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Thursday, August 16, 2007

When Court Says "Don't Breastfeed Your Child"

ST. CLOUD, Minn. A St. Cloud, Minn. woman in the middle of a custody battle is facing an unusual order from the court. A district court investigator is recommending that Christa Burton stop breastfeeding her 15-month-old child, Carter.

"It makes me sad. It does. Because this is really what is best I feel for Carter," said Burton.

Carter Burton was born six weeks premature. Christa Burton said, her doctor told her that breastfeeding would be best for Carter. At first, Burton said she didn't think she could breastfeed, because she's taking three medications.

She takes Topomax to ease migraine headaches, Baclofin for muscle spasms because of a car accident and Ambien to help her sleep.

Burton showed WCCO-TV a letter from her nurse practitioner who urged her to breastfeed. They consulted the book, "Medications and Mothers' Milk" which lists all three medications as being safe.

"Carter and I have been bonding for almost 15 months. Every meal that he takes has been from me," said Burton.

On July 7, 2007, Carter's father, Andrew Ahmann, asked the district court to appoint a guardian ad litem to advocate for the best interests of the child. Ahmann is trying to get custody of his son, Carter.

The guardian ad litem's report relies heavily on the testimony of the same nurse practitioner that originally recommended breast feeding. She told the investigator "she recommended that given the developmental delays that Christa stop breast feeding" as the various medications can cause delays.

Burton said she was shocked with the result of the report.

"I just think mothers everywhere need to fight for the right to breastfeed their children, because it can be taken away just like that," she said.

Dr. Tom Hale, the author of "Medications and Mothers' Milk" e-mailed Burton, writing about the medications saying, "They are basically all fine, particularly in a 14-month-old infant who can metabolize drugs as good if not better than an adult."

Another expert, Dr. Jack Newman wrote, "I think you are being railroaded by people who don't know what normal is for breastfeeding."

"It's a tough call on some of these issues," according to Brian Ansberry, manager of the 7th District Court guardian ad litem program. He said his investigator was "not a medical expert herself" and "erring on the side of safety."

Carter's father, Andrew Ahmann, declined to answer questions about his interest in the case.

"I'm just trying to do what's right for Carter," Ahmann explained.

"It makes me sad that they're taking away something that's so vital to Carter, and we've bonded so closely for," said Burton. "It's been forced away from Carter. It's not a natural transition for him. It's not something he can say, 'OK Mommy, I'm done.'"

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