Breastfeeding has featured heavily in the news lately with the controversial Time magazine cover of a woman breastfeeding her three year old son. The cover provoked various online reactions, some in support and others disgusted by the image. While the magazine’s publishers and breastfeeding organisations have backed it, others have reacted angrily.
The article was written to commemorate 20 years since the publication of The Baby Book by Dr. Bill Sears. The style of parenting featured in the article accompanying the picture is called “attachment parenting”. This method promotes extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping and “baby-wearing” – where the child is carried as close to your body as possible in a sling. Extreme it may sound to some, to others it is completely natural, yet is being targeted by society.
For how long should you breastfeed?
If you search online there are many contradicting opinions on how long you should breastfeed for. The advice clearly varies depending on where you are raising your baby. A mother without access to formula milk or clean water will likely breastfeed for longer than a woman in Western Europe for example. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby up to six months to provide optimum health benefits.
According to statistics on the WHO website, 35% of children worldwide are breastfed exclusively for the first six months. Extended breastfeeding, which lasts longer than the first six months, is recommended for the first two years of your child’s life. This extending breastfeeding is complemented with solid food, but expert advice suggests children should be the ones who dictate when they are weaned.
In India children are routinely breastfed until the ages of three or four. In the Philippines almost 58% of mothers still breastfeed their children at age one. In more industrialized countries such as Great Britain, the U.S and Australia breastfeeding a toddler is very taboo. Statistics for these regions are nearly non-existent because many mothers are not willing to admit to extended breastfeeding. What WHO does say is that the world average for breastfeeding is up until age four.
The majority of mothers speaking out online support a mother’s right to decide for how long she breastfeeds. Every mother has a different experience, some children don’t take to the breast as well as others and sometimes a mother doesn’t produce enough milk. What many mothers who do extended breastfeeding say, is they didn’t start out to do it but are simply responding to the needs of their children.
What do you think? Have you experienced extended breastfeeding? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.