Creating an Infant Parenting Plan

Over the past few decades, the way in which family law professionals and parents approach the creation of infant child custody schedules has evolved in New Mexico and elsewhere. More research on early childhood development and the impact of divorce on children has emerged, and this has resulted in more detailed and complex infant visitation schedules.
Of course, many parents are not aware of how things have changed, so they sometimes approach the creation of an infant visitation schedule with some misconceptions, including the three most common ones below.

The Most Important Factor in Infant Parenting Plan Creation Is Primary Attachment

In general, attachment theory states young children may form attachments to caregivers and that the quality and strength of those bonds will have a serious impact on the children’s later social adjustment and emotional development. This theory was used for years by family lawyer professionals to cement the importance of a child’s attachment to their primary caregiver. This position often meant the professionals would advocate for minimal separation between the infant and the primary caregiver, which also made it harder to support relationships between the infant and their non-custodial parent.
However, newer studies show that infants form attachments to both parents, and the relationship between an infant’s primary attachment to a caregiver and their later social and emotional development is also being reevaluated. How children adjust after divorce is affected by many factors, and while a child’s attachment to a primary caregiver is one of them, its effect can be multiplied or mitigated by other elements in play.

Dual Parent Involvement and the Need for Consistency Don’t Align

All children need some sort of consistency, and this is certainly true of infants. However, some parenting plans place the need for consistency at a level that effectively excludes the involvement of both parents. A plan such as this may only allow the noncustodial parents short contact in the middle of the day, which limits the contexts in which the parent and child can interact.
Some child development professionals recommend visitation with infants that allow both parents to interact with the child in a variety of contexts, such as feeding, changing a diaper, playing and putting the infant to bed. This benefits the parents–and the child– because they grow more used to their children’s habits, can anticipate their needs and form stronger bonds with them. In turn, the stronger relationship developed during the child’s infancy can extend into their adulthood.
To draft an infant parenting plan that maintains consistency while allowing for both parents’ involvement, both parents have to commit to true cooperation. Co-parents will need to communicate openly about the child’s feeding schedule, bedtime routine, sleeping schedules and other areas of daily care. A shared journal can help co-parents keep everything organized and foster the exchange of information.

Infants Won’t Be Affected by Parental Conflict

Conflict between two parents is never a good thing, but some parents believe the myth that infant children aren’t affected by conflict as much as older children would be. While an infant won’t understand the nature or context of arguments they overhear, they can be very affected by the discord between their parents. Studies have shown that even a sleeping infant can be more sensitive to raised voices and conflict if they are exposed to arguments between their parents.
When two parents are fighting, it can also prevent cooperation and damage communication between them. This can endanger infant parenting plan exchanges and lead to less involvement on the part of one parent, which is not in the best interest of the child. It may also lead to two unhappy parents, and those negative emotions can seep into other relationships, including the parent-child one.
Your infant parenting plan will need to be customized for your family and your situation. Speak to a family law professional for help creating a schedule that meets the needs of everyone involved while putting your child first.