Shared care, compromised care

Fathers are as important as mothers, but should a baby be forced off the breast when a couple seperate?

By Elizabeth Harrop

14 March 2010

Hard work by the father lobby has rightly ensured that fatherhood is more fully recognised. But is there a price to pay by young babies and infants who find themselves taken from Mum so they can spend half the week with Dad in ‘shared care’ arrangements?

A case in point in New Zealand: The court appointed lawyer FOR the 4 month old baby, recommended that the mother stop breastfeeding so that baby could spend half the week with dad. This in spite of the fact the World Health Organisation recommends breast feeding exclusively for the first six months and ideally for at least two years and beyond.

There are reports that fathers are insisting on shared care arrangements because it reduces child support payments. Shared care in New Zealand means a father need only have the children for 3 nights a week (no days) to qualify for shared care.

New reports published in Australia in early 2010 show the need to assess what works best for each child, rather than a one-size-fits-all emphasis on equal time.

Professor Belinda Fehlberg at Melbourne University’s Law School says that “many people now mistakenly assume the starting point is that children should spend equal time with each parent… The legal starting point is in fact equal shared parental responsibility or major decision-making.”

In Australia, research has shown that parents who needed help from the court for dispute resolution had shared care in 46 per cent of cases, while among parents who made their own arrangements only 9.5 per cent favoured shared care.

Jennifer McIntosh director of Family Transitions in Australia, commenting on this said: “We have a very high percentage of very high-conflict families sharing the care of their children and this goes against all the good research. This is not a good situation – developmentally – for children to be in.”

Yes, fathers are important, but babies and infants need Mummy. She is the focus of their world and they of hers. Evolutionary biology has programmed a mother-infant bond to ensure the survival of the species and breaking that is done at great risk, not just to the mother and child but to society as a whole.

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IRD understanding shared care

Sydney Morning Herald, Children at risk in rise of shared care

WA Today, Reports show shared care needs fixing

World Health Organisation on breastfeeding:

The Babble Out: All about breastfeeding

Liberty & Humanity

Photo Josh Willink