Archive for the ‘Breastfeeding’ Category

Age 7

You have probably heard of women who breastfeed their babies into their toddler years (something which is either frowned upon or celebrated depending on the circles in which you mix), but opinion remains divided on whether the practice is perverse or beautiful when it comes to older children.  Breastfeeding in public has always been a point of contention but more recently the debate has changed its focus to become a discussion about the age at which it is healthy to stop giving a child ‘Mummy milk’.

Recently I met a lactation consultant who is a former midwife.  She has a passion for singing, knitting and breastfeeding, which has led her into some rather quirky projects.  I was given a private rendition of a few of the songs she has written on the topic of breastfeeding, which were essentially poems put to well known tunes.  One of the pieces she sang for me contained the line “get me to the breast on time” which went to the tune of I’m Getting Married in the Morning.  As well as her musical skills, her knitting ability has been put to use as a tool for promoting the ‘breast is best’ slogan… with her often being found armed with knitted breasts and knitted baby poo, which serve as visual aids when helping mothers learn how to get their baby to latch on or to understand how to assess the contents of a nappy!

Singing and knitting aside, perhaps the most significant thing which happened during our short time together was a statement she made suggesting that we were created by God to be breastfed far longer than is traditionally done in the 21st century.  Health professionals often recommend that a mother stops offering the breast to a child once they reach their 1st or 2nd birthday but this consultant says, “Children need milk until they are about 7.  After the milk teeth have gone… that may be a more normal time to think about giving up the breastfeeding”.  Yes, 7 years old – the age at which young people in the UK take SATs exams, are part of sporting teams, or attend Brownies and Cub Scouts.  (See photo above of me at that age.)

She suggested that mothers be open to breastfeeding as long as possible because “women have been given breasts to produce milk… [children] need milk and what better millk than a mother’s own.”  The argument drew on insight from the animal kingdom as she explained how polar bear babies are given milk for the first few years concluding that, “as we have a longer life cycle it seems natural that our babies could be older than 2 & 1/2 and still need milk“.  Looking back throug history was also a way of building her case as she shared how in years gone by there were no dairy animals to provide milk so getting calcium from a mother’s milk strengthened a child and created a special bond.  That said, the singing midwife did acknowledged that it is necessary to work with the child and feed them for as long as they want, realising that some school aged children may not want to be fed in this way*.

What is perhaps surprising is that this passionate lady is not a mother herself: “I haven’t had a baby and I haven’t breastfed”.  The main objections such an idea has received – besides the potential nips from a 7 year old’s teeth on the mother’s breasts – are that it is unhealthy and socially unacceptable, with some saying that it potentially becomes sexually unhelpful for boys.  So what do you think?  Have we lost sight of what God intended when he created woman with the ability to lactate?

For advice and help:

National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 0210

* Please note that she was not suggesting breast milk as the only source of food, but as a supplement, like a vitamin, to a healthy diet.

© Maria Rodrigues-Toth

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