I’m pro-boob, pro-bottle, pro-breastfeeding, pro-bottle feeding, pro-formula feeding, pro-however-the-hell-you-want-to-feed-your-baby. But if you’re posing for photos breastfeeding your six-year-old, don’t be surprised when the internet rains judgment upon you. Are they right? Who knows. One thing is for sure though: we’re definitely not comfortable with people who go against the cultural norm.
Maha Al Musa posted photos to her Facebook page showing her breastfeeding her six-year-old. We’re certainly not okay with images like this in this country – we’re barely comfortable with the image of a mother breastfeeding an infant child with a cover over herself. It’s no wonder that this image would create a stir. It’s not something we all do, so it immediately opens the door for judgment.
Al Musa is a “spiritual birth advocate” — she’s comfortable with certain things that the general public may not be. There’s an image on her Facebook page of her breastfeeding her child in a birthing tub right after she was born. She’s clearly an advocate. She told an Australian morning show that now that her daughter is six and in school, she need the added immunity that breastfeeding brings.
I stopped breastfeeding as soon as both of my children started really getting their teeth — so I made it to roughly a year for both of them. Had I experienced discomfort sooner, I would have stopped sooner. That’s how I roll. I don’t like to make things harder on myself and I was always totally clear that if breastfeeding ever got really hard for me, I would stop.
Someone who breastfeeds a child who could prepare their own grilled-cheese sandwich is obviously not just doing it for nutrition. There is most likely a sense of comfort the child gets from nursing. Children wean off comfort items and actions at totally different stages. A child in my kid’s pre-K class brings a blankie to school. My own son didn’t give up the pacifier until he was nearly three years old. Many kids suck their thumbs until grade school. I think any time you see a parent allowing their child to “wean themselves” off something, there will be people insisting that a parent isn’t doing their job.
Diana A. West, lactation consultant and director of media relations for La Leche League International told Yahoo Parenting,“it’s shocking to people in Western countries, but worldwide, children are weaned when they’re between 2 and 6 years old on average, so nursing a 6-year-old is not out of the ordinary.”
There’s no denying that Al Musa may eventually have to explain these images she’s posted: her teenage daughter may not be thrilled with the transparency that doesn’t bother a six-year-old. But there are many things we all do that could arguably come back to bite us in the ass. I’m pretty sure I’ve called my first child an asshole a few times on the internet. Or described some epic meltdowns that may embarrass him someday. When it comes to parenting, we all do our best and when and if we screw up — we’re the ones who’ll have to contend with it.
Frankly, I’m not totally comfortable with the image of her breastfeeding her child either, but I certainly don’t think it makes her a bad mother. I also don’t think her six-year-old needs the immune system boost that breastfeeding brings now that she’s school-aged, as Al Musa contends. I just think it makes her someone who does things in a completely different way than I (and most of us) do.
As a society, we may be getting more and more comfortable with breastfeeding, but only to a certain point. And a child who is older than an age we deem “okay” to breastfeed definitely shows us what that point is.