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Should a Mom Have to Cover Up While Breastfeeding Her 3-Year-Old?

For the most part, it appears that breastfeeding advocates have moved the needle on nursing babies in public. In just a matter of years they’ve managed to make more women feel comfortable about feeding their kids without ducking into a bathroom or covering up — with laws backing up their right to do so. But there are still limits to people’s acceptance, especially when it comes to breastfeeding older children, as we’ve learned from a Reddit post this week.

A man on the AmItheAsshole subreddit posted about his wife’s friend breastfeeding her 3-year-old son at his daughter’s birthday party.

“We had a lot of people over, and I don’t know a proper way of saying it, but when she was breastfeeding her son there were a lot of times where her breasts were just completely uncovered,” stipor45 wrote. “Like she wasn’t breastfeeding normally at all. Her son would walk away and she would leave herself exposed.”

The man offered her another room to use and a towel to cover up, both of which she refused.

“I was like, ‘Hey, can you please do a better job of covering up,’ ” he said, which, um, did not go over so well. “She flipped out on me. Her husband without saying anything just got their daughter from my daughter’s room and left. I don’t see myself as the asshole here, in that a lot of people were uncomfortable.”

The alarm bells go off when we read his last two sentences: “I don’t have a problem with breastfeeding really. It is just, have some decency.”

The commenters on the post — a group we have learned that is not exactly made up of supportive mothers — have voted that stipor45 is “Not the Asshole.”

“Even without passing judgement on breastfeeding a 3-year-old, when a kid is old enough to leave the bosom on his own feet and eat snacks, that’s when breastfeeding should stop being a normalized social activity,” imcesca wrote.

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I can’t believe I became one of those mamas breastfeeding a 2½ year old toddler! I would have felt so uncomfortable about this before I became a mother but now, I’ve accepted that Clara has her own timeline and I can only laugh when she sweetly asks “Mummy, boobie?”, before pointing and dictating “this boobie first; this boobie next”. At one stage, we were on the trajectory towards self-weaning but the recent hospital stint really amplified her inner velcro-baby ways! I keep reminding myself that she will outgrow this soon so while she’s learning to regulate her emotions, I’m relieved she knows to ask for boobie rather than enter into a meltdown. 💘 #breastfeedingmama #breastfeedingjourney

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That attitude is what SheKnows writer Lilian Burns unfortunately came up against as she continued to breastfeed her son at 3.

“Basically the only thing anybody says is, ‘Wait, what? You’re… still breastfeeding your 3-year-old?!’ ” she wrote last year of the responses she got from strangers and loved ones alike.

Why is that? Experts have pointed out benefits, both physical and emotional, of breastfeeding for toddlers. “There’s no known age at which breast milk is considered to become nutritionally insignificant for a child,” the Mayo Clinic has stated. In fact, the unique nutrients in the stuff are so significant that adults are trying to buy it to boost their immunity against COVID-19.

A few commenters were on the mom’s side here. “The whole point of normalizing breast feeding is that it’s normal,” notboky wrote. “Even if you could take it elsewhere, there’s no reason you should have to.”

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Breastfeeding at 4 years and 2 months.. . . 1. It doesn't take anything special to breastfeed for longer if you wish to do it. Just another thing you do in your supermom life. 2. Helps when there is a boo boo. We are making a boo boo feel okay in this picture taken now. 3. Is a relief to know I can fall back on this in times of illnesses. 4. If I have contracted the corona right now she's getting all the antibodies I'm making to fight it. 5. No, she doesn't ask for it all the time. 6. Nor does she ask in places deemed inappropriate. 7. The boundaries do not work 100% of the time but they help. 8. Easy to put child to sleep. . . #naturaltermbreastfeeding #extendedbreastfeeding #breastfeeding #insicknessandinhealth #love #momlife #breastfeedingolderbabies #breastmilk #physiologicalbreastfeeding ##toddlersofinstagram #toddlerbreastfeeding #breastfeedingbeyondinfancy #booboo #feelgood

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But many of the commenters on the post were most disturbed by the fact that the woman didn’t cover up when her son took breaks from feeding.

Breastfeeding is absolutely normal; sitting in a room full of people with your breasts exposed while the kid is somewhere else in the room and not currently eating is a bit weird,” icantsleepatnightx wrote.

The thing is, for many of us, seeing our breasts as a means of nourishment for our children makes us stop thinking of them as sexual objects that need to be covered. The idea of “decency” is in the eye of the beholder. The question we can’t seem to answer is, whose rules of decency do we have to follow?

These celebrity moms’ honest words about breastfeeding are giving us life.

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