Breastfeeding and Successful Co-Parenting Following Separation

May 8th 2024

Establishing successful co-parenting following a separation is invariably challenging. When a child is breastfed, this adds another layer of complexity to the transition.

The World Health Organisation recommends children are breastfed for at least two years. This can be complicated when a mother and child are separated, whether that is due to returning to work or the child spending time with their other parent. 

Most separating parents are able to come to an agreement outside of Court. However, it may be useful to consider the tests the Courts apply when making child arrangements and how these might apply to a breastfeeding child. 

The Court will give paramount consideration to the welfare of the child (s.1(1) Children Act 1989). There is also a strong presumption under the Children and Families Act 2014 that the involvement of both parents in a child’s life will further their welfare. Involvement can be direct or indirect and does not require an equal division of time spent with each parent.

To determine what is in a child’s best interests in accordance with these principles, the Court will consider the “welfare checklist” at s.8 Children Act 1989. The factors considered include: 

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child. However, almost all breastfed children will be too young for this to be relevant. 
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs. Here the Court could consider the physical and emotional health benefits of breastfeeding. 
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances. A change which dramatically disrupts the breastfeeding relationship is likely to negatively impact a child, but so would a change which disrupts the child’s relationship with their non-breastfeeding parent. 
  • The impact of the child’s age, sex, background and relevant characteristics. The age of the child will clearly be relevant. Before solid food is introduced at six months, a baby may be solely dependent on breastmilk. Breastmilk will likely remain their main source of nutrition for the first year. While the nutritional benefits continue past infancy, more flexibility will likely be possible as a child grows. Other characteristics, such as neurodivergency or health conditions, may also be relevant considerations in relation to breastfeeding. 

A balancing act will be required to protect the child’s relationship with both parents and the breastfeeding relationship. While compromises may be necessary, working with a solicitor such as SE-Solicitors who understands the importance of breastfeeding, alongside a professional breastfeeding supporter who can help with issues around milk supply, expressing and introducing bottles or cups, can help to find a solution that is in the child’s best interests. 

To discuss this topic further or talk to us for help with your child arrangements, please contact me here.