Zoë Ligon writes about her experiences as a breastfed older child. Telling the heartfelt story that she shares with her mother is definitely worth a read, as she relates what it was like to finally give up the boob and how her mother threw her a weaning party (not uncommon for children who nursed past toddlerhood).
She explains that it wasn't until she was older that she realized her experience wasn't common, but as her mother nursed her because she thought it was healthy and was a lovely bonding experience for both of them, she feels a sense of pride that her mom breastfed her until she was ready to give it up.
Unfortunately in a society where women routinely are harassed or shamed for breastfeeding infants, it's unsurprising that nursing a child well past infancy is met with suspicion, accusation and horrifying garbage-laden comments. Judging from the terrible diatribes Ligon received on this piece alone, it seems like folks are ready to throw her in jail or burn her at the stake for even suggesting that nursing a 5-year-old child is normal and healthy (which it is).
According to the Mayo Clinic, breast milk remains a superior source of nutrition, even for older kids. It continues to give your child an immune boost and can improve overall long-term health. It can fill in nutritional blanks during times of illness and is always an immeasurable source of comfort for both the mother and child.
The negativity remains, however, and it's exactly why we continue to write about breastfeeding. Why moms take "brelfies." Why we post about breastfeeding on social media, and why we're tired of being told to cover up, stay home or just pump already and give the kid a bottle.
We need to continue to make this topic a main conversation, because keeping it front and center will help destigmatize it. That breastfeeding a kid is OK, and even if you nurse a kid who goes to kindergarten, you're not doing it for your own sexual pleasure as you force your child to your breast. That's not how it works. Ligon paints a very warm, loving picture of a mother who chose to nurse her child well past the time when she needed it for her sole nutrition, and after reading her words, you can't find fault with her mother for doing it in the first place, nor with Ligon for writing about it. In fact, they both should be praised.
If you encounter a mother breastfeeding, or you read about an older child taking milk from the breast, or you see a breastfeeding photo, and your first reaction is a negative one, you should take a moment and think about what your reaction means to this mother and child. If you're being honest with yourself, you realize your feelings have absolutely nothing to do with the nursing pair; instead, they are a reflection of you.
A breastfeeding relationship is about the mother and her child — nothing less and nothing more. Maybe if we kept our thoughts (and horrific comments) to ourselves, the world would be a better place, and more moms would feel comfortable nurturing their child in the way they see fit.
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