Breastfeeding throughout legal separation: women's experiences of the Australian Family Law system
Sweet, Linda Phyllis
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In 2006, the Australian Government introduced the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 (Cth), which put in place a legal presumption of shared parental responsibility for children after separation and which emphasizes “equal-time” parenting arrangements regardless of the child’s age. A qualitative approach was taken to investigate breastfeeding women’s experiences of the implementation of the act and its impact on their ability to maintain breastfeeding. Fifteen women responded to questions related to their breastfeeding and their engagement with the family law system. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed, and data were then analyzed thematically. These women experienced inconsistent advice from all facets of legal services, including opinions about the inappropriateness of breastfeeding for infants over 6 months of age. Breastfeeding was considered only as nutrition, without recognition of its immunological and cognitive benefits and the security and comfort it provides. Many participant women felt that they had been persuaded against discussing breastfeeding in the legal system, resulting in a sense of disempowerment.
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