Catherine Marks-Ambrose of Bisbee, Arizona has been nursing her son since birth, and she still nurses him today at the age of 4. Frustrated by what she perceives as massive opposition to her choice, she’s written this article to shine some light on her point of view. She asks: just what is so wrong with breastfeeding a toddler? …
If you found out today that a pill existed that could protect your child from asthma, SIDS, childhood obesity and a host of other conditions, would you give it to him? What if the same pill gave you a euphoric high, promoted weight loss and eased stress? Would you be first on line to try it?
Believe it or not, this magic formula DOES exist—except it’s only available in liquid form. I’m talking about breast milk, of course. Far from being merely a source of nutrition for baby, breast milk has been shown to be a virtual cure-all for both mother and baby, so I never quite understand why so many are appalled when they find out that my four year old son still nurses.
Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that women breastfeed for as long as both mother and child desire, with the W.H.O. recommending nursing until at least two years of age. Worldwide, most children are breastfed until four to seven years of age. Here in the US, the average is a mere 12 months.
The many benefits of nursing don’t magically end at 12 months of age. The nutritional and anti-biotical make-up of breast milk adapts as your child grows, so it’s perfectly tailored to your child needs, no matter what their age. So why stop now? Health benefits aside, it’s a great way for my son and I to bond. It calms him when he’s upset and helps him to relax at bedtime.
My son is not the only one who benefits from my breast milk—at one time or another, it’s helped everyone in my family, myself included.
When I had pink-eye, I dropped some expressed milk into my eye. Problem solved. My 11 year old daughter has an acne breakout? I slipped some into her face cream. Breakout cleared. My husband feels under the weather? A splash of breast milk in his coffee solves everything. (What they don’t know won’t hurt ‘em, right?)
Nevertheless, the reaction I get from close friends to virtual strangers when they find out that Junior still nurses is pretty uniform across the board: unequivocal horror.
My breasts are not sexual objects. They are fun in the bedroom of course, but their most important function is to provide nutrition to my child. Back when I used to nurse in public, the stares and disapproving looks I’d get were overwhelming. That was when he was within the “socially approved” age range for nursing; I can only imagine the looks and commentary I’d get now.
We don’t nurse in public anymore. We did, of course when breast milk was his sole source of food. But he is now old enough to be patient and wait until we are home. He’s not allowed to just come up and pull my shirt up or anything like that. We do have manners.
With all the benefits of breast milk, I can’t imagine how anyone in their right mind wouldn’t want their child to nurse for as long as possible. There will come a day when my son decides that he no longer wants to nurse, but until then we’ll continue pumping his little body full of vitamins, nutrition and anti-bodies.
I’d really love to know: just what is so offensive/sick/gross about an older child doing exactly what nature intended him to?