Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: Special Needs of Infants (page 3)
Communication is always important between co-parents, but it is especially important when trying to raise an infant. Infants' needs change frequently. They are more likely than older children to have special medical, diet, and clothing requirements.
If you cannot communicate in a civilized face-to-face manner with your co-parent, communicate in writing about the changing needs of your infant. If you are the custodial parent, it is never a good idea to withhold the name of your child's pediatrician or any other medical professional from your co-parent. This happens frequently, and it is a disservice to the child. It is dangerous to leave a parent off an emergency contact list, especially if that parent has access to medical history information important to your child's health.
Doctors should feel comfortable talking to both parents, but do her a favor and leave her out of your legal troubles. Do not subpoena records or threaten to bring your doctor into court to testify to what a lousy job the co-parent is doing raising your child unless there is a clear record of child abuse and your doctor has seen and recorded the signs of it. If you drag the family doctor or pediatrician in for no good reason, you will most likely lose the services of this professional before long. Common sense dictates that when someone is providing medical care to your child, you should treat that person courteously, but common sense often is in short supply when people are engaged in an acrimonious co-parenting relationship.
Keeping Both Parents Involved
Do not assume that one parent is more important than the other. New fathers cannot be expected to develop bonds with their infants if they only see them for an hour each week. When new fathers are relegated to one hour per week of contact with their infants, they are often denied visitation when they ask for more time because "the baby has never taken to him and does not feel comfortable around him." This puts fathers in a very tricky position. First, the father is sequestered from the child, seeing him only once a week for an hour or so. Then he is blamed for not being able to establish the proper bond with the infant. Fathers play an important role in infants' emotional development that should not be ignored.
Infants experience developmentally predictable separation anxiety. This usually occurs at six months, and again around eighteen to twenty-four months. I have seen mothers have no trouble leaving their crying infants in the capable care of a maternal grandmother, but absolutely refuse to allow a father anywhere near an infant on the criticism that "the baby cries when she goes to her father."
Fathers sometimes make a bad situation worse by expressing their frustration with statements like "You are keeping that baby away from me—I will make it so you never see him again." This is not the best way to approach a possibly overprotective mother with respect to your new infant. Communicate that you want to cooperate and that you understand she may be nervous with the new baby. If you are the father of a new baby, please understand the importance of a mother's bond with an infant and respect that this is a very emotional time and very difficult for her when it is time to separate from your baby for any reason.
Let's look at it this way: if you are separated or divorced and you have an infant, realize the baby may already be starting life at a place that requires more tenderness and understanding.
Handling Custody and Visitation
The best way to manage custody and visitation of an infant is to permit the visiting parent to come into the custodial home and interact with the infant a little every day. This way the child is in contact with both parents in a comfortable, familiar environment. Your child does not have to be subject to the stresses and strains of too many transitions. After the child is six months old, a day away from home or an occasional overnight visit can be successful if the child has the type of temperament to easily adjust to the change.
Eighteen months (preferably after the child's separation anxiety passes) is a good age to start scheduling regular overnight visits. This age will vary based on the natural or inborn disposition of your infant. Parents, please remember: your infant's mental health is not about you, your failed relationship, or the things your ex-partner did to make you irritated or angry when you were together.
Do what is best for your baby. The first few years are not easy. Babies need a lot of attention. Some babies react poorly to change, especially those who are fussy, colicky, or regularly sick. It isn't worth taking the infant out of the primary household just to prove something. You have the rest of the child's life to prove that you can manage him in your home. For now, see if you can structure the child's time mostly in one place until the eighteenth month or so.
Provide written instructions to the co-parent on how to dispense any medications that might be necessary.
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