Gretchen Breuner, a graduate of UC Berkeley and a San Diego resisdent, is the author of the eBook How to Plan an Amazing, Kid-Friendly RV Adventure. She was featured in the April 2011 issue of Parents Magazine, blogs for a number of sites and has a new book coming out this fall. She is also available for speaking engagements and coaching. Visit her website to find out more, www.theroadscholarz.com.

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Is it breastfeeding or is it something else?

We’ll we, as a nation and in our media circus, have discussed pretty much every issue on and about women. There’s been health care, birth control, maternity leave, equal pay and more. But the latest media fire storm is surrounding this topic of “Attachment Parenting.”

The recent cover picture and story in Time Magazine is feeding this now national uproar and public comment frenzy. This time, I have to admit, I agree with the majority of the feedback.

Women breastfeeding an infant is one thing. But nursing a child that is old enough to say, “Yo Mom, give me the tit,” is clearly another. The Time article depicts a number of women breastfeeding their children.  On the cover there’s a 3-year-old still nursing, and frankly, it looks very unnatural. Breastfeeding is, of course, very natural and not indecent, up to a point. I would be curious to know how the husbands (if in a heterosexual relationship) feel about breastfeeding a preschooler? This seems to be not an attachment question but perhaps more of an independence question.

What does a mother get from nursing a child past 2 years old? I guess we could go back to tribal-caveman days and ask the same question; how long do you nurse your child? But back then, there weren’t other baby nutrition options. Did they nurse this long? And are there really nutritional benefits or was it just socially more acceptable? I guess some could argue, “it’s your body, do what you want.” But isn’t also about the child and the issues that she or he will grow up remembering? For example, “I left for preschool, but before I got myself dressed and ate all my breakfast, I latched on to Mom for a quick drink…???”

I wonder if Moms who breastfeed their child over the age of two are afraid of “not being needed?” I can’t really get my head around the idea that it’s all for the benefit of the child. Is it? But then I would be casting a judgement against my fellow tribe. I don’t want to do that, I just know that when I finished breastfeeding all my kids, they weren’t walking, talking and running down the street asking for directions on how to get a drink of milk.

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Comments (4)

  1. breastfeeding 05/21/2012 at 7:30 am

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  2. Carina 05/12/2012 at 6:23 pm

    Ah, but pitting women against women is a different argument than extended nursing having any benefits, and questioning whether it’s really “for the child.”

    Obviously, the “Mom Enough” argument is designed to sell magazines. However, you played right into the magazine’s hand by questioning not the woman vs. woman, but the breastfeeding. You did exactly what they wanted.

    If you had framed your argument in the terms you are now claiming, I never would have commented.

    One of my children fell incredibly sick as a toddler. The doctor told me that had I not been nursing, he would have been hospitalized. So yes, feeding while sick. This happened again with another child.

    You may have an opinion on whether or not you would nurse a child that long, but you cannot argue the scientific data that tells us that it’s biologically appropriate to nurse children to meet their immunological, neurological, therapeutic, and digestive needs into childhood. Just because we choose not to do so, doesn’t mean the data aren’t there.

    As for if a child should be nursed until 4, 5, 6, 7, it ain’t my business, and it ain’t yours.

    I know the World Health Organization says that there’s “no upper limit” on the benefits of breastfeeding. I know that the biological age of weaning is 2.5-7. So even though we are biologically designed to nurse that long, and it’s clear that both you and I didn’t, ALL mothers should be supported in their decisions on what is best for their children.

  3. Gretchen Breuner 05/12/2012 at 9:43 am

    HI Carina, thanks so much for your reply. I totally appreciate another perspective, and I knew I’d be opening myself up for great opposition and discussion. I guess I just see other ways to soothe hurt feelings, feed them when they are sick and connect after a long day. Perhaps it is just so bothersome to see that, yet again, a woman’s body is at center ring of the media circus. To make the cry, “Are You Mom Enough?” Really? Mom enough for what is the question I keep hearing and completely understand. That’s great you nursed your children until 2 1/2 years old but what about children that are 4, 5, or even 7?? Is that, I question, for the health and benefit of the mother and child or perhaps something other than that? Carina, I’m not trying to attack you and your choices. But like someone else’s opinion stated, I find it disheartening that Jamie’s 5 minutes of TIME fame raised yet another Mom vs Mom question. I guess that’s just what bothers me most. And regretfully I allowed myself to get tricked into picking a side. Thanks again for your comments.

  4. Carina 05/12/2012 at 12:57 am

    I’m going to disagree with you in the most unequivocal terms.

    I nursed all my children until they were at least 2.5 years of age.

    The scientific evidence is overwhelming in support of breastfeeding as long as possible. The longer a child nurses the higher their IQ, the lower their risk of developing diabetes, respiratory issues, leukemia, Crohn’s Disease, a panoply of cancers, allergies, and the list really does continue.

    The longer a mother nurses (and this is cumulative) the lower her risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers, less rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, and a host of other benefits. It used to be that breast cancer was called The Nun’s Disease, because only women who had never had children developed it. There is no question that our modern weaning intervention has harmed the health of not just children, but their mothers as well.

    There are numerous extraordinarily complex and emotionally delicate institutional and cultural reasons why women stop nursing. There is also no question that we should ALL encourage women to nurse as long as possible by lending support and assistance. To arbitrarily decide that a child has had enough when they “walk” or “talk” or “get teeth” is just silly. My babies walk at 9 months and talk at 10. I should stop then in the face of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization? What a ridiculous argument.

    Why on earth would I defy logic and biology to wean a child onto cow’s milk that was built for a calf? Sorry, as long as I had human milk, Imma feed that to my human baby.

    I count myself lucky and blessed to have had nurslings that weaned themselves as preschoolers. It was beautiful to be able to reconnect after a long day at work, to soothe hurt feelings, to feed them when they were sick. I know that I’m protecting them from the cancers and allergies that run in my family, against obesity, and giving them a cognitive advantage. It’s for both of us.

    Don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it 🙂