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Single Mom Breastfeeding Q&A

How to Make Breastfeeding Work, Even When You Share Custody

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A single mom breastfeeding her baby.

As a single mom, breastfeeding can be ideal—even when you share custody.

Photo © Jerome Tisne/Getty Images

Single moms who breastfeed don't have to stop nursing because of visits or shared custody. Get the facts with these breastfeeding questions and answers for single moms:

  1. I'm due in three months with my first child. While my ex and I are no longer together, he says he'd like to be an involved non-custodial parent. I'm all for it, but he's expressed concerns about my intention to breastfeed. He believes I'm only doing it to limit his access to the baby. Can he dictate whether I breastfeed or not?

    Absolutely not. It's great that he wants to be involved right from the start. I'd encourage you to work out a visitation schedule that includes frequent, short visits for the first several months. During this key period in your baby's life, it's not the duration of visits that matters most, but the frequency. Shorter, more frequent visits will allow them to create a healthy bond right from the start.

    In addition, if the visits are short, you may be able to schedule them around your baby's feeding schedule. If you're feeding on demand, plan to stay nearby during visits, so that your baby's father can call you when she needs to nurse.

    As your baby gets a bit older and your milk supply is fully established, you'll be able to pump breastmilk in advance so that your baby's father can feed her during visits. If you're worried that pumping will decrease your milk supply, discuss your concerns with your baby's pediatrician.

  2. My husband and I are going through a divorce, and we're committed to sharing custody of our nine-month-old son. I've been breastfeeding all this time, and I'd like to continue. Is it feasible to try and breastfeed while sharing custody?

    Yes, you can still breastfeed, even while sharing custody of your baby. Speak with your child's pediatrician about how to best maintain your milk supply while you're apart. Most likely, you will need to pump regularly and maintain a stash of properly-stored, pumped breastmilk.

  3. Shouldn't the courts refrain from requiring overnight visits while I'm breastfeeding?

    Actually, many courts won't grant infant overnight visitations until age 3. But even if the court does grant overnights, you can still continue breastfeeding by pumping when you're apart from your baby.

  4. As a single mom, shouldn't I bottle feed so that others can help?

    As the single mom of a new baby, you're definitely going to want to take others up on their offers to help you! However, there are plenty of things they can do for you besides feed your baby. For example, ask volunteers to:

    • Help with laundry
    • Prepare meals
    • Do some light cleaning
    • Watch the baby while you take a nap
    • Take care of your other children
    • Run errands for you
  5. Are there other benefits to breastfeeding that I should consider as a single mom?

    Yes. Breastfeeding as many benefits for both mom and baby, including:

    • Breastfeeding provides an additional layer of protection against illness by transferring your antibodies to your baby.

    • Breastfeeding is free, which makes it far less expensive than bottle feeding.

    • As your baby grows, you'll be able to breastfeed hands-free—enabling you to read a book or magazine, or even catch up on email or Facebook while you nurse.

    • Breastfeeding burns up an additional 500 calories per day, on average, which can help you lose any remaining weight gain more quickly.

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