Few issues pit parents against each other as aggressively as custody matters involving a newborn child or young infant. Mothers often feel an intense bond with children in their earliest months of life, becoming defensive about the idea of any degree of separation whatsoever. Fathers may worry that if they don’t assert their parenting right now, their children won’t bond with them as effectively.
There are a lot of myths and stories that influence how people approach shared custody when they have a baby together. Many people think of infant custody as a winner-take-all situation. Is shared custody a realistic expectation for a young child not yet weaned?
The source of nutrition may determine initial custody arrangements
Perhaps the biggest concern about shared custody of a newborn child relates to breastfeeding. Obviously, a properly-fed child is what is most important. Making sure that a child receives adequate nutrition is one of the most important jobs of a parent.
Still, medical research shows relatively clearly that exclusively breastfed children have certain developmental advantages over their formula-fed peers. Nursing a child offers medical benefits for the mother too, as well as an opportunity to strengthen the bond between mother and child.
If the mother breastfeeds, the best custody arrangement may involve the father only having visitation, such as stopping by for an hour or two after work every day. Separating the mother from the newborn child would mean compromising their nutrition by making them transition to formula. Prolonged absences could also impact the mother’s supply of breast milk.
Without a nutritional hurdle, shared infant custody can be straightforward
If the mother has already weaned the child or if formula feeding is the preference for the family from the earliest days of life, then concerns about breast milk access and supply likely won’t influence your custody arrangements.
Instead, it is possible for parents to fully share custody. This arrangement would make it easier for the mom to transition back into her work. It may also be possible for the father to take the child on weekends. Shared custody early on will also help ensure that both parents have strong, stable bonds with the child.
Pursuing shared custody when you have a very young child requires careful planning and a committed focus on the best interests of the baby.