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Breastfeeding Dispute at Center of Indiana Divorce Case


As most couples know, going through a divorce with children can be complicated. When these children are infants, it may seem as if their inability to comprehend the seriousness of the situation and therefore retain their innocence is a blessing. However, childcare disputes can arise when it comes to infants, who have unique needs that can draw even more sharp divisions between feuding spouses.

The divorce proceedings of Indiana couple Melissa Carter-Chenoweth and Mike Chenoweth has turned on one care feature in particular that is unique to infants: breastfeeding. Carter-Chenoweth is currently trying to stop the court from mandating overnight visits to their children by the father, because she claims that such visits would disrupt her parenting technique.

The couple has two daughters together, the youngest 18 months old. With their older daughter, Carter-Chenoweth practiced a parenting technique called "attachment parenting," in which the mother emphasizes carrying the child, sleeping with the child and only gently disciplining. She is repeating the approach with her youngest.

One of the features of attachment bonding is allowing the child to nurse at the breast on request, and to wait to wean the child until he or she decides the proper time. At 18 months, the youngest daughter still breastfeeds, and Carter-Chenoweth believes the presence of her father could endanger their nursing bond. The oldest daughter reportedly continued breastfeeding until around two and a half years of age.

Chenoweth has argued that the daughter is regularly eating solid foods by herself, and does not need breast milk for nutrition any longer. He claims that she uses breastfeeding primarily for comfort, and that their new family situation requires some flexibility on the part of his wife in weaning the daughter to make her more available for visits.

His divorce attorneys are attempting to persuade the judge to allow Chenoweth at least limited time with his daughters, at first, starting with one overnight with each per week. However, since the father's role in attachment parenting is difficult - without being able to breastfeed - even this may not be enough for Chenoweth to feel as though he is able to spend enough time with his daughters.

In any case, Carter-Chenoweth's choice to remain unyielding on the attachment parenting issue may be preventing her family to adjust to its new situation.

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