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Navigating Co-Parenting and Breastfeeding

Tips on how to successfully co-parent a nursing baby.

Raising a happy, healthy baby is a demanding journey for parents, and it can be even more challenging for co-parents. Finding the right co-parenting arrangement for your baby is a delicate balance, and the situation can be more intricate if your baby breastfeeds. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for co-parents navigating breastfeeding, but both parents can work together to create the best solution for their baby. With a commitment to prioritizing your baby’s health and well-being, you and your co-parent can ensure your baby can breastfeed and spend time with both parents.

Breastfeeding babies

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding is recommended as a baby’s sole source of nutrition until the baby is six months old. After the first six months, each group’s recommendations involve supplementing breast milk with complementary foods. Regarding the continuation of breastfeeding after six months, the groups recommend durations varying from 12 to 24 months of age.

In addition to supporting healthy attachments, many studies show that breastfeeding can contribute to positive health outcomes for babies and mothers. Breast milk can provide vital nutrition while contributing to a lower risk of experiencing various health issues and infections. Mothers who breastfeed can experience lowered risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other illnesses.

Depending on your circumstances, solely or primarily feeding your baby through breastfeeding may not always be possible. Many factors, like a mother’s schedule, stress level, or health conditions, can reduce lactation capabilities. Other standard feeding options involve using bottles with either pumped breast milk or infant formula. If you keep your baby’s well-being in mind, any method you choose can work for your baby and your co-parenting situation.

Co-parenting a nursing baby

With these benefits and alternatives in mind, choosing how to feed your baby will affect how you and your co-parent develop and implement your parenting plan. Here are some tips to help you navigate co-parenting a nursing baby.

Communicate openly

Raising a baby involves dozens, if not hundreds, of factors that parents must consider. Feeding preferences, sleep schedules, doctor’s appointments, and other important topics need to be discussed between parents. Communicating openly and frequently is especially crucial for co-parents who do not live together. Staying on the same page is essential for creating a healthy, nurturing co-parenting situation regardless of which parent has custody of their infant.

Important questions that you should address include:

  • What custody schedule will you and your co-parent follow?
  • How will you communicate about everything related to your baby?
  • Will you feed your baby breast milk, infant formula, or both?
  • If the baby is breastfed, is the mother willing and able to pump, store, and send milk with the child to accommodate a shared custody schedule?

Based on these questions, develop an additional list of topics you and your co-parent want to address. Whatever the subject is, ensure that you and your co-parent communicate honestly and thoroughly with each other to create the best outcome for your baby.

Woman checking watch

Make and follow a structured schedule

Your baby depends on your custody schedule and parenting plan to spend time and bond with you and your co-parent. Determining the best custody schedule for your baby is a crucial process, and it is easiest if you and your co-parent can make that decision on your own instead of deciding through litigation.

If your baby depends on breastfeeding, scheduling daytime visits is an easy way for your baby to spend time with both parents. Co-parents can arrange visits between naps and meals, so the baby stays in the same place and does not require special accommodations for transporting food, diapers, and other materials.

If you and your co-parent are ready to share custody with more than visitation, there are several custody schedules suitable for infants. Most schedules involve custody exchanges occurring every two to three days. Regardless of what’s chosen, ensure that you and your co-parent create a plan that follows your decision for feeding your baby.

For co-parents who want a custody schedule that grows with their baby, a step-up schedule can be a valuable part of a parenting plan. Co-parents who follow a step-up schedule begin with visits between feedings and progress to extended visitations, overnight stays, and eventually a shared custody schedule when they feel comfortable making that change. This graduation in shared custody allows babies to acclimate to both parents’ homes and spend time with each parent.

Father bottle feeding baby

Be consistent with your baby

In terms of schedules for feeding and sleeping, parents are typically at the mercy of their baby’s preferences. With this in mind, babies still depend on consistent parenting to form healthy attachments with their parents and enhance their development. For co-parents, it is crucial to maintain consistency since parenting is done in separate homes.

Some routines that greatly benefit from consistency include:

  • Meal schedules
  • Type of meal (breast milk, infant formula, baby food, etc.)
  • Sleep schedules
  • Bedtime routines
  • Sleep training
  • Bath time
  • Playtime

Ensure you and your co-parent maintain consistent routines between homes. If you notice changes in your baby’s habits, communicate them with your co-parent so you can work together to support your baby’s growth and development.

Using a service like TalkingParents is a great way for co-parents to maintain consistency in their baby’s feeding schedule, sleep routines, and more. The Shared Calendar can help parents keep track of custody exchange dates and appointments, enabling you to focus on spending time with your child. You can also use the Info Library feature to store shareable information like feeding schedules, bedtime routines, clothing sizes, and other details that both parents need to have knowledge of to maintain continuity in both homes. Additionally, Video Calling and Secure Messaging enable co-parents to document and share their baby’s milestones from any distance.

Be flexible

Infants can change rapidly and unpredictably as they grow, leaving parents scrambling to adjust. Understand that your baby’s habits will change, and you and your co-parent should be willing to adjust your routines, custody schedule, and other aspects of your parenting plan. If your or your co-parent's circumstances change, understand that you and your co-parent are doing your best to raise your infant. Flexibility is critical to making these transitions as smooth as possible for both parents and babies. Adjust your parenting plan as needed and keep your baby’s well-being at the forefront of every decision.

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