Time to stop breastfeeding?
Few things heat debate among parents up like the delicate issue of when to stop breastfeeding. Anyone who caught a glimpse of Time magazine’s front cover for May, showing a young mum breastfeeding her three-year-old, will no doubt have been shocked.
Twenty-six-year-old Jamie Lynne Grumet is an advocate of ‘attachment parenting’, but recalls being breastfed by her own mother up to age six.
In her follow-up interview, Jamie points out that one of the reasons she has decided to make her choice public is to ‘normalise’ it within a culture where breastfeeding beyond a certain age is considered unacceptable.
Her hope is that by letting more people see it, it will become more socially normal.
To a certain extent, I can appreciate this sentiment. Prevailing social norms do have a habit of getting away with themselves, to the point where a mother who breastfeeds a child up to two years’ old is frowned upon. Yet the World Health Organization explicitly recommends breastfeeding up to two years and beyond.
We have to put this into context of course. One of the reasons breastfeeding is sensible in other countries beyond what is typical in the UK or US is that, nutritionally, it is probably the best way of ensuring poor families provide for their little ones.
Personally though, I wonder at the practicalities of breastfeeding a child of nearly four years’ old in a developed country like the US or UK. There are plenty of other alternatives and – by Jamie’s own admission – breastfeeding for this long can prove an incredible challenge for most mums.
Leaving aside whether you think breastfeeding until school age is right or wrong, it’s certainly not something most mums could ever manage.
Jamie has the luxury of working from home and chooses to home school her children. But this isn’t an option for most mums I know. So even if you do agree with Jamie in principle, is this kind of parenting practical in today’s modern, work-orientated lifestyle?