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ABC Dubs Breastfeeding Toddlers “Extreme”

Posted Jan 21 2010 12:00am

If you are a mom that has breastfed your child past the standard norm in the US, then you are an “extreme” breastfeeder.  Get those boobies ready for the X Games!

Oh, sensationalism gets your attention, and how dare a mother use her breasts for feeding a child rather than for sexualization.

This is actually an old story, nothing new here, but sometimes news takes awhile to travel. Although ABC featured the story a year ago, SF Gate brought the story to my attention yesterday. The Mommy Files reports:

Breastfeeding a child until he is age 4 is unusual in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics reccommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months and support for nursing for the first year and beyond, as long as mutually desired by mother and child. But only 23 percent of women in the U.S. make it until age 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s simply not part of American culture to nurse a toddler.

Jennifer was aware that long-term breastfeeding is considered taboo, and so she didn’t freely share that she was still nursing her 3-year-old son in the morning and at night before bedtime. She only told friends who she figured wouldn’t criticize her. “I knew I was getting into weirdo land for a lot of people,” she says.

She only breastfed in her home and told her son to keep quiet about it. “When he was about 3 years old, I remember having a discussion between the two of us,” Jennifer says. “I told him that what we’re doing is private and we don’t need to talk about it outside the house.”

Ann Sinnott, author of the new book Breastfeeding Older Children, nursed her daughter until she was six-years-old.  She surveyed parents in 48 countries on their breastfeeding practices wishing to “challenge the negative perceptions of many psychologists who contend that breastfed older children are emotionally damaged.”  Sinnott explains in the Irish Independent:

If, as a result of my book, more mums breastfeed their babies for a year, I’ll be happy. If they breastfeed until the child is two I’ll be happier still, and if they allow they child to self-wean I’ll be happiest of all.

Breastfed children are happy. They rarely cry because their needs are being met. My daughter, at six, was serene and incredibly independent, yet she had the need to continue breastfeeding. I went along with her until she was ready to stop.

Child psychologist Will Braun told ABC News, “I think a child really needs to learn to develop the capacity to soothe oneself, the capacity to tolerate frustration.  When a child is constantly given a breast, it might thwart that from happening.”

Mainstream media’s portrayal of breastfeeding beyond one year as “extreme” upsets me, as well as comments from child psychologists who do not know world statistics. Even ABC News admits, “The average age of weaning around the world is 4 years old and there are no studies saying it is harmful.”  So, why do they need to dub breastfeeding toddlers “extreme”?

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