As we sat down together in their cosy home, it was crystal clear that Alison* and Rose* shared a beautiful bond. Not a sight I’d ever been exposed to, at 6 years of age, Rose still takes her mother’s milk.
I was intrigued by this for it was definitely a practice out of the norm, and I respect her for such a decision, and applaud her for having the strength to ward off all negative comments that have been hurled at her. She tells me that there have been many.
Reasons for extended breastfeeding
“Rose will ask me to feed her mostly when she’s tired. Sometimes, it’s the bonding time she wants with me- and why not? It really differs – sometimes she might ask for it a few times a day, or maybe just twice or thrice a week.”
Alison shares that she receives dirty stares when she publicly breastfeeds her daughter. “I really don’t understand why it’s so odd to others around me. Why is it not always seen as socially acceptable?”
“People have argued that after a certain age, breast milk has no nutritional benefits. I find that utter rubbish – there is not a single food source that can suddenly stop being nutritious. Breastmilk can boost a child’s immune system, which is important now that Rose goes to school with other children. I have a healthy, bright and happy kid who I truly believe has benefitted from breast milk.”
“They also think by feeding Rose for this long, I will stunt her confidence- but that’s not true. Rose has been gathering comments in her report book saying she’s an “extremely independent and confident girl.” She has also attended a holiday camp and has stayed without me for 5 whole days.”
People will say what they want to say
“People will say what they want to say- I cannot stop them. Yes, it upsets me when I get ridiculed or when my parenting skills are questioned. But I am really doing this entirely for the benefit of my child. Rose is taller than most of her classmates and rarely falls ill. She is doing extremely well in school, plays the organ, and has an artistic eye. I am protected from various cancers, and I don’t put on weight so easily- so this is good for me too.”
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years of age or beyond.
“I have seen the emotional and physical benefits of breastfeeding her for this long, so why would I stop it unnaturally?” Alison knows Rose will eventually wean. “Her milk teeth are going and I have a feeling that she won’t be feeding for much longer.”
My breast, my child, my business
Rose understands that not every child breastfeeds as long as her, and she is cool with it. Alison has been asked if she’s thought about how her Primary 1 school-goer would be teased endlessly about this. “To be honest, she’s proud of it and she’s a strong girl who stands up for herself. She shuns things off that don’t matter much to her. And I am proud of her for having that kind of attitude. It will take her far in life.”
Breastfeeding is a hot topic among many mothers — from the decision on how long to feed, to where to nurse. But in the end, the decision of when to wean (or whether to breastfeed at all) is really up to the mother.
As Alison so confidently puts it- “My breast, my child, my business.”
Let us support women who make such bold decisions solely for the benefit of their children. We may find it strange, and not practice it ourselves, but let’s take a step back and not ridicule them for the choices they make. There are no right answers in the book of motherhood after all!
(Story as told to Pavin Chopra)
Mummies and daddies, what do you feel about Alison’s continual breastfeeding? We would love to hear yours thoughts on this – do share below!