Extended breastfeeding: Keeping it milked!

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Breastfeeding has always struck a cord with not just mothers but also communities around the globe who find the notion altogether magical. But what does the world have to say about a mum nursing a three-year-old on camera? The discussion unfolds with Jamie Lynne Grumet's TIME cover story.

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TIME cover shot: Jamie Lynne Grumet with her three-year-old son

While most mothers will attest to the fact that ‘breast is best’, most of them do wean their children off the breast before they become toddlers. In 2012, 26-year old, Jamie Lynne Grumet appeared on the cover of TIME with one of her two sons, who in the shot was suckling on her breast. He was neither a baby, nor a two-year-old. A ‘loud and proud’ gesture, it certainly had the worldwide fraternity of mothers abuzz. So, what was the woman’s reasoning for breastfeeding her three and five-year-old sons?

Most importantly, why did she agree to be photographed for the cover shot, hand on hip, while her three-year-old stands on a chair and sucks on her left nipple while staring intently into the camera?

“People have to realise this is biologically normal. The more people see it, the more it’ll become normal in our culture. That’s what I’m hoping for. I want people to see it,” Grumet shared in an interview. The mother of two herself was breastfed until the age of 6 and attributes the high self-confidence she had as a child to it.

Extreme parenting

The young but deeply involved parent appeared on the cover of the magazine as part of a special feature on attachment parenting–a concept that embraces controversial parenting practices, including extended nursing and co-sleeping.

Attachment parenting was a phrase made up by pediatrician, William Sears, who believed that children needed practices like extended nursing to form strong emotional bonds with their mother and ensure proper socio-emotional development.

Backlash from readers

Opinionated readers have hit back with comments about the dedicated mother’s controversial parenting style, saying that she may be doing more damage than good for her child.

While majority of those who disagree with extended nursing argue that it prevents a child from maturing and makes him too attached to his mother, some have even gone as far as to call Grumet a child molester.

French author, Elisabeth Badinter also commented that the attachment parenting concept that Grumet adopts sets women’s rights back as it requires mothers to be constantly attached to their babies.

Is there an appropriate age to stop breastfeeding?

This is what a few theAsianparent.com readers and Facebook subscribers, who are themselves mothers, had to say:

“The definition of the right time is subjective. Are we seeing it from the child’s perspective or the parent’s? Just as every child has his own timetable when it comes to speaking or walking, perhaps we could think about our children and let then decide when they are ready to wean off of breastfeeding.” – Carol Loi Pui Wan.

“I find it a bit weird once they are past the age of two as they are just so big! I’m sure there are still some marginal benefits but their milk consumption is of relatively less importance by that age.” – Nicki Liang

“Personally, I feel that breastfeeding should stop when kids reach a certain age. It is when they understand the distinct difference between their own self and mummy. This I would say usually occurs between the ages of two and three, and is specially true for boys.”  – Chealsea Ho

Some have even stated that they themselves practiced extended nursing and expressed their support for the controversial cover.

“My son was two years and five months when I stopped breastfeeding. If hadn’t started biting my nipples, I would have still continued on until he was three. Well, it was our only special bonding time.” – Malou Dominguez Ranjo

“I breastfed my youngest (boy) until he was three and a half. There was absolutely nothing weird about it. Love the cover!” – Alicia Ling Horsley

What are your thoughts on Jamie Lynne Grumet’s decision to keep breastfeeding her children past the stage of infancy? Harmful, healthy or is it her own prerogative? Take our poll and tell us how you feel!


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