A breastfeeding mother in Maryland is fighting a magistrate’s order allowing the father of their infant, the right to feed the exclusively breastfed baby formula, during overnight visits.
Amber Brown and Corey Lewis, residents of Charles County Maryland, welcomed a baby boy in February 2017, but separated shortly after their child’s birth. During a custody hearing in July, Monise Brown, a county magistrate facilitated a disagreement between Ms. Brown and Mr. Lewis’ beliefs regarding how to feed their baby during overnight visitations. The baby’s mother was exclusively breastfeeding her infant, and was not able to express enough breastmilk to send with the baby for overnight visits, with the father. Mr. Lewis insisted that he should be allowed overnight visits, and has the right to feed his baby formula during that time.
Magistrate Brown agreed with the father, stating “breast-feeding is not a reason to prevent [Lewis’s] visitation, and that insisting on breast-feeding would be considered deliberate alienation of [Lewis],” according to Ms. Brown’s attorney.
The mother filed a request for exception, providing a note from her son’s pediatrician stating the baby could not tolerate formula. At a follow-up hearing, in August, a second court official, Magistrate Mitsy Metzgar, agreed with the initial recommendation, forcing the Mother to comply with the overnight visitation ruling, that includes allowing the father the right to feed his exclusively breastfed infant, formula. Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization strongly recommend infants be fed only breastmilk for the first six months of life, and Maryland law protects and states a vested interest in the infant and mother nursing relationship, as a basis to promote family values and public acceptance of breastfeeding, two court magistrates support detrimental recommendations for this mother-baby dyad.
This insulting arrangement in the custody ruling, comes at a very ironic time. Throughout the month of August, several organizations and coalitions spotlight breastfeeding with National Breastfeeding Month, World Breastfeeding Week, and Black Breastfeeding Week. Huge efforts are made to highlight and celebrate the importance of increasing a collaborative effort to generate a breastfeeding-friendly landscape. It appears that our culture and courts have quite a bit of remedial work to do, if they want to support and honor breastfeeding mothers, babies, and families!
The Nurturing Root proudly supports breastfeeding mothers. The health of our families, communities, institutions, and societies, are inextricably linked to our commitment to honoring breastfeeding mothers and babies.