"Pump and Freeze" - Not the Solution for 50/50 Time Sharing

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Florida Women's Law Group

“Pump And Freeze” – Not The Solution For 50/50 Time Sharing

Date: Oct 26 2015

Assumptions associated with the sustainability of exclusive breastmilk feedings within a 50/50 time sharing living arrangement became apparent when public commentary dismissively remarked that mothers just “pump and freeze” in response to the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition (FBC) opposition of SB 250. Biologically, human milk production requires time sensitive stimuli to maintain adequate breastmilk volume that meets the caloric needs of infants as they grow over time. Direct breastfeeding is the best stimuli for establishing optimal nutrition requirements through baby led feeding. Long term separation does not allow for the natural increases in human milk volume demand as the baby grows. In addition, the breastmilk let down response may fail to respond to artificial nipple stimulus via pumping which also affects breastmilk volume. Evidence supports that the long term benefits of exclusive breastmilk feedings are dose dependent and recommended solely for 6 months of life and continued for at least one year and beyond. In keeping with a 50/50 time sharing scenario, nursing mothers would be mandated to be separated from their exclusively breastfeed baby for up to 7 days at a time. Unlike the bovine species, women do not have udders that can sustain long periods of rhythmic tugging and pulling to yield an additional week long milk supply of breast milk feedings. Attempting to do so not only increases their risks of maternal breast engorgement it also increases their risk of infection of the breast tissue requiring medical attention.

Beyond dismissive behavior, personal testimony shared via email and social media siding with the pump and freeze approach openly undermined the importance of exclusive breastmilk feedings by commenting that “breast-feeding is not as important as some people seem to believe” and labeling FBC’s opposition as a “tits for tots” excuse for family law reform. As a group of clinical experts well respected in our communities, the FBC attests that our position is a direct response to the call to action issued by the highest ranking officer in the United States Public Health System – The U.S. Surgeon General. Benefits of exclusive breastfeeding go beyond mere nutrition. Breastfeeding reduces expenditures associated with health related incidences preventable by breastfeeding, enhances maternal-child bonding and reduces risks of breast and ovarian cancers, obesity and communicable disease. A 50/50 mandate reduces the capacity of mothers to sustain long term health benefits of breastfeeding for infants, children and the mothers themselves.

Narrowing the Gaps between Breastfeeding, the Legal System and Divorce

Despite negative press, the FBC received multiple requests to provide additional support and information regarding the time sharing needs of exclusively breastfed children. In one instance, an attorney in the Pensacola area asked the FBC to recommend an expert in the field of lactation to serve as an expert witness at a court hearing in a 50/50 custody dispute that resulted in a favorable outcome for the breastfeeding dyad. While favorable, questions presented by opposing counsel and the judge alluded to having to make a choice between breastfeeding and spending time with the father. In response to such lines of questioning, the expert witness continued to emphasize the importance of sustaining current recommendations backed by the Center for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization. Notably, she testified that it was not a matter of choosing sides – but a matter in which time-sharing would require special considerations. In addition to emphasizing the importance of special time-sharing considerations, the expert discouraged extended periods of separation with limited overnight stays for up to 12 months of age and commented that mothers have a hard enough time keeping up with demand of the average work day, let alone a 7 day separation – agreeing that “pump and freeze” is not the solution.

Likewise, public comment in response to the FBC’s article published in the Palm Beach Post referenced the illogical nature of the “pump and freeze” solution by highlighting the following concerns involving the breastfeeding mother and child regarding 50/50 time sharing:

  • A child may refuse a bottle and take nothing else other than the breast that could raise concerns for malnutrition or excessive stress and crying.
  • Introducing a bottle could jeopardize breastfeeding because nipples differ
  • Some women find it uncomfortable to pump or do not have the resources to pump
  • Children are unpredictable – what happens when the frozen breast milk runs out for an exclusively breastfed child? Would the breastfeeding parent have to make themselves available based on the other parent’s time-sharing demand?

Florida Women’s Law Group Weighs In

Florida Women’s Law Group, Divorce and Family Law for Women, have been working to address the 50/50 time share laws. CEO and Managing Attorney Heather Quick, champion for women’s family law rights, believes each case should not receive a cookie cutter formula. While there are exceptions to this law in place, breastfeeding is not one of them. According to Ms. Quick, “Breastfed children need to be exempt from SB 250. Mothers who choose to breastfeed should not be penalized under the court of law. Special consideration should be given in these cases.” Ms. Quick believes the court system must focus on the best interest of the child for both nutritional and psychological reasons. This mandate holds true for mothers as well. Ms. Quick stated, “A pump and freeze solution places unnecessary stress on the mother and child during the early years of life. A better alternative must be sought.”

Alternative Solutions

While infant feeding methods are a matter of personal choice, mothers who choose to comply with exclusive breastfeeding recommendations should not be penalized for doing so and deserve special considerations for time sharing until the infant self-weans from the breast. Pump and freeze is not the solution! Better alternatives should be explored for the best interest of the child. Suggestions include: 1) opposing mandated 50/50 time sharing, 2) exempt breastfeeding mothers from legislation like SB 250, 3) fund research aimed to study the burden of 50/50 mandated family law reform on children and their families, and 4) form a multidisciplinary task force that includes specialist in law, psychology, social work, pediatrics, lactation, economics and infant mental health to address the needs of divorce and family law.

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Florida Women’s Law Group