A Maryland magistrate has ruled that a mother must allow the estranged father to feed baby formula to their 6-month-old son.
The mother, 27-year-old Amber Brown of Upper Marlboro, separated from the boy's father, Corey Lewis, shortly after their child's birth. But Brown says she cannot produce enough milk through breast-pumping to feed the boy during overnight visits with the father, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Monise Brown, a family magistrate in Charles County, ruled that the father should be allowed to feed the child formula.
“The magistrate stated pointedly that breast-feeding is not a reason to prevent [Lewis’s] visitation, and that insisting on breast-feeding would be considered deliberate alienation of [Lewis],” according to an affidavit from Jay R. Halleck, an attorney who represented Amber Brown at the hearing.
At a follow-up hearing, Magistrate Mistey L. Metzgar appeared to agree with her fellow family magistrate, recommending overnight visits begin Aug. 4, according to court filings. But Amber Brown filed a request for an exception on Aug. 10, saying the child’s pediatrician said the boy couldn’t tolerate formula — and that, during one visit, Lewis had fed him formula anyway.
“It was simply more convenient for [Lewis] to feed the baby formula than to ensure the baby remained healthy,” the request for exception reads.
Amber Brown’s request for the exception alleged a “clear and improper policy” in Charles County courts “creating a presumption that breast-feeding is used to alienate fathers and that babies should be switched from breast milk to formula in order to accommodate overnight visitation.”
Jeanette Rice, Brown’s lawyer, told the Post that she was "outraged" by the magistrates’ recommendations. “I’ve been practicing for 20-plus years,” she said. “I’ve never had a magistrate tell someone not to breast-feed.”
But the child will remain on breast milk until another custody hearing before a judge in October.