Breastfeeding Mom Ordered to Bottle-Feed in Child Custody Dispute: 'Why Are They Forcing Me?'

Arleta Ramirez breastfeeding
Arleta Ramirez breastfeeding

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty

A Virginia mom has been ordered by a judge to bottle-feed her daughter to accommodate a custody agreement with the 6-month-old's father, The Washington Post reported this week.

Artleta Ramirez is trying to understand why a Prince William County judge has ordered her to "make every effort to place the child on a feeding schedule and use a bottle" as she's exclusively breastfed her daughter since her birth in July. She also breastfed her older son for two years.

According to the Post, Ramirez and the baby's father Mike Ridgway separated shortly after the baby's birth. On Nov. 28, a judge ordered that Ridgway be allowed to visit their daughter four days a week with overnight visits beginning this month, along with the bottle-feeding condition.

While Ramirez has tried to comply with the conditions — so that feeding time wouldn't interfere with Ridgway's visitation — she had trouble producing milk by pumping and her daughter was initially rejecting bottles.

"Why are they forcing me to stop breastfeeding?" she said, according to the Post. "Isn't that her right? Isn't that in her best interest?"

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Arleta Ramirez breastfeeding
Arleta Ramirez breastfeeding

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty

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Ramirez stands by the notion that "breast is best," and is preparing evidence for an upcoming hearing in April from breastfeeding experts as well as a letter from her daughter's pediatrician explaining she is exclusively breastfed.

Ridgway told the Post in an email he has given Ramirez "space to both nurse and to pump milk for me to bottle-feed our daughter while she is in my care."

"Past the age of 6 months I will continue to support breastfeeding and bottle-feeding our daughter breast milk as much as possible, while also supplementing with formula only when absolutely necessary," he added.

Tara Steinnerd, Ridgway's attorney, alleges that the baby's mother is trying to salvage a relationship with Ridgway, claiming she's using "breastfeeding as a weapon against visitation," she told the Post.

"They come up with a myriad of excuses," said Ridgway.

According to Stephanie Bodak Nicholson, president of La Leche League's USA Council, breastfeeding concerns as part of custody disputes are fairly common, though outcomes vary by state.

"It's definitely something we get calls on," she told the Post. "It's frequent enough that we keep it on our radar."