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Co-parenting an infant requires a lot of cooperation

More than likely, when you envisioned having a child, you never anticipated that your relationship with your baby's other parent would end, especially when your child was just an infant. For many new parents, that is a reality.

Now, your primary focus is your new baby, and making sure your child has everything he or she needs to have the very best start at life.  This means making sure that each parent has the chance to spend time with your new arrival and bond with your baby. As all new parents learn, parenting an infant presents challenges you never envisioned before you had your baby.  Learning to co-parent when you and your baby's parent are separated creates a unique set of challenges that can be overcome with the right mindset.

Supporting Breastfeeding

Before you had a baby, you likely never knew how complicated a new baby's feeding can be!  For some new moms, breastfeeding is simple and easy.  But for others, it can be challenging for a variety of reasons:  insufficient milk supply, baby isn't latching on properly, and other issues.  If you are in the supporting parent role, do whatever you can to help support your baby in nursing.  A supportive role can include:  providing mom with nutritious meals, taking care of the baby so mom can get some rest, engaging a lactation consultant to help, being patient with the process.  If you are the nursing mom, don't stress.  Whether you nurse or end up bottle feeding, you will bond with your baby. 

For new parents who are not living together, baby will need to be near mom during the feeding times for at least the first several weeks so baby can get established on a feeding schedule.  The supporting parent should be flexible and present during times that allow mom to take a break.  This takes a lot of patience, as the supporting parent may be anxious to be spending time with baby on his own.  That time will come - just think of this as an investment in a positive parenting relationship that will benefit your baby for years to come.

Once the baby is established in nursing, there will be more flexibility for mom to pump milk and be away from the baby for longer periods of time. 

Other Feeding Methods

Feeding times are an important part of the parent-child bonding.  For parents who live in two households, it will be especially important to make sure that both parents can play a role in feeding baby, once nursing is well-established or when the baby is no longer nursing.  Mom may elect to pump supplies of milk, so the other parent can share in feeding the baby.  Or the parents may elect to use formula, either as a primary or supplemental source of nutrition for the baby. 

Other Bonding Activities

Feeding is not the only activity to do with your baby!  In addition to feeding, newborns need to be bathed, diapered and played with.  While they may not seem very active just yet, they are little sponges soaking up their environment.  Spend time reading and singing to your baby, so your baby knows your voice.  It's not long before your baby will want to engage with you in conversations of cooing. Bath time becomes a special ritual in many households. 

If possible, it is best if both parents can attend the frequent well-baby checkups.  This allows each parent the opportunity to stay on top of the developmental milestones their baby is reaching, address any questions or concerns along the way, and also allows each parent to build a relationship with the child's pediatrician.

As for the rest...

Being a new parent comes with all of kinds of stresses and joys. Because your little bundle of joy requires so much hands-on care at this age, it is helpful if both parents can be on the same page when it comes to feeding times, nap times and other daily care issues.  If your baby's parent is making choices that you think are questionable, raise the issue with the pediatrician.  Often times, having a neutral professional give their opinion about this issue or that can help settle the differences of opinion.

Even so, being a new parent isn't easy for anyone. Each parent needs to find his or her own equilibrium when it comes to doing the job. This is the case regardless of whether the parents stay together.

Come to an agreement

Co-parenting a baby requires quite a trial and error. Older children have routines, can express themselves and don't need quite as much attention, especially when they can do things on their own. A baby's schedule will change frequently, especially in the early days. The fact that they can't tell their parents what's wrong or what they need makes it a challenge for both parents to be operating from the same game plan.

If you have issues with decisions the other parent is making, make every attempt to raise those concerns in a non-accusatory way.  You may want to frame the issues as a question, such as "I wonder if using a bottle to help our baby go to sleep is the best way - would you be open to seeing if our baby can go to sleep on his own?"  Also, keep your expectations in line.  You and your baby's other parent are not going to agree on everything.  To the extent you can parent your child similarly, that's awesome.  But most couples do not see eye to eye, even when they are happily married.  You will need to make some compromises along the way, and respect that you each get to impart your values to your child. You may also want to consult with a neutral professional, whom you both respect - such as your child's pediatrician.  Often times, someone like the pediatrician can offer good advice and can help resolve disputes. 

If you are on good terms with your baby's other parent, it is smart to memorialize the agreements you have made through a court order.  If you are not on good terms, it's even more important, as you need to ensure both parents are providing support, and have guidelines for spending time with the baby.   

A family law attorney can provide you with helpful information about standard possession schedules, rights and duties that parents have regarding their child, and a plan for supporting newborn. 

Contact Hargrave Family Law if you would like to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney.

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Hargrave Family Law Jennifer S. Hargrave, P.C.

Hargrave Family Law
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Dallas, TX 75244

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