Sharing custody of minor children can be a challenge, but infants create unique needs for co-parenting situations. Some people immediately assume that it is not possible to share custody of an infant.
However, research on the psychology of child development and parental attachment makes it clear that even babies should have ongoing time spent with both of their parents to develop an adequate bond with both of them. How can you and your ex make shared parenting work when you recently had a baby?
One parent will need to assume the role of primary caregiver
Unlike with older children, who can adjust to a 50/50 shared custody schedule with the right routines, babies will struggle to adapt if taken away from their primary caregiver. Infants require secure attachments to someone who will meet their needs and a stable daily routine so that they know what to expect from the world.
The best way to handle shared custody of an infant involves one parent assuming far more parental responsibility than the other for the first year or so of the child’s life. That primary caregiver will be the one with whom the child lives. The other parent should have frequent, brief visits with the child. A few hours a day, possibly immediately after a parent finishes their time at work, can become a crucial part of the child’s daily routine and help develop the bond between that parent and the baby.
By keeping visits limited, the child remains secure in their attachment to and connection with their primary caregiver without growing up isolated from the other parent. This kind of arrangement is also positive when a mother chooses breastfeeding to support the early development of her child, as the physical closeness between mother and child is necessary to maintain the mother’s supply of breast milk.
Overnight stays are possible once the infant matures
It could be hard for one parent to only get to spend a few hours with their child everyday, but this kind of arrangement won’t be permanent. It is just for as long as it takes for the infant to mature. Many parents find that at some point between the first and second birthday of their child, overnight stays with the non-custodial parents become realistic.
Keeping things consistent will be important for the parents and the infant in this delicate situation. Additionally, parents should do their best to limit conflict around the child. Although babies may not understand language fully or be able to communicate, they can experience distress when exposed to obvious negative emotions, such as shouting between adults.
If you begin co-parenting in infancy, you and your ex can develop a healthy shared custody scenario that works for your family until your newborn eventually becomes an adult.