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.