A reader asks:
"My ex-girlfriend and I have a 6-month-old daughter together. So far, we've done a pretty good job of communicating, but there is one issue that we still do not agree on. I would like to take my daughter to my house for overnight visits at least once a month. However, her mother insists on breastfeeding her until she is at least twelve months old, and says that we can't start overnight visits until then. Is this reasonable?"
First, let me point out that the fact that the two of you are already making an effort to communicate effectively and collaborate as co-parents says a lot about how much you both love your daughter.
Your question regarding overnight visitation for an infant is a common one, especially among unmarried parents. Before we look at the logistics, though, I would encourage you to research child custody laws in your state, as some jurisdictions do not allow overnight visitations at all until the child reaches the age of three.
If you do find that infant overnight visitations are permitted in your state, then I would suggest that you speak with your daughter's mother about the concerns she has. Specifically, you'll want to find out:
- Why she is opposed to overnight visits. Are her concerns strictly limited to feedings, or are there deeper issues--such as differences in parenting styles, concerns about disrupting the baby's routine, or her own insecurities about being apart from the baby overnight?
- Whether she would be open to the idea of pumping breastmilk. Many women are able to pump successfully without reducing their milk supply. This option would allow her to continue breastfeeding uninterrupted, while allowing for occasional overnight visits.
- How she feels about supplementing your daughter's diet with infant formula, if needed.
- What, if anything, might alleviate her concerns about overnight visits with your infant daughter.
Meanwhile, I would encourage you to continue to do everything in your power to maintain consistent, frequent visits with your daughter so that you can continue to develop a strong bond between you. What is really encouraging, actually, is that these visits do not have to be long in order to produce a close relationship with your daughter at this age. In fact, shorter, more frequent visits will actually give your infant daughter a better chance to develop a long-lasting bond with you than less-frequent, but longer, visits. So try not to get too discouraged if you are unable to begin overnight visits until she is older.
Finally, remember that what is most important is that your daughter has the chance to know and be loved by both of her parents, whether overnight visitations begin as an infant, or later in her growth and development.