Bringing a new child into this world is not for the faint of heart. Pregnancy, labor and the needs of an infant can all create intense stress on new parents. When you add to that the fact that many men start considering infidelity while their wives are pregnant, you have a recipe for a new baby coming into a family that is already breaking apart.
Too many new parents will stay with a spouse simply because they believe that it is not possible to share custody of an infant or newborn. Thankfully, it is possible to reasonably and responsibly split up custody of a newborn or infant without causing any kind of emotional or social damage to that precious baby.
The focus should always be on what’s best for the child
Regardless of the age of the child whose parents divorce, what they need to be healthy and happy should always be the focus and the guiding factor for all major custody decisions. Children of all ages need to have a good bond with their parents, but infants present a special case.
Infants of any age have the ability to develop real attachment and bonds with multiple people, including both parents and a number of caregivers for family members. However, among the people they bond with, their primary caregiver will likely have a very important role as their primary attachment. That first and most important of bonds will be the basis for a child’s socialization and psychological health as they grow.
Making sure that a child has bonded with both parents is important, but it is also very important to ensure that the child has adequate time with the parent that has served as the primary caregiver so far in the child’s life.
Breastfeeding is beneficial but often complicates custody
Another consideration is whether the mom breastfeeds. Infants who can breastfeed gain brain development and immune system benefits by doing so exclusively for at least six months after birth.
Some women who nurse their children can also express breast milk through the use of a pump to refrigerate and provide for the infant later. In that situation, overnight visits of even very young infants with their fathers can be easily managed.
However, if a mother cannot pump or if pumping impacts her supply of breast milk, the father may have to understand that until the child weans or begins eating solid food, overnights away from the lactating mother may not be in the best interest of the child.
Infant parenting plans will require frequent updates and changes
The terms you put in place for a breastfed newborn will vary dramatically from what terms will most benefit a weaned and ambulatory year-old child. Your parenting plan should include either terms that will apply as your infant continues to develop or instructions to revisit and revise the plan when your child reaches certain critical milestones in life.
Weaning, eating solid food, starting school and other important events in the life of your child may require that you and your ex review how you shared custody and what might work better moving forward.
Co-parenting an infant requires patience and flexibility
Sharing parental rights and responsibilities with your ex is never easy, but when the life that you are responsible for is that of an infant child who cannot meet or even express their own needs, cooperation between parents is of utmost importance.
Agreeing to pick up the slack if your ex falls ill, acknowledging how sleep deprivation could impact both parenting and work performance, and openly sharing information about the child’s eating and diaper habits will make it easier for both parents to meet the needs of the child and continue to develop their important parental bond.