A 20-year-old mother has been ordered by a court in Newcastle, Australia, not to breastfeed her 11-month-old baby because she has a tattoo.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Matthew Myers ruled June 5 that the baby faced a risk of infection because of the tattoo, which the mother got four weeks earlier.
“Looking at perhaps the benefit to the child who is 11 months old breastfeeding as opposed to what would be a lifelong issue in circumstances where the child contracted HIV, it is the view of the Court that it is not in the best interests of the child that the mother continue to breastfeed the child, and in those circumstances the Court will make the order sought by the father, that is, that the mother be prevented from breastfeeding the child,” Judge Myers stated, according to The Australian.
Myers said he based his ruling on information from the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) warning of the risk of spreading HIV through the use of unsterilized tattooing equipment.
But the ABA distanced itself from the decision.
“There’s no evidence that the mother has contracted HIV or any other virus so there’s no reason to think there’s a risk to her baby,” Nicole Bridges of the ABA commented.
Myers disagreed, saying that although an HIV test confirmed the mother was not infected, it could not be considered conclusive because a period of three months after getting a tattoo was necessary to guarantee the test’s accuracy.
“The rates of HIV in Australia are very low and it’s extremely common for people to get tattoos,” stated University of Western Sydney Adjunct Fellow Karleen Gribble. “I think that’s just completely crazy.”
The father’s concerns were raised as part of a parenting dispute. Allegations of sexual abuse were also made against the mother’s stepfather, with whom the mother and baby were living.
Gribble, a breastfeeding advocate, emphasized that under such conditions, banning the mother from breastfeeding could have an even greater impact, Inquisitr reports.
“In any situation where a child is under stress — when they’re physically hurt, psychologically distressed or sick — breastfeeding provides a lot of comfort and is of value to their psychological wellbeing,” she pointed out.
The denial of a period of weaning would also be problematic, Gribble argued.
“Where weaning is abrupt, the child will often take that as a personal rejection from their mother,” she noted.
The mother has filed an urgent appeal, which is due to be heard by the Family Court in Sydney on Friday.