Nanny State

Baby Becomes Briefly Underweight, Mom Loses Custody for Five Months

Religious beliefs against feeding your child animal products? That apparently counts as child abuse in Florida.



It took five months for Florida mother Sarah Markham to regain custody of her new son after the state removed the baby for being briefly underweight.

The ordeal started last June, when Markham took her 12-day-old son to a doctor and found he was dehydrated and had lost 10 percent of his weight. This is not uncommon for newborns. The pediatrician told Markham she would need to start supplementing the boy's breastfed diet with a milk-based baby formula.

Markham had no problem with adding formula, but as a Seventh Day Adventist, for whom a vegetarian or vegan diet is a part of religious beliefs, she didn't want to feed her son a milk-based product. Upon telling this to the doctor, he ordered her to take the baby to the hospital, where staff could give the infant the dairy formula.

Markham instead went to Whole Foods, bought a soy-based baby formula to supplement her son's diet, and contacted another doctor for a second opinion—not exactly the actions of someone willfully neglecting their child's health. In fact, Markham was feeding her son the new formula when local police showed up to place her under arrest. 

It seems that when Markham didn't show up at the hospital, her doctor had called the Seminole County Sheriff's Office. Police officers arrived at Markham's apartment, arrested her for "child neglect without bodily harm", and handed her son over to the Seminole Child Protective Services. Markham "was accused of refusing to give her infant non-vegan formula even though he was dehydrated," ABC News reports, as if dairy-based formula has some sort of magical hydrating properties that soy-based formula does not. 

So for the "good" of this newborn baby, he was separated from his mother for the first five months of his life. (The kid may wind up with an attachment disorder, but hey, at least he was spared the indignities of hydrating on breast milk and soy-based baby formula!). Markham finally regained custody of her son Wednesday, after a judge threw out the Seminole County Child Protective Services' claims. As a condition of the child's return, Markham must now meet regularly with a state-approved pediatrician.