Breastfeeding and Shared Custody

Breastfeeding and Shared Custody

Nearing the end of a relationship brings a lot of feelings and changes. When kids are involved, the ending of a partnership can bring about extensive challenges, necessitating custody arrangements, timetables, and the evolution of routines. At the same time, emotions can feel practically cluttered and unpredictable. For parents of the smallest of little ones, newborns, and children three and under, routine is a big part of keeping them healthy, reaching developmental milestones, and just sleeping peacefully through the night– or most of it. So, when it comes to separating parents of infants and toddlers, how does Texas family law view sharing custody or joint conservatorship and manage to factor in breastfeeding, if at all?

In Texas, “conservatorship,” the legal term for custody, carefully considers all aspects unique to each case but always puts the child’s best interests before all else. Here, we will address the challenges and considerations posed by separation and surrounding breastfed infants in Texas shared custody cases.

Understanding Texas Conservatorship Laws for Infants

The laws of Texas recognize and emphasize the unique considerations necessary when tackling the conservatorship of young children, particularly under Texas Family Code Sec. 153.254, which pertains directly to children less than three years of age. The court is mandated to yield an order appropriate for the custody of a child under three years old. The provision signifies the distinctive needs of infants and sets the stage for addressing issues related to breastfeeding and shared custody.

Breastfeeding Considerations: In cases involving infants, Texas courts consider the impact that custody arrangements can have on breastfeeding. The court notes the significance of breastfeeding for the child’s health and wellbeing, and custody orders are crafted to accommodate the nursing schedule, ensuring that both parents can actively experience and provide for the child’s care.

Gradual Transition Orders: Courts may implement phased or step-up possession orders to facilitate a smooth adjustment for infants. These orders initiate with limited periods of possession, gradually increasing as does the infant maturity. The approach allows the child to develop secure attachments with both parents while considering the unique needs of infants in their formative years.

The Positioning of Arguments: Pro-Mom and Pro-Dad

Arguments can be made for either parents to have more time with the baby or equal time. Mothers often advocate for primary custody, especially when their child is breastfeeding. The stance aligns with health recommendations from many organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which explain that breastfeeding benefits the mother and the child as breastmilk is an excellent source of nutrition. The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health (OASH) offers information on additional breastfeeding benefits for mothers, including assistance in bonding with their child, promoting healthy postpartum weight loss, and lowering the risks of several health issues, including Type 2 diabetes and types of breast and ovarian cancers. Local resources here in Texas, from The Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas WIC, and Texas Health Resources Organization, all stress the immunological, emotional, and nutritional benefits for infants to breastfeed. Many more evidence-based and professionally supported sources that encourage or support breastfeeding can be easily accessed, which makes it effortless for advocates to assert that entrusting custody to the mother serves the child’s best interests by ensuring uninterrupted access to the nutritional and emotional benefits of breastfeeding. These physical and emotional bonds are considered vital and even the gold standard for infant care and thus further support primary maternal custody.

Conversely, arguments favoring shared custody highlight the significance of the child’s bonding with both parents. Courts, now more than ever before, recognize the critical nature of healthy attachments and the development of healthy relationships with mother and father. Shared custody proponents argue that fostering a connection with mom and dad is essential for the child’s overall well-being. Additionally, in today’s busy world, it is not uncommon for mothers to pump additional milk by use of a breast pump. Health plans and insurance providers in Texas, including state programs and plans like Medicaid, CHIP, and Tricare, support breastfeeding by including free or low-cost breast pumps. Enrollees of CHIP or Medicaid are eligible for these devices as communicated via the Texas WIC. Thus, even for families who choose to strictly feed their infant breast milk, there are ways to plan for time with dad in a custody arrangement. Of course, there are junctures when insufficient milk may be an issue. Communication is key between new parents, whether they are in a relationship or not, for the child’s best interests. Some accommodations may need to be made; however, other options can still support joint conservatorship and a shared custody schedule.

Crafting Custody Arrangement for Breastfeeding Infants

Developing a custody plan for infants who are breastfeeding demands a thoughtful and nuanced strategy. Courts will consider various respects, including the child’s age, the strength of each parent’s bond with the child, and the comprehensive assessment of the child’s physical, medical, behavioral, and developmental requirements. Additionally, the court meticulously evaluates the parent’s readiness and capability to provide hands-on care, ensuring a shared commitment to parenting responsibilities and child safety. The multifaceted approach aims to build a custody arrangement that aligns with the child’s welfare at the forefront and supports a healthy holistic development.

What is the “Tender Age Doctrine?”

The Tender Age Doctrine spans centuries and is still part of today’s legal principles embedded in family law. Texas family law still recognizes the meaning behind this doctrine while having evolved to balance today’s diverse family dynamics. In acknowledging the potential effect of lengthy separation from the primary caregiver of the infant, Texas follows the tender age doctrine, which puts a spotlight on nursing mothers and their babies. Tender age refers to newborns and infants requiring substantial care. The doctrine acknowledges the significance of the mother-infant bond during the early life stages of your infant while still recognizing a need for balance. The doctrine strives to ensure both parents have the opportunity for healthy, active roles in the child’s life.

Navigating Possession Schedules for Breastfeeding Infants

Composing a custody timetable and seeing out that plan for infants involves careful consideration to meet the unique developmental needs and communication and compromise from both parental parties. An incremental increase in visitation time with the noncustodial parent may initially be required, depending on how young the child is. However, there is still an understanding of a gradual increase. These types of agreements promote breastfeeding continuity and the continuation and strengthening of the bond between the child and both parents. However, real-world factors can interject hurdles, like work schedules, doctor appointments, and even the location of both parties. If one party lives a considerable distance away, it can add to the challenges of creating an efficient possession schedule.

Challenges, Considerations in Joint Conservatorship and Co-Parenting

Embarking on shared custody, with a breastfeeding infant, presents distinctive challenges. Effective communication between parents is paramount to address concerns and collaboratively find solutions to minimize conflict. However, parenting is often about putting aside our wants or desires for what is truly best for the child. It is a positive attribute that deserves to be celebrated when both parents are present and wish to be part of the child’s life. Sometimes, the give-and-take is necessary. Adjustments to visitation schedules, such as aligning visits with the primary caregiver’s work hours to accommodate breastfeeding, may be needed for a successful co-parenting arrangement. Yes, co-parenting! Co-parenting will be fundamental for a healthy, well-adjusted childhood outcome in your infant’s present and your child’s future. Co-parents must collaborate on decisions that serve their child, putting aside personal feelings and instead opting for their child’s wellbeing.

Get Help from Your Child Custody Attorney

Whether a separation of a relationship or a dissolution of marriage, the beginning is usually a sensitive time, and factoring in both parent’s love and desire to be close to their infant can sometimes draw out arguments, emotions, and disagreements. Conservatorship cases involving breastfeeding and other infant health and wellness components require prudent legal expertise. Child custody lawyers play a crucial function in leveraging professional resources, building compelling cases, and securing favorable outcomes. The child’s best interests will always remain at the heart of any custody case, but solid legal representation ensures a fair outcome. Schedule your confidential consultation with an experienced Texas child custody attorney to ensure you protect your child’s immediate needs, their future, and your rights.

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