That Why We Need To BreastFeed Our Child For As Long As They Want

September 2, 2017
Keep Reading ↓

We need to normalise breastfeeding beyond just the standard six months

Breastfeeding up to two years has widely reported benefits to the child, so we need to stop stigmatising mothers who choose to do so

According to the WHO, it’s perfectly healthy to breastfeed a child up to two years old Getty

According to Emily Roberts:

I widened my eyes in shock as I caught my new friend’s gaze at antenatal class, when a mother came to talk to us about breastfeeding.

She had just revealed that she still breastfed her two-year-old, as well as her newborn. Afterwards, we all bonded over our discussion of how wrong and weird we all felt it was to carry on breastfeeding for such a long time.

Of course, if that’s what she wanted to do, that was her decision, but I certainly wouldn’t be doing the same. If they are old enough to ask for it, they are too old, was our thinking.

Now my baby is eight months old and I think back to my attitude at that class with shame. I was ignorant and judgemental. Who was I to decide that it is wrong to breastfeed a child once they reach a certain age, and where had this thinking come from?

As Breastfeeding Awareness Week draws to a close, more and more articles on the topic pop up across social media. What saddens me is the number of people, mostly other mothers, who share that same misinformed opinion as I did, but who think it is acceptable to post it all over their networks without bothering to find out the facts.

I knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby. It wasn’t the easiest of journeys to start with, and even now it has its problems – the appearance of teeth being one of them. But it has also been wonderful. I was upset at not being able to birth naturally after having an emergency cesarean section. I hadn’t even conceived naturally, having had IVF. So I was desperate for my body to do something right. It had failed to bring my son into the world without help, but now he was here it was vital to me that my body could keep him alive, and I was proud that I succeeded against the odds.

However, when he reached six months, lots of other mums with similarly-aged babies decided to stop breastfeeding and turn to formula. I wondered why this was the norm and if I should start thinking about stopping. I couldn’t imagine feeling ready to give it up any time soon, but knew there would come a time in the near future when I would have to. I didn’t want to be that woman whose son was still hanging off my breast at two years old.

I decided to research the matter, to find out when is the best time to stop, and was shocked but delighted to discover that the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends breastfeeding until at least the age of two. At least. So why had I, and others, been so appalled when that brave mum spoke to us about breastfeeding her toddler?

The reason is because, in this country at least, this sadly isn’t the norm. Even those of us breastfeeding our babies past six months are in the minority. It isn’t seen as socially acceptable and those who do continue can feel isolated, uncomfortable and judged.

Breastfeeding in public controversies

#1.

A woman has sparked a heated debate among parents after she revealed that she breastfeeds both her and her friend’s son. Jessica Colletti, from Pennsylvania, said nursing Charlie Interrante’s son “seemed like the natural thing to do” because she was already breastfeeding her son. Colletti told the Mama Bean parenting blog that she asked permission to nurse Interrante’s son when she began looking after him, after they met at a photoshoot for new mothers. Interrante agreed as her son had not taken to formula milk

#2.

New Hampshire State Rep. Josh Moore said on Facebook that men should be allowed to grab the nipples of breastfeeding mothers if the law banning women exposing their breasts did not pass

#3.

When Gemma Colley’s photo of her son with fake tan on his fake after she breastfeed him went viral, she also saw that no parent is alone when they make a silly mistake. Over 100,000 people liked and 40,000 people shared Ms Colley’s photo of her son’s sleepy face with fake tan encircling his mouth and nose, after she posted it to the Unmumsy Mum Facebook page

#4.

A candid image of a mother breastfeeding her young child while using the toilet has divided parents online, as some argue it’s an honest depiction of parenthood, while others have labelled it “disgusting”

#5.

The exclusive Claridge’s hotel has been widely criticised for asking a woman to cover herself with a “ridiculous shroud” while breastfeeding her three-month-old daughter. Lousie Burns said she burst into tears when staff members at the five-star venue asked her to cover herself and her baby with an oversized napkin in order to avoid “causing offence” to other guests

#6.

An Australian café has been praised for sticking up for a breastfeeding mother after a customer told her to cover up. Jessica-Anne Allen, owner of Cheese and Biscuits Café in Queensland, Australia, has described how she was approached by a male customer in the café to complain that he was upset by a woman in the coffee shop breastfeeding her child nearby. The customer asked the café owner, 29, to tell the mother to cover up. When Mrs Allen refused to do so, he took matters into his own hands and challenged the woman himself. Staff at the café then asked the man to leave

#7.

A woman who claimed a Primark security guard had forcibly removed her child while she was breastfeeding has admitted to perverting the course of justice. Caroline Starmer sparked a series of headlines after claiming on Facebook that a store guard had taken her nine-month-old daughter Paige away from her. The mother from Leicester then repeated her claims in a number of interviews, before Primark denied the incident and handed CCTV over to the police to show there was no evidence to support the allegations. Appearing in Leicester Crown Court, she admitted the charge of perverting the course of justice by not telling the truth

#8.

Pope Francis has become an unlikely advocate for public breastfeeding, by encouraging mothers to feed their babies in the Sistine Chapel. During a ceremony in Vatican City on Sunday, the Pope baptised 32 babies and told their mothers: “If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice, because they are the most important people here”

#9.

Facebook has changed its community guidelines to allow users to post photos of breastfeeding. The change comes as the wide-ranging #FreeTheNipple online campaign has built pace in its attack against guidelines used by social media websites to regulate nudity – from photos of breastfeeding to topless photos post by singer Rihanna’s on her now defunct Instagram account. Facebook’s Community Standards, which outline what users are allowed to post, never included a outright ban on photos of breastfeeding

#10.

The manager of a public swimming pool at the Lux Park centre in Liskeardhas been forced to apologise after he told a mother to stop breastfeeding her son by the waterside. 23-year-old Rebecaa Hough of Torpoint, Cornwall, was feeding 10-month-old Max a few steps from the main pool, when the manager told her to carry on in the changing rooms in case the infant was sick into the water. She was also told that she should not to return for half an hour to ensure the milk was fully digested

#11.

A Conservative MP has claimed allowing women to breastfeed in the House of Commons chamber would expose politicians to “tabloid ridicule”. Sir Simon Burns, a former transport minister, spoke on what he called a “controversial subject” in a debate in making Westminster more family-friendly

Breasts are seen as sexual rather than what they were designed for – to feed a baby or child. It’s rare to see women breastfeeding a baby in public, and often you hear of them being shamed or embarrassed for doing so. It’s no wonder so many women stop or don’t ever start in the first place.

Yet the benefits are clear and plentiful. Breastfed babies have a higher IQ, with the greatest gains for those who are breastfed the longest; breastfeeding protects against disease for as long as it continues; breastfed toddlers are found to have fewer illnesses of shorter duration and lower mortality rates; breastfed toddlers have been found to have improved social development; and breastfeeding helps a child achieve independence.

It also has many nutritional benefits, with WHO stating that it can provide half or more of a baby’s energy needs between six and 12 months, and one third between 12 and 24 months. You can’t argue with the facts.

So contrary to my belief that I would need to “give up” breastfeeding, as if it is some sort of self-indulgent guilty pleasure after a certain age, I can continue for as long as my son wants. And I intend to do just that.

I hope I have the confidence and bravery to speak out about it if my boy should want to carry on into his toddler years, just like that woman who spoke at the antenatal class. But I suspect I will keep quiet, knowing that attitudes and social judgement in this country will mean that many people will think I am doing something wrong. For that reason, sadly, I will continue to be in the minority, until attitudes and understanding change.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *