This morning, a Family Court in Australia overturned a ruling that banned a mother from breast-feeding her 11-month-old baby because she recently got a tattoo. The injunction was unanimously thrown out after the court found that the judge had disregarded the opinions of medical experts, instead basing his decision on an internet search.
Earlier this month, Judge Matthew Myers responded to a custody dispute between two parents by ordering the 20-year-old mother, whose surname is Jackson, to stop breast-feeding her baby. Myers said that the tattoos, which Jackson had gotten on her finger and foot four weeks prior, presented an “unacceptable risk” of the baby being infected with HIV — even though Jackson had tested negatively for HIV. “Looking at perhaps the benefit of the child, who is 11-months old, breastfeeding, as opposed to what would be a lifelong issue in the 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,” Myers ruled, according to the Telegraph.
The judge based his decision on information on the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s website, which warns that HIV can be transmitted through breast milk, and “getting tattoos increases the risk of infection.” However, the head of the ABA, Rebecca Naylor, disagreed with the ruling, calling it “extremely concerning.”
“Tattooing is a regulated industry, so if you go to a tattoo parlor that is reputable, then the chances [of contracting an infection] are very low,” Naylor told ABC Australia, adding that without evidence that Jackson had contracted an infection from the tattoo, she found the breast-feeding ban unreasonable. “We would absolutely encourage women who have had tattoos to breastfeed their babies for as long as they choose to,” she said.
Following the ruling, Jackson launched an urgent appeal. “[Myers] firmly made up his mind before hearing all of the evidence,” Jackson’s lawyer told the court. This morning, the family court found that Myers’s order was based on faulty evidence. “Judges must not mistake their own views for being either facts not reasonably open to question or as appropriately qualified evidence,” Judge Murray Aldridge said. The court also found that Myers failed to consider the benefits of continued breast-feeding for the baby; the World Health Organization recommends that children be breast-fed until they are at least 2 years old.