Maggie A's Meanderings




 Mar 8, 2015

Extended Breastfeeding, My Rebuttal

There's a small number of mothers in the United States who are continuing to breastfeed their children long past babyhood and into toddlerhood and even when their children are school-age. These mothers are defended by a vocal group of supporters. It's natural the mothers and their supporters claim. It used to be the norm to breastfeed until children are older because of nutrition and as a natural birth control they tell us. The United States sexualize the breasts too much; we should recognize that the purpose of breasts is to feed children. Breastfeeding soothes children. Breast milk is best they lecture. To sum up, they're doing this for the well-being of their children because it's the child's best interest they proudly and defiantly state.

I have one question for these women: If you're doing this because you believe that human breast milk is the best milk for your child.................why don't you pump, put the milk in a cup and let your child drink it that way? Your child would still be getting all the benefits that you think breast milk has. That you don't pump and let your child drink out of a cup is because this is about your psychological needs, not your child's.

You could make an argument that teaching an infant to control his/her bladder and bowels is not in the best interest of the child. Maybe it causes constipation and urinary infections to hold the waste material. It causes accidents which can be humiliating and embarrassing to the child damaging them psychologically. So why not keep the children in diapers so they can go whenever they need to go? Why not? Because changing the diapers on a five year old doesn't give the mothers any psychological satisfaction. If it did, you'd better believe there would still be some healthy, school-age children running around in diapers.

So taking a look at each of those arguments in favor of extended breastfeeding, here's my rebuttal...........

Breast feeding is natural. So is not controlling your bowels and bladder. Both breastfeeding and diapers have their place in a baby's life. And then the child outgrows that stage. All mammals stop breastfeeding their offspring and some of those mammals get quite forceful about it, even kicking or shoving their too old offspring when they continue to try to breastfeed.
It used to be the norm to breastfeed older children both to supply nutrition and as it's a natural form of birth control. Yes. But you are not a medieval serf. Nor are you living in a tribe of primitive hunter/gatherers. (I'm quite sure they don't have internet.) This is 21st century America. There are plenty of other forms of nutrition that are available. (The women in the US who do extended breastfeeding are not poor women whose children are in danger of not getting enough food.) And there are definitely more effective methods of birth control now readily available.
By the way, if you think that the way things were done back then is what we should be doing now because it was "more natural" and so was better for children, you should compare the historical infant mortality rate of 140 out of 1000 live births to today's rate of 6 out of 1000 live births. And the data I could find on primitive hunter/gatherer tribes was about a 20% infant mortality rate, that's 200 out of 1000 live births.
The U.S. over sexualizes the female breast. The purpose of the breast is to feed children. Oh, wake up! The human female breast is sexualized. That's what they've evolved to be; it's why we have them year round and not just when we're lactating. Back before we learned to walk upright it was the butt that was sexualized. Then when we stood up and walked on two feet, we needed a new sexual signal and that's why females get enlarged breasts as a part of puberty..........because breasts spend the vast majority of their lifespan as a sexual signal and are only used for breastfeeding a percentage of the time. In fact, some breasts are never used for breastfeeding, yet they're still enlarged. 
Breastfeeding soothes children So does being cuddled. Fathers cuddle and soothe their children without breastfeeding. No one's saying you, the mother, can't cuddle your child anymore. But if you have to cuddle your child while he/she sucks on your teat, that's about your needs, not the child's.
So hug your kid. Rock your kid. Sing to your kid. Give your kid a kiss and stroke their forehead. Feed your kid a bowl of ice cream. Do any of the many other ways there are to soothe your child, because older children do need soothing. What they don't need is continuing to think soothing requires having your nipple in their mouth.
Breast milk is best If you really believe that, then put it in a cup for the child to drink. Breast milk doesn't have to be drunk directly from the breast.
This is for the well-being of the children because it's the child's best interest to be breastfed. You know what's for the well-being of a child? Raising that child within the norms of the society you live in. If you're a !Kung San of the Kalahari, then breastfeed until the kid is 4 or 5. If you're an Aché of Paraguay, you can breastfeed until age 3. But this is the United States and breastfeeding a child old enough to ride a bicycle isn't the best interest of a child in 21st America. It's going to damage that child's childhood. Because when the child's schoolmates see or find out about it, there's a good chance you, the doting, over-protective mother, just ruined your kid's school experience through high school graduation. The child will be teased and bullied about it until s/he moves away. I can see the child as an adult bringing up the breastfeeding trauma in therapy. And it will be all your fault. So do what's actually in the best interest of the child and stop breastfeeding children when they stop being babies.
And to all the supporters of mothers who do extended breastfeeding, stop enabling.

boy too old to be breastfed

For more my take on childrearing, there's 
"When You Think God's Light Shines Out of Your Kid's Asshole.........You're Raising a Brat (And Why It's Not Doing Your Kid Any Favors)," "Truly Odd Parents: Parents Who Take a Hard Job and Make It Harder" and "The Importance of Being Bored (in Childrearing)."

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