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Breastfeeding Used As An Excuse To Keep Babies Away From Fathers

July 18th, 2010 10 comments

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:

(Breastfeeding Court Letter, by Katherine A Dettwyler, Ph.D., Anthropology)

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).

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