Breastfeeding and Custody

My daughter, who has breastfed for the past almost three years, is now living with her father. I’m hoping from custody mediation to start having supervised visits once a week. It seems that breastfeeding during past visits has reassured her of my presence and our bond plus rekindled her confidence. She seemed happier and more comfortable with leaving the visit to go back to her father, than one time I decided not to nurse her. She also seemed more present and grounded, and less traumatized. However, there are others who have suggested it may be harder on her to nurse only one day a week, and not all the rest of the time. What do you think?

It must be difficult for you to only see your daughter one time per week. Having said that, I have several questions for you to think about. First, why are visits supervised? How much time did you spend with your daughter before the divorce? What is the real reason for the breastfeeding? Are there other ways you could explore with your daughter for bonding and reassurance, grounding, etc.? Now, having raised the questions for you to think about, here is some information I hope you find helpful.

It is normal for children in your daughter’s age group to have the following reactions to the divorce, especially if the amount of time you see each other now is significantly less than before the divorce, which it sounds like it is: trouble sleeping, afraid to leave parent (clinging), crankiness, crying, slowing down in learning new skills, confusion, fear of abandonment, aggression (temper tantrums), return to security items (nursing), emotionally needy, amongst others. Without knowing all the facts, the breastfeeding one time per week could be doing more harm than good since it can be viewed as a “security item.” At this point it will be beneficial and necessary for the two of you to develop other ways of meeting both of your needs (you have a real need to maintain closeness with her with your limited contact and she has the same need with you). It is most important for you to continue to hold her and spend quality time with her. I think you should complete the weaning process for both of you and work on other avenues. Hold her close as you read a book, play a game, or do artwork together. Depending on the terms of the supervised parenting time you might be able to take a walk holding hands and explore nature together.

Perhaps attending a parenting group for other single parents of toddlers would be helpful. You could start by visiting a website from the National Association of Social Workers to see if there is a contact in your area. You may also want to contact La Leche League in your area to see if there are any groups and/or reading materials for parenting after weaning.