On Monday, May 12th in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a judge ruled that in three months, my 7-month-old, breast-exclusive daughter will have to go to overnight visits with her father, forcing her to take a bottle. This decision was made regardless of the fact that she has been exclusively breastfed and cannot physically take a bottle. In three months, the only thing that will protect her is if it is deemed medically necessary for her to continue to breastfeed. Starting now, she will have to go lengthy periods every other weekend without breast feeding to prepare her for this change. She will starve.
The courts tried to deem breastfeeding as unimportant factor in the well-being and development as a child, and an attorney from Harrisburg, Arkansas, suggested that a child under the age of 12 months could survive on solid foods alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire. The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
The opposing lawyer also argued that a mother shouldn't have the right to breastfeed until two years, as it's more of the best interest of the child to allow overnight visits with their father rather than allowing the natural progression of weaning.
A little history on this:
My child stopped taking a bottle of pumped milk around 12 weeks. She became breast exclusive and can not comprehend the latch of an artificial nipple. Many times I have tried, and it turns into a traumatic experience for her. Feeding time should not be a traumatic experience. I have been the sole caretaker of my child, as the father deployed, decided he wanted a divorce while he was deployed, and has not had contact with her since returning to the states. His parents want to have overnight visits at their house, and his parents want to take her out of state to his residency. Along with the fact that they have never cared for my child before, they are arguing that breast exclusive babies are an archaic idea, they do not exist, and regardless of the preference of the child's source of nutrition she should have to follow along with what THEY want her needs to be.
I started this petition because I know that I am not alone. I know that I am not the only mother with a breast exclusive baby. Breastfeeding is not only the best source of nutrition for the child; it is also a psychological and emotional bond that is crucial for development. It is an emotional, nutritional, oral, and psychological process. Breastfed babies should not have to suffer and have their lives changed because of the choices of others. In custody cases, the courts are supposed to look out for the best interest of the child. Starving a child and ripping them away from their source of nutrition and comfort is NOT the best interest. It is, in fact, child endangerment.
I want to see "Landry's Law" come into action. I want to see a national law protecting all breastfeeding mothers and babies until age two in child custody agreements, and then further discretion on a state level on the continuance. I want to see a requirement for lawyers and judges in family and domestic situations to have to take a class in breastfeeding education, learning the nutritional and emotional development aspects of nursing. I want all mothers to have the right to choose to do what their body has been designed to do, regardless of the circumstances. I want breastfeeding to be considered medically necessary. I want all cases of visitation to be scheduled around the child's feeding schedule. I want to take a stand for the babies that can't take a stand for themselves. It is time that breastfeeding has a place in the courts, as breastfeeding is how millions of women since the beginning of time have nourished their children.
All lawyers and judges involved in child custody and domestic arenas of law should be required to take a class on breastfeeding education, for knowledge of how this impacts the development of the child. The courts should also recognize breastfeeding until the age of two years, as suggested by the World Health Organization, as a medical necessity and work visitation around the child's feeding schedule. Mothers should have the God-given right to nurse their children, and children should have the right to nurse from their mother on demand or however they naturally prefer, regardless of the decisions of one or both of the parents to stay together.