Breastfeeding is often seen as an obstacle to a parent’s access to their child and, consequently, the court may not consider the importance of the breastfeeding relationship for the child’s developmental, emotional, and nutritional health. One of the first things we can do is help to refocus everyone on the idea that child custody is not about the parents, it’s about the child. Engaging fathers to understand the value of breastfeeding not only for healthy development, but also for the child’s attachment and bonding with the father is key. And, helping judges and lawyers to value and understand the need for custody policies that change with child development are also key. It shouldn’t be the mother advocating for breastfeeding against everyone else, it should be about helping everyone else understand that breastfeeding is foundational to child health, and building a support system around this relatively short term necessity.
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Michigan custody law protects breastfeeding children.
Only a few states currently have custody protection laws that consider a nursing child when they make custody decisions. Good news! The state of Michigan has a custody protection law. The Michigan Custody Parenting Law requires in family law cases the judge must consider whether a child is nursing when determining allocation of parenting time.
The law is part of the Child Custody Act of 1970. (Remember that the law does not make recommendations for how the judge should rule, only that breastfeeding must be considered.)
The law reads: MCLS § 722.27a, Parenting time.
(7) The court may consider the following factors when determining the frequency, duration, and type of parenting time to be granted: …
(b) Whether the child is a nursing child less than 6 months of age, or less than 1 year of age if the child receives substantial nutrition through nursing.
You can read more about the law here.
In support of the breastfeeding relationship in child custody decisions, we advocate for the following:
- Evidence-based breastfeeding information and resources for distribution to families through Friend of the Court (FOC)
- Comprehensive breastfeeding education for judges and court employees and staff
- Child custody laws that protect the breastfeeding relationship for at least the first two years of life and extend beyond as long as breastfeeding is maintained
- National, tiered, child custody law that takes into account child development and age
To view the full policy position, download the position paper here.
To learn more about best practices, view the Systems Changer’s Guide here.
We are collecting stories from those who have been through and were involved in considering breastfeeding during a child custody agreement and from those who have been through this experience to share their words of wisdom for other parents.
We are collecting stories from those involved in considering breastfeeding during a child custody agreement, including:
- Breastfeeding mothers (or breastfeeding parents)
- Fathers (or non-breastfeeding parent)
- Lawyers and legal teams for these families during the child custody agreement process.
- Individuals who have been through the child custody agreement process and have words of advice/encouragement
Click here to share your story/words of advice.
Interested in joining the movement?
- Watch the Child Custody tools video
- View the Child Custody tools brochure
- Share a resourceful handout with the non-breastfeeding parent or dad (English | Spanish)
- Use a customizable letter to provide to the judge about considering breastfeeding in the child custody agreement (Word | PDF)
- Utilize a customizable letter that promotes extended breastfeeding support (Word | PDF)