July 22, 2007

Is there an age a child should stop breastfeeding?

Posted in breastfeeding, breastfeeding older children at 8:22 am by Coole Mama

I have to admit, this video really disturbed me… it was kind of like watching a train wreck. I was slightly mortified, yet couldn’t bring myself to turn away from it. I stumbled across this video last night and it’s been bothering me ever since, although I’m not entirely sure why.

I’ll be the first to wholeheartedly agree that children should be breastfed – I didn’t wean either of my daughters until they were just over a year old. I do think there were some wonderful bonding moments because of my decision to breastfeed, although I’m not so hard-core as to think it was a beautiful, magical, sublime experience. Truth be told, it was hard work at times, frustrating at others, and sometimes a little inconvenient (while I did pump occasionally, neither of the girls would take a bottle, and for me, it wasn’t worth the trouble to force the issue). But I am very glad I had made the decision to breastfeed for as long as I did.

So having said that, why does this video bother me so much? Breastfeeding is an intensely private matter, really between mother and child only. I was the one who made the decision to wean my daughters; if this woman is leaving it up to her children, should she be applauded for putting her children first? I really don’t know. The children in the video really seem to like it, and I’m sure there are other cultures where it is not only acceptable, but commonplace to breastfeed children longer than we do here in North America. Still, I can’t help but get the heebie-jeebies watching this. I was actually glad to have my body back to myself once I’d weaned the girls. Apparently this is not an issue for this woman, but I would be curious to know what her husband really thinks of the whole thing.

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13 Comments »

  1. EG said,

    Hey, Just found this post poking around wordpress.
    I saw this video a few months ago. At first it seemed a little weird, but then I got over it. I’m still nursing my almost 23 month old, and although I didn’t plan to go this long, I never had a weaning date in mind. I don’t think we will last much longer, but I’m SURE it wont go as far as it did for this family ;-)

    I know lots of people whose kids self-weaned and it usually happens between 2 and 3. One thing that did occur to me while watching this video is that the girls seemed a bit unsocialized. I wonder if they go to school or spend time with friends? From the video it seemed that they were home with each other and the mom all the time.
    I think once kids start socializing and playing with friends and going to school they don’t have time to nurse all day and outgrow it pretty naturally.

  2. Coole Mama said,

    I agree with you completely. The girls do seem a little ‘off’ to me in some way, I wonder if they have friends at school or in the neighbourhood, or if they are more the type of children who are a little socially ostracized (for whatever reason, and really most kids are at some point in their childhood). It’s also possible that this woman home-schools her children, which wouldn’t surprise me since she seems to putting what she believes to be the children’s needs ahead of her own.

    I stand by what I said in the post that I believe wholeheartedly that breastfeeding is better for children. But when it gets to the point that the kids are so fixated on the mother’s breasts (drawing pictures of them, naming them and to the extreme point of fondling their mother while she tries to dress in the morning), I think seem clear boundaries need to be established.

  3. Latisha said,

    Wow.

    I can say this disturbed me a little bit as well. But to each his own?

    I think it our society we are so quick to associate deviant adult behavior that involves a child that we find it awkward for a mother to have a child attached to a piece of her anatomy that is so often seen as a taboo in today’s society. The fact that people can get up in arms about a mother breastfeeding an infant in public tells us that as a society we aren’t comfortable with the natural part of feeding a child. So to see a seven year old laid out on a couch suckling from her mothers breast is new for us.

    Great post nonetheless.

  4. L Fo said,

    I am a pro-breastfeeding mom! I am currently nursing my son who is 4 months. However, this woman has taken it a bit far-no offense but even in other cultures (at least none that I know of) do they nurse ’till 8 years old. And what if she had a son-would she do the same? The girls are way too fixated on this stuff. It is time to move on!

    l Fo

  5. Sarah James said,

    I can’t believe people aren’t outraged by this. How is everyone taking this so lightly?

    I agree with breastfeeding as well, to a certain point, but this is completely ridiculous. Why is this not considered child abuse? You can’t tell me this is not affecting their lives in a very odd way.

    I’m confused about why she is letting the girls tell her when it has finally become inappropriate. Who is the adult here? Shouldn’t the adult realize this was inappropriate a long time ago?

    I understand that in some cultures, it is appropriate for kids to breastfeed longer due to lack of food and nutrition. That is not the case here.

    To me, this seems much more a problem with the mother’s inability to let go of something SHE enjoys, which makes it a little sick.

