Both parents will play important roles in the life of a new baby. Even if their relationship with each other ends, they will still have responsibilities to the child. Shared custody is an expectation in modern divorces or when unmarried couples with children break up. However, many fathers don’t fully understand their right to parenting time, especially if their children are still quite young.
Newborns and infants require intense supervision and around-the-clock care. It is common for young, first-time fathers to assume that they cannot share custody of such young children, but it is often possible to keep a father involved starting from the earliest days of a child’s life. A little planning can help a father be an important person for their child from the day they come home from the hospital.
There are some restrictions on newborn visitation
A baby needs a strong sense of attachment to their primary caregiver. Their attachment is crucial to their social and emotional development.
Given that newborns do not yet have a sense of object permanence, they may find it distressing to go overnight with the other parent during the first months of life. Even leaving the home could be too much during the first weeks. Spending time together in or near the mother’s home allows the dad to develop a bond with the child and learn to care for them.
If the mother breastfeeds, nutritional complications can also make overnight parenting with a newborn unrealistic. Frequent, short visitation is often the better approach until the baby reaches around six months of age. At that point, the father can start enjoying longer parenting time and overnight stays with a child. A formula-fed child may have fewer restrictions on their overnight visitation ability even in those early months.
Fathers can show up for their children from day one
You don’t have to wait until your child is old enough to walk or to start talking to be part of their life. Fathers can develop and maintain a crucial emotional bond with their children by being present when they are infants and then adjusting their custody schedule for more parenting time as a child become more independent and more secure in their attachment to their primary caregiver.
Knowing your rights can make it easier for you to negotiate appropriate custody arrangements as a new father.