It’s been a while since I have written about breastfeeding the older child and I thought it was time to champion the practice again because it seems the message is still failing to hit home. There are people who still think it’s weird and there are all kinds of misconceived notions that it is somehow perverted and that it creates psychological issues for these children. Probably the most disturbing part is that the people who think this are not ignorant or poorly educated. Some of them are even trained in health with medical knowledge. And if the people who should know better don’t know any better, then how can we expect the general population (the lay public) to know better?
Recently, I was at the pharmacy trying to buy some antihistamines. I told the pharmacist I was breastfeeding and was looking for either loratadine (Claritin) or cetirizine (Zyrtec). The pharmacist asked what I was using the antihistamines for and I said allergies. He then replied that was fine but if it was for cold and flu, it would be recommended that I stop breastfeeding. I was a bit surprised because there are very few reasons when a mother should stop breastfeeding and a cold or flu is not one of them. Here is a perfect example of misinformation regarding breastfeeding. It’s no wonder so many misconceptions about breastfeeding exist.
If you want to know anything and everything about breastfeeding and the do’s and don’ts, KellyMom is one of the few websites I trust completely.
I’m digressing… Breastfeeding a 3 year old is normal. Your child will not be psychologically scarred for life if you do. It is not weird or strange or even abnormal. I think the biggest irony is that we think it’s normal to feed our children cow’s milk but strange if they drink human milk after the first two years of life.
“It’s not perverted, it’s not sex, it’s not women doing it for some perverse need… It’s normal like a nine-month pregnancy is normal.” – Katherine Dettwyler, a professor of anthropology at the University of Delaware in Newark.
I wanted to write about breastfeeding the older child because I still get asked when I plan to wean my child. Isn’t it time? Isn’t he getting a bit old for it? Aren’t I worried that he’ll have psychological issues when he grows up because of his awareness? Personally, I find it offensive that I get asked these questions. I don’t ask another mother when she plans to stop feeding her child formula milk. That’s her family’s business – not mine. And why are people so concerned about my child’s psychological health because of a practice that should be considered normal and healthy?
Never has there been a parenting decision I have made that has been challenged as much as my decision to breastfeed my children. It started with the suggestion that I should keep a tin of formula milk in the house “just in case” I don’t have any breastmilk. It should be stated right now that it is a myth that some women don’t produce enough milk. The problem is lack of understanding about how breastfeeding works and lack of support for the new mother whose first experience with breastfeeding is her first baby.
The arguments with my decision to breastfeed continued with suggestions that Aristotle’s poor food consumption was due to the fact that he was still breastfeeding. And then when I was pregnant with Hercules, there was concern that continuing to nurse Aristotle would put my pregnancy at risk. It should be noted that it is safe to continue nursing while pregnant unless you have a high risk pregnancy.
After that, there was concern that Aristotle would consume all the milk leaving none for his baby brother if I persisted with tandem nursing (which is again false because there is enough milk for two). Through all this, I continued to breastfeed and everything was fine. Even after all this, I still get asked when I plan to wean Hercules. I grow weary playing the broken record.
Aristotle was breastfeeding until he was 3.5 years old (which in the natural world is actually considered early). Hercules will be 3 years old in November and he is still breastfeeding. I have no plans to wean him as yet. Why am I sharing this? So that other mothers who want to continue breastfeeding their “older” child might have some of the support that is lacking in our society. It is normal. We should not have to hide this fact like some dirty secret.
According to Katherine Dettwyler:
“It isn’t until age 5 or 6 that “95% of brain growth has been reached, and that’s also about the time that the child’s immune system is ramped up to full production.” In some primates, the natural weaning age is when the first adult molars appear (this is about 6 years old for humans).
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