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Breastfeeding & Parenting

Emily Hanberry

In Cavannah v Johne, 2008 CanLii 65587, the parties had a brief relationship which resulted in the birth of a child, Kai. The Court found that, despite their short relationship and the unplanned pregnancy, the parties had made Kai the center of their lives and were both extremely committed to Kai and her positive development. The Court found that both parties had skills and attributes which made them each strong parents, in their own, unique way. However, despite all of their strengths as parents, the parties could not agree on a parenting arrangement between themselves, with the Mother taking the position that she should be Kai’s primary caregiver and the Father seeking an equal shared parenting regime.

Immediately after Kai’s birth, the Father made an effort to be involved in Kai’s life. However, as the Mother was breastfeeding Kai, it was initially very difficult for him to have parenting time with Kai for any longer than 2-3 hours at a time. Upon Kai turning one year old, the Father started to exercise one overnight visit every two weeks. Shortly after, the Father moved to be closer to Kai in the hopes of being able to facilitate mid-week visits. Unfortunately, just as the Father moved, the Mother moved to a town approximately 20km away. The Court did not find that the Mother’s move was to make access more difficult for the Father, but the Court did find that the Mother moved without giving proper consideration to the role of the Father in Kai’s life.

In determining whether the Father’s parenting time should be increased, the Court noted that, despite the Father’s “enormous commitment” to his child, his contact had been restricted by the breastfeeding. The Court went on to state:

He [the Father] has shown patience with [the Mother’s] desire to breastfeed the child, patience that has restricted his time with Kai. Now, due to the fact that the child appears to be thriving, Jen argues that there is no need to alter the status quo in a radical way. While status quo is important, the result for a baby would be to deny the father an equal opportunity to parent a child if he acquiesces to the mother’s request to breastfeed…

 …the Mother has been unwilling to give a timetable as to when the breastfeeding will end. She believed strongly, through medical advice, in the merits to Kai of breastfeeding; however, the breastfeeding has a secondary impact upon [the Father’s] in that it is used as an excuse to restrict his access. Kai is now more than twenty-nine months of age and is still being breastfed. [The Mother] continues this practice not because of literature that suggests that it is important to breastfeed a child after the age of two, but rather because there is no literature suggesting that it is not in the interests of the child to continue this practice. Hopefully, [the Mother] recognized the comment from her own mother, Millie with whom she lives who recognized the importance of the child having much contact with both parents. Millie testified that the continued breastfeeding was interfering with Kai spending time with [the Father] such that it was not in the best interests of Kai.

 The medical evidence that [the Mother] presented supports the practice of breastfeeding until a child has reached his/her second birthday. [The Father] respected her views, but now the time has come for [the Mother] to have greater consideration for the relationship between Kai and [the Father]. If she used a breast pump and provided the milk to [the Father], he would be willing to give it to Kai.

Ultimately, the Court awarded further parenting time to the Father, although not quite to the level of equal shared parenting.

2021-02-24T17:39:00+00:00March 2, 2021|Family Law|
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