breastfeeding an 8 year old

My friend texted me this link to a YouTube video about a mother who nursed her first child until age 5 and the second child is still nursing at age 8 (as of 2007).  She also sent with it words like “nasty,” “creeptastic,” “sick,” and “serious mental health issues.”  That’s the typical perception, I suppose. Maybe I’m strange.

When I responded “I guess I don’t see it the same way.  I think it is bizarre, weird, not my choice, etc. but I don’t think it is gross,” she reiterated that the video showed the girls drawing pictures of their mom’s boobs, touching their mom’s boobs, and that they had named mom’s boobs.  Then she said “we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one,” without asking or waiting to see what else I had to say about it.

Hmm.  Okay.

The family in the video has (what sounds like) a British accent.  My understanding is that in lots of countries, it is not uncommon to nurse a toddler or even a preschooler (also known as extended breastfeeding).  The World Health Organization recommends nursing children to age 2 and beyond.  The American Academy of Pediatrics supports nursing for as long and the mother and child both desire: “There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.”

For sure, nursing an 8 year old is not the norm. 

My point?  I didn’t pick up on any sexual undertones from the video.  Yeah, it’s weird that the girls draw pictures and name their mom’s boobs, but they are still little kids and I guess if that is a normal part of their lives, it will be a topic of conversation and whatnot.  The video didn’t say the girls ONLY draw pictures of their mom’s boobs.  It didn’t say they grope their mom’s boobs.  It didn’t indicate that they were obsessed with their mom’s boobs.  No one was forcing anyone to do anything they didn’t want to do.  I dunno.  The video was about the extended breastfeeding, so mom’s boobs were the only topic discussed during the interview.  Something tells me they don’t just sit around and focus on nothing but mom’s boobs, day in and day out. They seemed like happy, healthy girls and I doubt they will need therapy because of extended, extended breastfeeding.  If anything, they might be embarrassed that this video is circulating on the internet. 

And, no.  I don’t plan on breastfeeding Dexter until he has zits. Here is an interesting article by Mayim Bialik (remember Blossom!?) about nursing her toddler.

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Sexual.  That’s what boobs are to us Americans.  Sexual things.  Private parts that should be covered up and not discussed or looked at or respected for what they were intended to do.  They exist to serve a purpose and it isn’t just to make other people horny.  They are there to feed babies, plain and simple.     

This video and brief text exchange got me thinking.  I don’t want this post to ramble on and on, but this is where the going-off-on-a-tangent thing happens.  I want to change the subject a bit and focus on the sexualization of female breasts and what that has done to our society. 

I shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to feed my baby in public, but I do.  IF it is necessary, then I do it discreetly and I bet no one even knows what is happening except for the people I’m with.  I typically try to wait until we get to the car.  No, I will not nurse my baby in the bathroom, because that is disgusting.  Who wants to hear and smell other people taking a dump while they are eating?  Not my baby.

In many other countries, no discretion is expected or required when a mother nurses her baby.  Because of the culture I was raised in, I wouldn’t feel comfortable whipping a boob out to feed a baby while I finish up my grocery shopping.  But it’s not because I think there’s anything wrong with that.  It’s just not accepted in the society I live in.  I have read a dozen or more articles about nursing mamas being told to do this or go there when they are seen breastfeeding in public because it is “indecent.”  Other moms said they didn’t want their children around that.  They didn’t want to have to explain that to their kids’ virgin eyes.  Explain what?  That mothers feed their babies?  How would you explain the way a dog or cat nurses their puppies or kittens?  Would you say that they are indecent and disgusting?  It’s the exact same freakin’ thing. 

I get passionate about a few things and I guess this is one of them.  If I had never nursed a baby, I might have a different view.  Something as wonderful as breastfeeding your baby should not be a source of shame or stress for the mother or the child.

That’s how I see it, and to be honest, I don’t care one bit if people agree or disagree with me.  I say if you wanna breastfeed your 8 year old, more power to ya.  I would love to hear what other people, mamas or not, think about this.  Am I totally alone here?

~C~

P.S.  I have had a handful of people tell me that they can’t or have had trouble commenting on my blog.  If you are one of those people or if you have ever had trouble commenting on my blog, please try the new format.  If you still have trouble, please email me and let me know.  I’d hate to think people aren’t commenting because they can’t!  Your comments make my day.

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