Friday, March 23, 2007

Extended Breastfeeding... What's Normal?

I'm taking this from posts I've made in a debate forum. Feel free to debate me here about it if you want to.

I'm all for extended breastfeeding, but honestly, BF'ing a 7 year old (almost 8 yrs old) is ridiculous to me.

The U.S. average for weaning after extended breastfeeding is between 1-2 yrs old. There's a very large majority of babies in the U.S. that don't BF past 6 months old, which I find sad. Only 20% of babies ages 6 months old are still breastfeeding in the U.S. W.H.O. has the average weaning age across the world as four years old. And that's just about when I start to believe that it's no longer a healthy relationship. There are other fabulous ways to bond with and comfort your child.

Nursing has to be a two-way relationship. If one person in the relationship doesn't feel that it's working or is "worth it" to continue, then adios. My youngest daughter weaned herself at just about 6 months old, or I should say SHE weaned ME. She preferred sippy cups and a bottle. I wish I could have relactated her, and I did try, but she simply wasn't interested. Generally speaking, of course, if you want to relactate: On average, for each month since you stopped nursing, it takes a solid week of a "nurse-in" to relactate. In other words, doing nothing but drinking fluids, eating well, and laying in bed with your child nursing/using you as a pacifier. And even then, it doesn't always work.

A mother is, the woman in the video stated, a caretaker of a future adult. Every mother has a responsibility to society as well as her child to care for them and provide for them and give them love. We also have a responsibility to prepare our children for their future, and how to deal with separation and to learn autonomy. Those are gradual processes. Having a child still nurse solely for comfort and soothing when they're 5+ years old is hindering that process.

A child has the right to expect her parents to make sacrifices for them, but that shouldn't preclude Mom's rights to reclaim her body. A mother has the right to say "I've had enough of this. It's time to stop whether you want to or not. I'm ready, and I believe you're ready too. Let's learn another way to soothe and relax." A good mother knows when to draw boundaries and personal space. A good mother does for herself as much as she does for her children to maintain a healthy emotional balance.

I'm all for extended BF'ing, really I am. What was being described and discussed in that video? That was beyond "extended breastfeeding." I don't by any means think that it was sick, at least not in the sense that it's gross or sexual, but I don't think that it's healthy for the child OR the mother. I do think that other relationships and forms of comfort and soothing shouldn't be trumped by pulling the breastfeeding is best card.

For anyone who believes that to support BF'ing means supporting ALL aspects of it, including BF'ing at almost 8 yrs old... I say this: Being a breastfeeding advocate is not an all-or-nothing sort of thing. Just as with any other issue, there is a large area of gray, but excessively extending breastfeeding? BF'ing at age 7? That's more than just skirting the gray. It's not comparable to BF'ing a 2 yr old or 3 yr old. It's not even about sexuality.

Once a child nears and reaches 5 yrs old, it's not unreasonable to think that there's something that's become unhealthy about the situation. The child is clearly not learning skills that should be considered normal at that age. Some autonomy from Mommeigh's breasts is one of them. Respect for Mom's personal space is one of them.

Using mom's breasts as loveys is not respecting boundaries, and allowing that past 4 years old really isn't normal, worldwide. I have no issues with loveys. I encourage the attachment to loveys for all three of my children. Adults often keep their loveys from childhood. College students bring their loveys with them when living in a dorm. My 6 yr old has a few loveys that we encouraged her to become attached to while still a toddler. She has naturally relegated them to her bed and sleeps with them through no pressure from us. She, like all of my children, is very attached to me emotionally and we have an incredibly close bond while still having understandings of privacy and limits.

As a parent, it's up to me to teach all of my children appropriate boundaries at certain ages. Those general ages of stages of emotional development are easy enough to research from experts in child development and child psychology. No, I don't take the findings of doctors as gospel, but I do take it heavily into consideration because there IS a standard of normalcy whether someone wants to admit it or not. I'm not talking about societal influences, but those are important to consider too. If "you" don't teach your child the more important societal norms and morays, you're doing your child a huge disservice. If you don't teach your child how to cope without needing someone else's body and they're SEVEN YEARS OLD, there's something not entirely appropriate with that relationship. Child-led weaning doesn't mean giving over the entire decision to the child, or letting the child call the shots. Mom has the right and responsibility to guide her child and prepare them to wean. Mom has the responsibility to make the decision when the child is unwilling to.

That is all for now. If anyone responds, I'll probably reply.


Becca said...

I agree with you. I had to stop nursing my dd to let a nipple heal and couldn't relactate. I nursed ds for 11.5 months until he weaned himself. I say 2-3 years depending on the child. I was talking about this with dh the other day and his thought was if breastmilk is so important to you for your children, why not start pumping and give in a cup?

Kristin said...

I BF till 17 months and considered THAT extended breastfeeding. This is ridiculous. I agree with you. And your other poster, put the milk in a cup if you're so sick.

AngelOfDevs said...

I am sorry but that first video was creepy. A seven nearly eight year old and a girl older than that discussing mom's breasts and breastmilk and the one saying she would never stop breastfeeding, I just cannot wrap my head around it.

I am sorry but I cannot even imagine letting my child have that much knowing control over my life and my body. This is no infant or toddler who needs you in that manner but a child who knows you will give her exactly what she wants, when and how she wants it. I am a fan of boundaries personally and children are not always right nor do they always know what they need or what is good for them.

The really sick video was about that attachment mom just letting baby fly without a diaper and peeing and pooping on her floors (then running in it). That is just so gross health wise. There isn't enough clorox, sanitizers and air freshener in the world to ever make that decision ok. Yikes!