Mother Ordered To Allow Formula For Her Exclusively Breastfed Infant

A Maryland judge has ordered a mother to allow her six-month-old son to have formula when he is with his father.A Maryland judge has ordered a mother to allow her six-month-old son to have formula when he’s with his father, and so rages the debate between the rights of a mother, father, and child. 

Amber Brown and Corey Lewis separated not long after their now 6-month-old son was born. Brown’s plan was to follow World Health Organization guidelines that cite recommendations for babies to be fed breast milk exclusively for the first six months, but the baby’s father took her to court, asking a judge to order that the baby be given formula. It seems Brown, like many mothers, had a hard enough time supplying milk as she nursed, and she simply couldn’t pump enough to supply Lewis with milk for night-time feedings. 

Related: Study: Breastfeeding May Reduce Risks of MS

Lewis argued in front of two magistrates in Charles County, Maryland, that he should be able to give the baby formula overnight, because Brown’s desire to exclusively breast feed prevents him from his rights of overnight visitation as the baby’s father. Magistrate Monise Brown agreed with Lewis in July, saying that the mother’s insistence to breastfeed was not a valid reason to withhold visitation, and in fact, could be purposed alienation toward Lewis. 

Brown filed for an exception, based on her pediatrician’s recommendation that the baby remains nursed, as he could not tolerate formula. The follow-up hearing was just held and Magistrate Mitsy Metzgar concurred with the first ruling that if formula was what was needed for dad to have overnight visits, it should be done.

And so…this is where it gets so, so sticky.

While WHO recommends nursing for the first six months, the fact is that the baby has been nursed for six months, with Lewis saying he allowed that to happen. He says that he should now have the overnight visits with his son he is entitled to. Yet, a licensed pediatrician has gone on record saying the baby cannot tolerate formula, and no one seems to be taking that into account. Do judges have the medical experience that licensed clinicians do? Is it normal for them to turn away the advice of certified medical professionals?

Interestingly, Maryland is one of the states with strong legal wording when it comes to breastfeeding. The law (MD 20-801) states that no person can restrict or limit the right of a mother to breastfeed her child. It would seem that we now are looking at the issue of whose rights trump whose — the right of the mom to breastfeed, or the right of the dad to overnight visitation?

Related: Thailand Bans Formula Ads to Increase Breastfeeding

What about the baby’s rights? If his mother is not able to protect him from possible gastrointestinal issues due to formula intolerance because judges deem that an excuse for her keeping him from his father, who can? Who will?

We understand that very rarely do custody cases have ‘easy’ answers, so we continue to watch.

32 thoughts on “Mother Ordered To Allow Formula For Her Exclusively Breastfed Infant”

  1. The father should think about the babys wellbeing before his “fathers right” and should everyone else including the judge. Period.

  2. This is an absolute shame. Children’s rights should supersede parent rights. Society at large has come to think it acceptable to provide less than the best possible care for infants and children and “fix it” later-which we know doesn’t happen. It is not difficult to find research demonstrating the benefits to infants and children who remain primarily with a primary caregiver and have shorter yet frequent placement with the non primary caregiver. My heart aches for this child.

  3. Seems most of a child’s rights to the safety and security of a two-parent family are completely ignored by adults who see their own happiness as the primary concern. I understand not every relationship can be saved, but the hook-up/break-up culture where relationships are quickly and easily dissolved when they get difficult, and even marriage is a loosely binding contract totally disregards the natural needs of children to belong to a strong family unit. I’m sure I sound really old school and uncool, but sometimes you need to back up a few steps. Not all change is progress.

  4. WAIT if the baby has ONLY been breastfed for 6 months how can the doctor tell if the baby cant tolerate formula?????? The formula should be introduced to the child by the mother to supplement the breast milk at home to ALLOW the father HIS RIGHTS. This is a clear case of the mother finding a way of denying the fathers rights. I see no proof in this at all that they have tried formula on this child. Also she is the one claiming she is unable to pump extra for the overnites but again the courts only have her word for it. SORRY ladies she does not want to give the father the RIGHTS he deserves so he is punishing him.

    1. Nice catch Karen! I missed that crucial point. If the baby’s been exclusively breastfed, I wonder on what the pediatrician’s medical opinion is based?

