Bristol Palin and Dakota Meyer are currently in a heated custody battle over their 2-month-old daughter, Sailor Grace. The couple, who was once engaged but broke up a week before their wedding — and months before the birth of their daughter — is trying to figure out (and that's putting it euphemistically) a way for each parent to spend adequate time with their baby. But here's where things get tricky: Palin is breastfeeding.
Palin objected to the idea of Meyer taking Sailor overnight, as the baby still nurses throughout the night. They took their case to court, and an Alaska judge has since granted Meyer two four-day periods of custody per month. That's a lot of milk to pump and almost all but ensures that Palin's supply will dwindle — and that she'll stop nursing before she or the baby is ready.
Palin and Meyer's case isn't anything new. Taking breastfeeding into account when coming up with custody agreements is something numerous parents have dealt with over the years — often with similar results. In 2013, a Pennsylvania judge ordered a mom to stop breastfeeding her 10-month-old so the child's father could have overnight visitations with the baby. Another mom involved in a custody battle started a petition in 2014 to protect her breastfeeding rights when a judge ordered overnight visits with the dad for her 7-month-old. The petition got more than 15,000 supporters.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months. After that, it recommends continuing another six months with whatever foods the mom chooses to supplement with, if any. Breastfeeding has many benefits for babies, and without question, a child shouldn't be denied these benefits over a custody battle.
But also, a child shouldn't be denied the right to bond with their father.
The early months of babyhood are a special time that can never be duplicated. Sailor should get to know her father during this time, and Meyer should get to enjoy this period as well. Perhaps what Palin and Meyer and some (not all) other couples need to do is come up with a mature solution that puts the baby first — a situation where Sailor can nurse throughout the night but still spend time with her dad. It isn't ideal, but perhaps Palin and Meyer should stay in the same place overnight a few times per month. When you have a baby, you make the decision to always put them first, right? Very few things about parenting are convenient.
It hasn't been stated whether Sailor takes a bottle, which would also play into such a situation. That said, even if she does, again, Palin will surely lose her supply, and the baby is the one who will miss out on all the benefits — especially since she's still so young.
Two four-day visits per month seem a little extreme at this stage in the game for breastfeeding Palin. But if not this, then what does Meyer get here? Where is his special time with his daughter? There has to be an answer for couples in this tricky situation that doesn't force a mom to stop breastfeeding and doesn't screw a dad out of precious bonding time. Unfortunately, though, that's probably a decision that needs to be made outside of court — by the two people who had a baby together.
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