A Mom Was Banned From Breastfeeding By A Judge For One Unbelievable Reason
UPDATE: On Friday, June 19, Australian Family Court Justice Murray Aldridge overturned the controversial earlier decision banning a recently tattooed woman from breastfeeding her baby. Aldridge stated that the original ruling ignored the emotional impact this would have on the child, and warned other judges "not to mistake their own views for facts or expert advice" in future cases.
EARLIER: The story of an unnamed mother from Sydney, Australia is raising some major eyebrows this week after a judge allegedly ruled it wasn't safe for her to breastfeed after getting a tattoo. And no, I don't just mean for a little while, either. According to BBC Australia, Judge Matthew Myers reportedly banned the mother from breastfeeding her 11-month-old entirely, in a decision that has shocked much of the breastfeeding community and driven the mother to file an appeal. Though Bustle reached out to Judge Myers' office Thursday, a request for comment was not immediately returned.
So how exactly did one mom getting inked become a federal court case? BBC Australia reports that it stemmed from an ongoing (and presumably very ugly) parenting dispute between the woman and her child's father. Reportedly, he caught wind of the mom recently getting a tattoo, and raised concerns to the court of possible AIDS/HIV transmission. (Yep.) But this is where things start to get even hairier, because while the outlet reports that the mom tested negative for hepatitis and AIDS/HIV, Judge Matthew Myers claimed there was "still an unacceptable risk" to her baby, and found the results inconclusive. (Hmmm... not sure when "negative" meant "inconclusive," but okay.)
As the BBC reports, Judge Myers allegedly made his ruling based on the guidelines of the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). But if that's the case, he might want to take a second read. When the BBC reached out to the ABA, they actually had a very different stance on the whole thing. As Rebecca Naylor from the ABA told ABC Australia:
Tattooing, as long as it's done in a reputable way and the infection control procedures are followed, the risk is low. We would absolutely encourage women who have had tattoos to breastfeed their babies for as long as they choose to.
In another interview with The Australian, ABA spokeswoman Nicole Bridges went one step further and called the whole thing "extremely concerning" — especially since it could lead other moms who get tattoos to worry that they should stop breastfeeding, too. It also raises some serious questions about just when exactly a court has the right to step in and tell a mother she doesn't have the right to breastfeed her child.
Of course, HIV is a definite concern for breastfeeding mothers, since it can be transferred through the breast milk and onto the child. (In fact, it's one of only a few conditions the American Academy of Pediatrics names in their list as a reason to not breastfeed.) But as Bridges pointed out, "There’s no evidence that the mother [in this case] has contracted HIV or any other virus, so there’s no reason to think there's a risk to her baby."
Breastfeeding advocate and University of Western Sydney adjunct fellow Dr. Karleen Gribble was also alarmed, telling BBC Australia:
I think if it were reasonable then we would have very, many women in Australia who would be quite horrified and perhaps child protection authorities should be taking action because many mothers who are breastfeeding get tattoos — very often of their children's names.
The experts aren't the only ones alarmed by the ruling; this story has people fired up all over the place. Just ask Twitter:
In case you're wondering what the guidelines are here in the States, tattoos aren't a total no-no while breastfeeding. (Though I will say that the American Academy of Pediatrics sort of glosses over things in their list of official guidelines, saying that, "Tattoos, piercings and breast surgery often do not interfere with breastfeeding.") Ultimately, though, the AAP does recommend that you talk to your doctor to determine what's safe for you.
As for the mom at the center of all of this story, she'll have another chance to argue her case this week — her appeal is set for Friday. I for one seriously hope things swing in her favor this time.
Images: Getty (1)