Judge Stephen Baratta came to court Friday afternoon ready to dispel some misconceptions about his viewpoints on breastfeeding.
“This case is not about breastfeeding, it is about whether or not the mother can provide meaningful access to the father because she insists upon breastfeeding her child,” Judge Baratta said.
The case in question is a custody battle between mother Jessica Moser and her daughter Jasmine’s father that gained national attention this past week when Moser aired her claim on WFMZ-TV that Judge Baratta told her to stop breastfeeding.
The television story when posted online initially included an erroneous headline saying that Moser claimed the judge “ordered” her to stop breastfeeding. The story itself did not include that claim. Moser told 69 News that the judge told her, but did not order her, to stop breastfeeding. The headline was subsequently corrected.
Judge Baratta appeared astounded and disheartened by the segment, claiming that he had been contacted by various national news sources since the piece aired. Judge Baratta also said that on the day that Moser spoke with WFMZ-TV, the only rulings he had made were about scheduling.
“This case is an allegation of contempt of court,” Judge Baratta said. “It was never about breastfeeding. The mother’s case is about breastfeeding, not mine.”
When asked about Moser’s previous claims, her attorney, Melissa Rudas, explained that Moser was simply upset when she was interviewed for TV.
“She said it the wrong way,” Rudas said. “She has to follow the order. Judge Baratta would never say that. He’s a fabulous judge.”
Judge Baratta decided to move the non-jury hearing up five weeks to December 10th at 11 a.m. to deal with the case as soon as possible. When Baratta asked what kinds of testimonies he could expect to hear, Rudas said that she planned to have a lactation expert testify on her client’s behalf.
“A breastfeeding advocate does not belong in a custody battle between a mother and a father,” Judge Baratta said. “I am all for breastfeeding, this isn’t the issue. Mother’s should do it, and I understand that it has developmental and nutritional elements, but I understand that children are weaned from breast milk.”
Judge Baratta offered that breast milk could be pumped, refrigerated and frozen, or that formula could be purchased, which would easily allow the father to have overnight visits with his daughter. The judge said the breastfeeding problem will likely dissipate soon, however, since the child is almost one year old and walks and eats baby food.
After leaving the courtroom, Rudas said that her client could not pump enough breast milk to last two nights at her father’s house.
After trying to reach an agreement between the two hostile parties, Judge Baratta settled with the idea that he will have to dictate the custody arrangement, which he promised to compile in the best interest of the child, not the mother’s or father’s. The testimonies will begin on December 10th and the case will likely be resolved by the next day at the latest.