    2. While it does not state the reason, I’m thinking it might be that the baby can’t tolerate milk. Most formula (even soy formulas) have milk base to them. It would make sense that the baby is 6 months and has probably tried dairy of some sort and has shown signs of an allergy or intolerance. My son has a milk protein intolerance. In those situations, the mother could have milk while breastfeeding but after a child tries it themselves, they can no longer tolerate it in the mother’s diet. Or he could have had issues before then also and that’s how they know he can’t have formula. I’m only guessing but I find it hard to believe a doctor would lie under oath to help the mother keep the baby from the father. If a mom has the right to breastfeed get baby till the baby no longer needs breastmilk or formula then that is how long she should be allowed to do it. Is only another 6 months. If the issue is no overnights then give more time to father during the day. It seems to me that the father just took the mother to court to get overnights because he doesn’t want to pay so much child support. They only way someone can get support reduced is by having more overnights or in this case having overnights at all. The baby should be mostly sleep at night anyway. Why should it be such a big deal to have overnights anyway except for the money issue?

      1. In New York State, (not sure if states differ on this) visitation and child support are completely independent of one another. Visitation can not be denied nor decided based on payment and is not awarded based off how much time children spend with the non custodial parent. In fact, it is completely different sections of court and judges that decide those issues.

      2. Three of my children had milk/soy allergies and two had milk only allergies and Alimentum or Nutramigen worked perfectly fine for three whowere allergic to milk and soy. How can the pediatrician assume that this EXCLUSIVELY bereastfed baby is automatically allergic to EVERY formula out there when he has never tried ANY of them? And how ridiculous is it to presume that the reason that this father wants overnight visitation is because he wants to get out of paying more child support?!?! Maybe he actually just LOVES his child and wants to spend as much time with him as he can. If this 6 month old baby should “mostly sleep at night anyway” (according to you), then why is this need for exclusive breastmilk even a valid argument for denying visitation?
        And nope Autum, FED IS BEST!!! How sad are YOU to say that any mother who cannot or chooses not to breastfeed is providing her child with anything less. Newsflash sanctimommy, putting other mom’s down for choosing formula doesn’t strengthen your argument, it just makes you sound ignorant.

        1. No, “Fed is best” is bullshit. Fed is minimum, breast is optimal, and formula is a lousy breast milk substitute – but more so, the baby has no way to understand why he is suddenly kept from his primary attachment figure for 24+ hours – a six month old baby still does not have object permanence. Also, just because you chose to feed your child formula does not mean that a judge should have the right to force another mother to give up breastfeeding. Also, those allergy-friendly formulas, along with being a poor substitute for actual breast milk, are very expensive – yet I bet it’s the mom footing the tab for the crap. Either way, they should have found another way for the father to spend time with the babies besides forcibly weaning the poor child. Babies rights first!

  5. I can not believe that a judge would have the right to tell any mother what they can and cant so with their child. Here is California I will agree and say it is a “mother state” meaning 9 rimes out of 10bthey will side with the mom. But this isn’t even what its about. Its about the welfare of the baby. Not what judges think. If doctors are saying this then they should follow the guidelines of the doctor. They went to school to practice law, not medicine! Let them do their jobs and stay the hell out of it!!

    1. California has done the same thing, and in fact is not a “mothers state” at all – they often switch custody to dads, and even step-dads if they have enough money. Maryland is even worse, and tend to punish anyone who isn’t rich.

  6. If the pediatrician has stated there is medical reason for not doing formula, the judge has no right to put the child’s health at risk. The simple solution is, if baby stays overnight with dad, so does mom. It’s called co-parenting for the wellbeing of the child. Work together for your child despite your own feelings and wants.

  7. As a breastfeeding mom I have to say that not only would this make me livid, because a baby deserves to have the best food and life possible (fed is good, breast is best). Not only is this baby not getting the nutrition that it was originally getting, but now it’s poor little tummy will be hurting all the time because the baby has a formula intolerance. The judge is supposed to consider the baby’s health and wellbeing before the father’s, and this doesn’t seem to be the case. How sad that this is our justice system.

  8. BREAST MILK is not some miracle elixir akin to UNICORN TEARS no matter how bad you want it to be so. DAD HAS EVERY right to have overnights, formula during these times will not hurt this baby. Good for dad for sticking up for himself.

