Breastfeeding Used As An Excuse To Keep Babies Away From FathersWritten by: Alison Print This Article
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Nursing infants should be able to spend quality time, including overnights, with their fathers. Yet some mothers try to use nursing as an excuse to block contact between infants and their dads. Courts should be fully aware that there are plentiful means to ensure a good supply of breast milk for use by fathers caring for infants.
Robert Franklin of Fathers & Families recently penned the posting Expert: No Conflict Between Breastfeeding and Shared Parenting about an article from a breastfeeding advocate who claims fathers are trying to assert in court that breastfeeding is inappropriate behavior:
In addition, my research has been used to counter charges of child abuse and “inappropriate parenting behaviors” in many court cases, especially involving divorce and custody disputes, where fathers may accuse the mother of “inappropriate parenting by virtue of extended breastfeeding” as a strategy to gain custody of children, or may simply claim that ‘continued breastfeeding’ is not relevant to shared custody arrangements.
At this point (2005), all of the research that has been conducted on the health and cognitive consequences of different lengths of breastfeeding shows steadily increasing benefits the longer a child is breastfed up to the age of 2 years, and no negative consequences. No research has been conducted on the physical, emotional, or psychological health of children breastfed longer than 2 years. Thus, while there is no research-based proof that breastfeeding a child for 3 years provides statistically significant health or cognitive benefits compared to breastfeeding a child for only two years, there is no research to show that breastfeeding a child for 3 years (or 4-5-6-7-8-9 years) causes any sort of physical, psychological or emotional harm to the child. This has recently been confirmed in the 2005 American Academy of Pediatrics “Recommendations for breastfeeding the healthy term infant” (see below).
Like Robert Franklin, I’ve never heard of a father claiming that breastfeeding is a problem. On the contrary, many fathers support it and work with their children’s mothers, even if they are divorced, to ensure that the babies will be fed human breast milk when available. As there are many excellent breast pumps on the market today and everybody has freezers and can learn how to reheat breast milk in hot water (not a microwave — that damages beneficial proteins in the milk and reheats unevenly), shared parenting for nursing infants is entirely workable.
Some malicious mothers, the sort who think parental alienation is a great way to treat the kids and ex, like to pretend that shared parenting can’t work because fathers don’t have breasts. They claim that babies need to be with their mothers at all times, certainly never without them for longer than a couple of hours, because baby wants mommy’s breasts and can’t be healthy without them. As much as they would like to convince others that this is true, it is not at all. Baby needs both parents and being with daddy doesn’t mean that baby can’t continue to benefit from mommy’s milk.
It is quite feasible for divorced parents to work out shared custody or visitation arrangements that allow the father to have ample time with his child while not sacrificing the breastfeeding relationship the child has with its mother. There is no reason why the child cannot have close relationships with both parents, including spending substantial amounts of time with both, without weaning having to take place before the child is ready.
Moms Say Dad’s Lack of Breasts Should Limit Time With Baby
In one particularly nasty custody battle, the mother’s attorney argued how an almost one year old child was still nursing and therefore father should not be able to see the child for more than a few hours at a time. The judge, a woman, didn’t agree with that argument. She was very vehement about shutting down that argument right away as she knew how ridiculous and sexist it was.
As it turns out, in that case, the mom had previously pumped vast quantities of breast milk, filling a freezer with a half-year supply. So it’s clear she knew about breast pumps and was able to use them.
Make no mistake, this case is on the extreme side and this mom was extremely malicious. She had already resorted to false domestic violence accusations and when those didn’t work, moved on to false child sexual abuse allegations. Obviously this mom had no interest in being a reasonable co-parent.
The father knew exactly how to reheat frozen human milk properly (letting it melt in hot water, not microwaving it, and then using a baby bottle warmer appliance to finish warming it up) and feed the baby with a bottle. He’d been doing it for the baby’s entire life, since before the prematurely born child was even able to nurse directly. Yet despite all the protestations that daddy time would hurt the baby’s health due to lack of mom’s milk, mom never once provided pumped breast milk to the father from the time of separation all the way to when the baby was weaned around two years old.
Instead, mom wanted to make arrangements to interfere with his time with the baby to directly nurse the baby. He allowed this for a time, until she repeatedly created disruptive incidents in which she claimed she would nurse the baby then wouldn’t get around to it until an hour or more later. It was clear that breastfeeding for this mom was about her, not about the baby’s needs.
