Mom denies she breastfed to spite ex
Woman insists judge wrong when he ruled she prolonged nursing to restrict father's accessApril 28, 2009
A Collingwood-area mother says an Ontario Superior Court judge erred when he ruled she used breastfeeding to gain the upper hand in a custody dispute.
Jennifer Johne, 36, claims her desire to continue breastfeeding her 34-month-old daughter did not prevent the girl's father, Carl Cavannah, 43, from having access to the child.
"For me, it's not about breastfeeding. I just feel that a child needs stability and needs one place," Johne told the Star yesterday. "It's not as simplistic as me being some kind of fanatic."
But in his 53-paragraph ruling, granting joint custody to Cavannah, Justice Alan Ingram wrote Johne's unwillingness to give a timetable as to when the breastfeeding would end restricted Cavannah's exhaustive efforts to play a larger role in his daughter's life.
"[Jen] believed strongly, through medical advice, in the merits to the girl of breastfeeding; however, the breastfeeding has a secondary impact upon Carl in that it is used as an excuse to restrict his access," Ingram wrote.
"Jen continues this practice not because of literature that suggests that it is important to breastfeed a child after the age of 2, but rather because there is no literature suggesting that it is not in the interests of the child to continue this practice."
Johne and Cavannah began dating after meeting at a wedding on Aug. 27, 2005. In mid-October Johne discovered she was pregnant, a surprise to both.
At the time, Johne lived in Collingwood and Cavannah in Toronto. By November, communication had broken down and the couple stopped dating. Their daughter was born on June 13, 2006.
In the year and a half that followed, Cavannah, then a teacher with the Toronto District School Board, commuted to Collingwood to visit his daughter. He eventually quit his job, sold his house and moved to the Collingwood area to be closer to his daughter. He also began making voluntary child support payments and saving for her education.
Calls to Cavannah and his lawyer, Thomas Dart, were not returned.
Since the December 2008 ruling, the little girl has been spending three-and-a-half days a week with her father, during which time she is not breastfed. Cavannah now works as a supply teacher.
The Children's Law Reform Act stipulates the mother and father of a child are equally entitled to custody of the child. Justice Ingram ruled Johne did not accept this provision, pointing to an email she sent to Cavannah on Sept. 9, 2006: "A baby belongs with its mother, and if you had an understanding of the needs of a fully breast-fed baby and truly had (girl's) interests at heart, you would not be bringing the subject up again," she wrote.
Johne says the email was sent in response to Cavannah's requests to take the baby for extended visits, including a weekend when their daughter was a week old.
"At first breastfeeding was an issue, but I would never say I'm nursing her so you can't take her," Johne said yesterday.
"Nature is set up to protect children by needing them to nurse at frequent intervals. It keeps them closer to the mother and ... that's just the way nature is set up," she added.
Ingram suggested Johne use a breast pump and provide the milk to Cavannah, who could then bottle-feed the baby.
Johne says she tried two kinds of pumps, neither of which works.
"The mechanics of a breast pump is just completely different from a baby," she said.
Toronto-based breastfeeding specialist Dr. Jack Newman says toddlers taken overnight from the mother before they are weaned off breastfeeding could suffer emotional trauma.