Rehab Addict‘s Nicole Curtis became an advocate for breastfeeding moms after her ex Shane Maguire was awarded joint custody of their son Harper, now 2, while he was still being “exclusively breastfed.” One year later, her battle continues.
“A year ago today, I learned that nursing babies have ZERO rights in the eyes of family law,” she wrote in a tweet to mark the anniversary of the court decision. “I’m still crusading, trust me on that.”
“You would think that something so natural was just an automatic right to the baby and to the mother,” Curtis, 40, tells PEOPLE. “I don’t think courts understand basic scientific logistics of breastfeeding they see it as, just give the baby a bottle.”
Curtis’ very private pregnancy with Harper turned public when Maguire — whose lawyer previously told PEOPLE that his client “couldn’t have been happier to find out he was the father to his son” — filed for paternity in December 2015. He was awarded joint custody in 2016 according to The Detroit News, a decision Curtis describes as “traumatic,” as she notes she struggled to produce enough milk to supply Harper for the time he’d be out of her care. Maguire later declined to comment on Curtis’s claim he told her to “put your boob away” when she was breastfeeding.
“This has been the scariest part of my journey,” she says.
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“My child nurses on demand. He’s not on a schedule because he didn’t have to be. The court just assumes I’m a refrigerator full of milk, and that’s not how the human body works.”
The HGTV host, who released a memoir, Better Than New, in 2016, says she’s faced an unexpected backlash from the public.
“I had father’s rights groups coming at me,” says Curtis, who has taken to social media to air her grievances on the subject several times. “I told my assistant, I want the phone number of their director and I want to talk to them personally. I called every single one of them back and explained to them the situation.”
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With Breastfeeding Awareness Month coming up in August, Curtis says she is “crusading” for the courts to change their approach to benefit other single mothers.
And while her legal woes aren’t over, Curtis is holding out hope for a peaceful resolution.
“I don’t believe the burden of divorce or separation should be on the child,” she says. “My two year old, he loves his dad, he loves his mama, so for me we’re having all these issues again right now and I’m like, my door is open all the time.”