What effect does breast feeding have on custody decisions? There is no hard and fast rule. There is no law which states that if a baby or child is still nursing, the other parent should not be awarded custody. That being said, arranging for the custody and care of very young children can be challenging because young children tend to need 24-hour supervision and are completely dependent on others to ensure their basic needs are met. In addition, parenting plans for young children must be revised frequently as their needs evolve rapidly; what worked for a 2-month-old isn’t going to work once that child enters preschool. Although both parents will probably want as much time as possible with their newborn or infant, the primary consideration must be how to best meet the baby’s needs. Because infants aged 0-6 months require one or more naps during the day and frequent night feedings (which may include breastfeeding), the general consensus is that “overnights” (where the infant stays with the non-custodial parent or non-primary caretaker overnight) should be postponed until the child no longer requires night feedings. The non-custodial parent should be provided the opportunity to bond with the child and take part in the child’s care, but not disrupt naps or feeding schedules.
The Los Angeles Superior Court Family Court Services suggests a visitation schedule that allows the non-residential parent two hours a day, three days per week.
For babies aged 7-12 months, it’s suggested that visits be bumped up to three hours a day, three days per week. Non-residential parents may also work up to a schedule that includes overnights, but only if it’s in the child’s best interests. When deciding whether overnights are appropriate, parents (and judges) should consider the child’s needs, including night feedings, and keep in mind that routines are essential in this early stage of development.
In developing plans for children as they move out of infancy, from 13 to 36 months, parents should consider a variety of factors, such as consistency and daily routines, night feedings, sleep issues, bottle weaning, toilet training and adjustments to daycare or preschool. Parents should try to avoid a plan that frequently disrupts a child’s routine.
The Los Angeles Superior court puts out an excellent resource on what factors to consider when creating parenting plans for children of all ages. Sample parenting plans for children ages 0-18: http://www.lacourt.org/selfhelp/familiesandchildren/SH_FM002.aspx