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Parenting the Infant: Birth through Six Months Old

14-05-15 Newsletter_Header_Experts_In_Court

A new family law attorney recently asked me what I would recommend for a challenging situation in which unmarried parents, who don’t get along, share custody of their infant.

First, it is not only necessary, but vital that parents and other family care-givers put aside any disagreements or ill-feelings while in the infant’s presence. People may believe that small children are not affected by emotional estrangement but, in fact, they are particularly vulnerable to tension and arguing between parents and other family members.

 • The State Bar encourages parents to protect their children from any form of adult conflict.

 Further, every child has the right to bond with both parents and should be given frequent contact with the non-residential parent.  This idea may be inconvenient, but contact with the non-residential parent in the early stages of infancy is just as important as when the child becomes older. This is because a sense of security with caregivers is one of the cornerstones for healthy development.

 • The State Bar recommends that every child have ample opportunity to bond with both parents.

 Infants learn to trust and love through developing attachments to those who care for them. Consistent responses from their caregivers in the day-to-day activities of feeding, changing, bathing, and holding foster this sense of security which is the foundation for later development. Parents who have participated in these routines are also more attuned to the child’s needs and are more able to soothe and comfort the child when distressed.

 When parents separate during a child’s early years, it is especially important for them to consider the patterns of caregiving prior to the separation when planning for custody. If one parent has been more involved in an infant’s care, the parents may wish to maintain that arrangement in the short term, but ensure that the other parent has frequent contact. Frequent contact may be defined as at least three non-consecutive days each week for a period of two hours each day.  If at all possible, time with the non-residential parent should aim at not disrupting the infant’s nap and feeding pattern.

 For families where both parents have been highly involved in the hands-on care of the child, these patterns of care should be maintained as much as possible and may include overnight time for the child in both parents’ homes.

 Maintaining a regular sleeping and feeding cycle in both homes will help the child feel more secure.  It is critical that an infant be afforded ample opportunity to maintain and develop reciprocal attachments to both parents through these measures. Infants and young children have not yet developed a sense of time so have a limited ability to recall persons not directly in front of them.  An infant should not be separated from either parent for long periods of time.

At some points, infants may show little resistance to transitions between caregivers, while at other points, they may cry or cling to the caregiver. These behaviors are typical and not necessarily indicative of problems in the relationship with either parent.

Your friend,

Ronald Melin Supancic
Certified Family Law Specialist
The Law Collaborative, APC
T:
 (888) 852-9961  F(888) 852-9962