    1. It may not be unicorn tears, but breast milk has many incredible properties besides basic nutrition, unlike formula. A mother’s body produces any antibodies the baby may need through a feedback system when the baby latches on, and provides them through the milk. Also, breastmilk contains specific nutrients for the beneficial bacteria in our guts. We are only just beginning to discover just how important our gut flora is to overall health.
      Prolactin is produced most at night, so if her supply is somewhat low as is, missing a few nights a week could have quite an impact, even if she only nurses a couple times a night.

    2. Who sent in the anti-breastfeeding, anti-woman trolls? Breastfeeding is best, formula is 3rd best after mom’s fresh milk, mom’s pumped milk, and donor milk, and anyway, the child doesn’t need to suddenly be separated for long hours from their primary attachment figure just so dad can have “access” to the poor baby. This is awful.

    1. Yes, donor milk would be the best in these circumstances. The baby might have a milk intolerance like my child does sms that is why he is unable to tolerate formula because most (even soy based formula) have a milk base. Also a lot of children who have milk issues also have soy issues.

  9. The father could breastfeed if he took the necessary horomones ahead of time. It’s been done before. Whether he could produce enough milk to satisfy the baby’s appetite would depend on the age at which horomone treatment is started and individual physiology.

  10. Breast milk IS a miracle elixir and should be available to the baby. Although it seems parental rights win over, it should be in the best interest for the child. This child has a right to breastmilk. That should be the number one priority.

  11. The article states baby has been exclusively fed breast milk for six months. Also says that is what mom originally argued for and dad didn’t fight it. I’m a (sadly) divorced mom. I also can see the dad’s side as I was married to a man who has a daughter from a previous relationship and my brother went through a tremendous custody battle. I see a mom who is being vindictive and spiteful, she may have every right to feel so but it’s not fair to baby or dad. It’s been over five years for me and I still miss my kids terribly when they are away from me with dad. As far as doctors saying baby can’t tolerate formula, I would like to see a few dr’s that are independent and not especially known to mom (or dad) give an evaluation and professional opinion. I’m a RN and I know some parents can be very persuasive and convincing to their known docs. When all is said and done, baby is going to be fine. Unless mom has VALID concerns for safety of baby, she needs to let dad have his time too. Children do need both parents. My ex screwed my family AND another family with his shenanigans. He tore our family apart. He broke my heart. He is a liar and a cheat. Yet, it is not up to me to make my kids hate him and I am not allowed to stand in the way of them having a relationship.

  12. What a stupid judge, who is so uneducated about breastfeeding. The baby will have the lovely gut flora interrupted by formula and the mother could end up with mastitis. Idiots!

  13. My family was just involved with a legal event that garnered a lot of media attention. Here is what it taught me: unless I am sitting in the courtroom listening to all evidence, or I have witnessed the event myself, I should offer no opinion, and make no judgement.
    Even when the news people were IN the courtroom there were errors in their published story, things were left out, they had things backwards.

  14. One question: since the baby’s had formula exclusively up to this point, how can anyone know whether he’s able to tolerate formula?

  15. Ok so give the dad the baby for a night. Once he realizes how difficult it is to care for a miserable crying hungry and in pain, he would probably give the baby right back to momma, where he belongs at night until the breastfeeding is done or until he is atleast 12-18 months old.

    1. The baby is not a toy and not an instrument to teach his selfish father a lesson. I wouldn’t easily give MY baby to cry for a whole night with somebody else! It’s not only about breastfeeding but also about a situation where the baby should find comfort and healthy night sleep. Even with the mother present, many families with infants stay away from overnight visits for the first year or so as it can be too much for the baby to handle such a change in the nighttime routine. I can’t imagine losing the familiar room, crib, scents, mom’s boobs and food all at the same time for this poor baby who is forced to spend nights at his dad’s place. Take a stroller and go for a walk in daytime, play with the baby while he is awake, but let him rest, sleep and eat as usual for the nights!

  16. This father is incredibly selfish and uneducated and my initial emotional reaction is, his lack of understanding regarding the baby-mother relationship -or at the very least, the fact he’s acting in complete disregard for his baby’s health and safety – should terminate his parents rights for the near future.

  17. The amount of women on here that don’t believe fathers have rights is disgusting.

    That father has EQUAL rights to his child. Just because you lactate doesn’t mean you get more rights to baby. You didn’t make that baby on your own ladies.

    If it’s that much if an issue then I guess you need to hop over to dads house every two hours to feed. 🤷🏻‍♀️

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