Moms Need More Vitamin D and Omega-3 For Best Quality Breast Milk
For you moms out there breastfeeding your babies, whether you are divorced or married, human milk is often deficient in certain important nutrients precisely because mothers fail to take good care of themselves. For starters, many mothers fail to get adequate vitamin D and DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) in their diets as their prenatal vitamins lack adequate quantities of vitamin D and often don’t have any omega-3 fatty acids including DHA and EPA. Their babies desperately need these nutrients for proper brain and immune system development but are not getting them because mommy isn’t doing her job well enough.
Perhaps what the fathers should be asking the courts to do when mothers try to make an issue of breastfeeding is to order the mothers to take vitamin D and fish oil or other omega-3 supplements daily and to provide pumped and frozen breast milk when turning over the babies to the fathers. Deficiencies in these nutrients are tied to a variety of developmental and mental health problems that have become increasing common in recent decades as people slather on sunscreen and factory-farmed beef no longer has much omega-3 fatty acid content. Nearly every pregnant and nursing mother should be consuming 2000 IU or more (possibly much more — some women may need upwards of 7000 IU per day!) of vitamin D3 and 600mg or more of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis to ensure that her breast milk will have adequate nutrition for the baby.
Now those orders would truly be in baby’s best interests.
The March, 2008 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that the typical North American diet fails to provide adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, leaving infants at risk of impaired neurological development.
Sheila M. Innes and Russell W. Friesen of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver assigned 135 pregnant women to a placebo or a daily omega-3 fatty acid supplement equivalent to two fatty fish meals per week, beginning with their 16th week of gestation until delivery. The women’s blood was tested for levels of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) at the 16th and 36th weeks. DHA plays an important role in brain and eye function, and is essential for the neurological development of unborn children.
Following their birth, the infants were evaluated for neurological maturity using vision tests. The investigators discovered that women who consumed large quantities of meat and low amounts of fish had omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies. Children of these women failed to perform as well on the eye tests as infants born to mothers who were not deficient. The duo plans to follow the development of the children until they are four years old.
“Omega 3 fatty acids are important for the baby’s developing eyes and brain,” explained Dr Innis, who is a professor at the University of British Columbia’s department of pediatrics. “During pregnancy and breastfeeding, fat consumed by the mum is transferred to the developing baby and breastfed infant, and this fat is important for the baby’s developing organs. Our next task is to find out why the typical North American diet puts mothers at risk. Then we can develop dietary recommendations to help women consume a nutritious diet that promotes optimal health for mums and babies.”
You may note that vitamin D guidelines are all over the map. The RDA is woefully outdated as current research shows that vitamin D deficiency is widespread and cannot be avoided for most people without taking at least 2000 IU per day of vitamin D. Please see my previous article Adjusting Your Vitamin D Intake to Optimal Levels for more details.
How Long Does Breast Milk Last In Storage
It is best to be feeding baby relatively fresh breast milk. While many sources state “freshly frozen” human milk can last at least 4-6 and possibly as much as 12 months in its frozen state, the antibody content of the milk won’t be as finely tuned to the current needs of the baby as milk that is just a few days or a couple of weeks old. That’s because mothers tend to develop antibodies for whatever immune system challenges are encountered and this is part of why human milk is great for babies.
Refrigerated milk doesn’t last nearly as long, and refreezing thawed milk in generally not recommended. Therefore moms who are up to the job will be interested in freezing their milk for dad and other care providers to use in baby-sized quantities of a few ounces at a time, based upon baby’s typical appetite, so as to not waste the milk and to make it more convenient to prepare for feeding via bottle.
Pumping Can Be Good For Mom, Too
Finally, having mom pump on days when she doesn’t have baby is good for her, too. It helps keep up her milk supply and keep her metabolism going to get back to pre-pregnancy weight. Even a narcissistic mom should be able to appreciate that.
Hospital Grade Pumps Work Much Better
If mom has trouble getting consumer-grade breast pumps to work well, split the cost of a rental of a hospital grade pump. They are vastly more effective and can be rented (see the links below) for around $200 to $350 per six months or around $2 to $3 per day. If you’ll be using these for more than six months, consider buying a pump. You can buy a used hospital grade pump for around $500 or a new one for around $800. Moms and dads, just going ahead and doing this could be cheaper than even discussing it in court with $200 to $400 per hour lawyers on both sides. Note that consumable supplies add additional cost, so split those, too.
Finally, for those dads who really want to show they are willing to cooperate to ensure baby’s health, supply the vitamin D3 and fish oil so baby will be getting optimally nutritious mother’s milk. A year’s supply adequate for most women is less than $100, even half that with careful shopping for quality brands.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products mentioned in this post are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.