There is not much else that will rile up the internet like a solid breastfeeding debate. In fact, the topic of breastfeeding infants can cause strife between warring factions of moms, especially if the subject is breastfeeding in public. But nothing quite tops the crazy that happens when extended (or full-term) breastfeeding is discussed, particularly if the child is well past the toddler years.
Denise Sumpter recently appeared on a British television program to discuss breastfeeding her 6-year-old daughter. While Sumpter has received plenty of support from other mothers who are also letting their child naturally wean, she has also encountered tons of backlash from the public who say her kid is way too old to breastfeed.
We turned to real moms to find out if the thought of a mom nursing a 6-year-old child made them uncomfortable or not, and why. The answers, as you might expect, are definitely varied.
Some moms are all-out supportive. "For me, I see supporting breastfeeding as all or nothing," says Manda, mom of one. "I personally can't say I support breastfeeding but then have exceptions. It doesn't work like that to me. It doesn't make me uncomfortable. More power to her for sticking with it for six years!"
Mariana, mom of two, agrees. "The only reason people are bothered by this is because breasts have become so sexualized in our society," she shares. "They can't see that breastfeeding is not sexual in nature. If people realized that breastfeeding is just that — feeding — and not a sexual act, they would not see a problem with an 'older' child being fed that way by their mother. As long as both parties in the breastfeeding relationship are happy, I don't see why not, nor how this is any of anybody else's business."
Other moms have a different story. "I support a mother to breastfeed her child for as long as they are both comfortable," says Kay, mom of one. "While six years old would be too long for me to personally continue nursing, I don't imagine I have any authority nor does my opinion on how others choose to raise their children really matter."
Liz, mom of two, feels the same. "It makes me uncomfortable only because I cannot imagine myself still nursing my own six year old," she says. "However, do I care if this woman is still nursing her child? Nope. It doesn't affect me or my kids, and at this point in life THAT is what I need to focus on. Not the way that some other parent chooses to comfort their child, when the child is obviously not being forced to do it."
Other moms, however, admitted they were uncomfortable with Sumpter's story. "I think when a kid is preschool aged and still breastfed, that it's more for the parent who can't let go," shares Char, mom of three. "I think once a child is old enough to remember things when she gets older, then it's too old. So probably around four to me. I would be mortified if i could remember breastfeeding off my mom."
Jenni, mom of one, agrees. "Personally, it weirds me out," she says. "Do I think she's a child molester? No. But, at the same time, I do think that breastfeeding is finite. There is, and should be, an end to it."
While there are different opinions, it's clear Sumpter is comfortable with her decision, and she hopes her appearance on the program will provide support for other mothers who are nursing their kids past the toddler years. And as Ashley, mom of four, says, "Breast milk doesn't lose its nutritional value or properties after a child reaches a certain age. Breast milk is living, providing unsurpassed immunity properties along with nutrients only man could dream of mimicking to market and sell." And that doesn't really sound too bad at all.
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