast is best,” but her baby fed as much as once per hour, and the father complained that feeding times interfered with his visits. Ramirez tried to pump but, at least at first, could produce little milk that way — and the girl initially rejected bottles, a problem that may complicate overnight stays.

Still, this was a court order Ramirez couldn’t ignore. Even as she gathered evidence that she was in the right for another court hearing set for April — a letter from the baby’s pediatrician explaining that she is exclusively breastfed, the names of legal experts on breastfeeding — she couldn’t understand why the court was hurting her daughter. Even her own lawyer has advised her to stop breastfeeding to comply with the court order, she said.

“Why are they forcing me to stop breastfeeding?” she said. “Isn’t that her right? Isn’t that in her best interest?”

Ramirez had stumbled into a dilemma — breastfeeding vs. visitation — that advocates say is common. But because most custody disputes are handled in state courts and don’t surface consistently in public records, there’s little paper trail to show how common it is.

The idea that only women can care for young children — once known in courtrooms as the “tender years” doctrine — has been discredited because it may be considered sex discrimination by men seeking custody.

Some attorneys have embraced this reasoning. In Virginia Beach, for example, attorneys at a practice calling itself “The Firm for Men” represent men exclusively in custody battles. In its arguments and on its website, the firm takes aim at what it calls breastfeeding “ploys” for women seeking custody.

Source: In custody dispute, Va. judge orders breastfeeding mom to use bottle – The Washington Post

One thought on “In custody dispute, Va. judge orders breastfeeding mom to use bottle – The Washington Post”

  1. This poor baby girl. Why isn’t the father’s desire to deprive his daughter of her birth right evidence of his unsuitability to care for her overnight?

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