thursday, 18 june of 2015

Judge bans tattooed mother from breastfeeding

A judge has banned a mum from breastfeeding her baby because she got a tattoo.

Federal Circuit Court judge Matthew Myers ruled the mother’s decision to obtain a tattoo four weeks earlier had exposed her baby to an unacceptable risk of harm. The mother had ­obtained tests for hepatitis and HIV. The results were negative.

But Judge Myers found the 11-month-old would be ­exposed to an unacceptable risk of contracting HIV if the mother continued to breastfeed, because the test was not conclusive.

He issued an injunction in Newcastle, 160km north of Sydney, on June 5, preventing the woman from breastfeeding her son. A full bench of the Family Court has agreed to hear an urgent appeal against the ruling in Sydney tomorrow.

Concerns about the mother’s tattoo were raised by the child’s father in the course of a bitter ­parenting dispute. The judge relie­d on material published by the Australian Breastfeeding Associa­tion.

The ABA’s website warns that HIV and hepatitis B and C can be transmitted during tattooing if equipment is not cleaned or steril­ised properly. “The main cause for concern ... for a breastfeeding mother is HIV because it is known to be able to be transmitted via breastmilk,” it states.

However, ABA spokeswoman Nicole Bridges told The Australian the decision was “extremely concerning” and could create a precedent to stop other mums from breastfeeding.

“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,” she said.

She said the benefits of breastfeeding far outweighed the risks.

“The National Health and Medical Research Council and the World Health Organisation advocate breastmilk to be the most import part of a child’s diet until they’re at least 12 months of age,” she said.

University of Western Sydney adjunct fellow Karleen Gribble, who has researched long-term breastfeeding in Australia, said she believed the risks of a baby contracting HIV via breastfeeding because of tattooing were ­“absolutely minuscule”.

“The rates of HIV in Australia are very low and it’s extremely common for people to get tattoos,” she said. “I think that’s just completely crazy.”

Dr Gribble said her research had shown that older babies used breastfeeding to connect with their mothers when they were under stress. She said this would especially apply to a child who had been the subject of a custody dispute and was moving between two homes.

“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 said.

Dr Gribble said it would be particularly hard if the child was forced to stop breastfeeding suddenly. If possible, ­babies should be weaned gradually. “Where weaning is ­abrupt, the child will often take that as a personal rejection from their mother,” she said.

Patsy Farrow, the national secretary of the Professional Tattooing Association of Australia, said she had never heard of a case of HIV being transmitted via tattooing in Australia. “That’s the biggest load of you-know-what I’ve ever heard,” she said.

Judge Myers made orders for the baby to spend four days a week with the father and three days a week with the mother.

However, the mother has asked the full Family Court to overturn that order, and reduce the father’s time with the child to two days a week.

(Published by The Australian - June 18, 2015)

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