  6. Cathy said,

    So when should I stop nursing my son who is 11months old? Everyone I talk to thinks it should be when he turns 1 – as if there will be an “off” button that will cause him to seek milk elsewhere. But I really am confused about the age thing. This is my last child (had tubes tied) this is our fifth. I want to ensure I do everything that will ensure him a healthy start since we have a five year old who is fighting a brain tumor (in remission) I wish I had nursed him longer!

  7. Marissa said,

    I found this video EXTREMELY disturbing! She is basically setting these children up to be social outcasts. We all know children can be cruel and these kids will be ridiculed endlessly by other children. She should be ashamed of herself for doing this.

  8. Kendra said,

    I can remember being four or five, and telling my mother that I wished she still breastfed me. She chuckled a little bit and told me it was hard work and made her breasts sore, so she had to stop when I was two. I’ve seen the video in question, and I have no problem with the fact that this woman is letting her girls decide when they are ready to let go of the breast. Children need to breastfeed for many reasons. It provides food, water, vital enzymes and antibodies, warms the child, allows mother and child to form a very strong bond, and creates an emotional safety-net for the child (when things get too confusing and they’re upset or cranky and unable to cope, breastfeeding is a very effective way for the mom to reassure the child of her love and support, and to calm the child down so that you can help them work through the issue). Some children need this special bonding longer than others. To say that breastfeeding an older child will lead to emotional problems and sexual confusion is to make a prediction based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever.

  9. I think there has to be someone who breastfed her children the longest. We need not cast aspersions on such a person if we ourselves did not reach any where near her mark. Someone else must have fallen short of ours, I mean, and would not like her to speak bad of us. so no judgements are required. I myself breastfed my son till around the age of six years until a few months ago when he decided to wean off on his own. But even if he wants to resume now I don’t think I shall disappoint him. my husband was breastfed until the age of eight years and I did it until about six. Many of my friends and known women are happily breastfeeding children beyond the age of six years and might touch the ages of the two daughters of the woman in question. So, it seems that there are cultural differences in practices and perceptions. After about two three years the children might not be dependent on mother’s breast milk to any significant extent for nutrition but the nutritive qualities of breastmilk cannot be understated even for the older children. Let this be a matter between the mother and the child and the family concerned. let us not be judgemental. hallmark of any culture is the respect for the other being that precludes personal criticisms and fixing norms for others.

  10. markomi felizi said,

    Personally i think breaastfeeding is awsome and i breastfed all of my children and just got my two yearold off the breast like six months ago that said… that woman is disgusting she is obviously getting “pleasure” off of her daughters sucking on her breasts.. i mean sick rite? and dont her breasts feel super sore and tender? i know mine did

  11. Ann Sinnott said,

    Thought you might be interested to hear about a new book [mine]: ‘Breastfeeding Older Children’, pub Free Association Books http://www.fabooks.com (blurb here), is about to be published and can be ordered online from Amazon Books http://www.amazon.com

    Review comments (includes Sheila Kitzinger) and some info on contents can be seen here:
    http://homepage.ntlworld.com/ann.sinnott/index.htm

    Mothers from 48 countries participated in my research surveys.

    Regards
    Ann

  12. StephF said,

    I have watched this video a few times, and Googled the family, because they so intrigued me. The mother is actually quite intelligent and writes for a magazine concerning many alternative parenting issues such as home schooling, vaccinations and diets (they are fruitarian). The comments made earlier that these girls are “unsocialised” is narrow-minded. I have the impression that the family socialise and live among like-minded families who would also participate in alternative diets, home schooling and extended breastfeeding (not exactly a commune, but something similar). So, though these girls are not growing up in a typical suburban North American/British/Australian home environment, they are socialised to their own community, in the same way a breastfeeding 8 year-old in Nairobi is socialised to his/her own community. We don’t look at an Amazonian Indian woman with no bra on and say “well, how is she going to look when she goes for a job interview at MacDonald’s?” – Similarly, we shouldn’t be casting our own ideas of “normal” on this family, when they fit right in to their own community.

  13. chris said,

    Everything in this world is TAUGHT behavior. Once you understand that, truly understand that, then you can move past your preconceived notions and forced doctrines as to what is and what is not appropriate. If you were born and lived in the jungle, you would live a completely different world and have completely different views and likes/dislikes. But this society has become so myopic that they are their own rate limiting factor to further evolution.


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