Breastfeeding Mom Ordered By Judge To 'Use A Bottle' So Dad Can Have Overnight Visits With Baby

It's a complicated issue without clear answers.

nursing mom, custody dispute, judge orders bottles Mart Production / Pexels

A mom in Virginia is experiencing firsthand the challenges of a custody dispute surrounding her 7-month-old baby.

Arleta Ramirez gave birth to her daughter in July, and split up with her husband, Mike Ridgway, shortly after the birth.

Ridgway moved out of the family home in Northern Virginia. Ramirez stayed put with her newborn daughter and older son. 

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The breastfeeding mom was ordered by a judge to ‘use a bottle’ so the baby’s dad can have overnight visits.

In November 2023, a Prince William County judge ordered that Ridgway be permitted to visit the baby four days a week, along with overnight visits to start in February.

But there was one more condition Ramirez had to follow.

“Mother is to make every effort to place the child on a feeding schedule and use a bottle,” the court order stated.

Ramirez noted the difficulties of the situation. Breastfeeding a baby is often challenging, even when it goes smoothly. 

Her daughter often ate once an hour, while the father complained that the baby’s nursing schedule interfered with his visitations.


Ramirez attempted to pump, only to find that she produced less milk pumping than nursing, which is not uncommon for those who breastfeed.

In addition, her daughter rejected the bottle, another common occurrence among breastfed babies.

Both those factors could complicate the scheduled overnight visits.

Ramirez gathered evidence to prove she deserved another court hearing, including a letter from her pediatrician explaining that the baby is exclusively breastfed, along with names of legal experts on breastfeeding.

She felt that the court’s decision was harming her daughter.

Even Ramirez’s lawyer suggested she stop breastfeeding in order to comply with the court order.


“Why are they forcing me to stop breastfeeding?” she asked. “Isn’t that her right? Isn’t that in her best interest?”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for approximately 6 months after birth. 

The AAP also recommends continued breastfeeding alongside “complementary foods introduced at around 6 months, as long as mutually desired by mother and child for 2 years or beyond.”

In an email sent to The Washington Post, Ridgway stated that he’d 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 continued.


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Ridgway’s lawyer, Tara Steinnerd, believes that Ramirez is using breastfeeding to salvage the relationship between her and her ex-husband.

Steinnerd reported that while she represents both men and women in custody cases, she has only represented men in cases when breastfeeding time is litigated. 

She claims that in the cases she’s worked on, mothers have “become unreasonable, refusing to recognize a father’s need for visitation or refusing to pump.”

“It’s about using breastfeeding as a weapon against visitation,” Steinnard explains.

One Virginia Beach law firm, called The Firm for Men, exclusively represents fathers in custody disputes. 


“Many divorcing moms throw up all sorts of reasons why they alone must have sole physical custody, or limit a father’s parenting time to an absolute minimum, for a nursing child,” states the practice’s website.

“Thousands of children have thrived and grown exclusively on formula, while the supposed benefits (smarter children, healthier babies, more serene mothers) do not always hold up to scientific scrutiny,” the site continues.

Yet the World Health Organization notes the benefits of breastfeeding. Human milk is the “ideal food for infants,” as it both provides all the energy and nutrients an infant needs, it also contains antibodies that combat disease.

La Leche League USA, an organization that “encourages, informs, educates, supports, and promotes the use of human milk” takes the position that within custody disputes, “the child’s needs should come first and foremost, and both parents may find that compromise is needed to ensure that those needs are met." 


“Maintaining the nursing relationship is vital; however, it also is important to consider the child’s relationship with the co-parent and not use breastfeeding to bar access to a child,” La Leche League states.

Most custody disputes are handled in state courts. While the conflict between visitation and nursing is common, according to advocates, it isn’t well-documented in the courts.

The lack of documentation leaves parents in this difficult situation without legal guideposts.

Both parents involved in custody disputes have the right to be with their children, a baby’s need to survive should come first.

While weaponizing the nursing relationship to deny a co-parent access to their baby is problematic, it’s also problematic to deny a nursing parent their bodily autonomy and the right to make their own decisions on how to feed their baby.


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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers celebrity gossip, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.