breastfeeding debate

A recent Time magazine cover has caused a storm about extended breastfeeding - attracting criticism and support.

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.

Leticia says:

i would just pump a few bottles and then feed baby bottled breastmilk at night. formula will keep your baby alive but it is not healthy for a baby, so if you can breastfeed and get away from it stay away from it, besides your milk tastes good and formula is gross so the chances your baby will take formula at night aren’t very good. I will tell you though that it is really easy to snuggle baby in bed and lay your boob out and the baby will learn to latch on by itself and you can just roll over and switch when your other breast gets heavy. It is so easy. I have done this with 4 children and no one has ever had to get up with the baby. Once the baby doesnt need to eat at night, we put the baby to bed it his/her own crib. Daddy can take his turn feeding breastmilk out of a bottle during the day and I think that you will find that if you do NOT supplement with a bottle that you will have plenty of milk, however, if you supplement you will start having problems keeping up, especially in the beginning. Dr.s and WIC dont suggest you pump until baby is 6weeks old and your milk supply have been established. If you need more information, check out, Goodluck and Congratulations on choosing the best for your baby!

Ummitha says:

It doesn’t make any sense to not breastfeed. From the spndatoint of your baby’s health, their development, and now apparently their behavior, breastmilk is far superior to formula. If you use formula, you also miss out on the incredible bonding that takes place when you breastfeed.

Ruben says:

probably true but there is a limit or there should be. i know of one moehtr who was breastfeeding her little girl when she was 4 and maybe after that. i have not seen them for years and they live in canada and i live in thailand. i can remember them visiting us and the kid [not her fault i guess] was trying to get into her moehtr’s blouse when we were all seated around the pool talking. it sure made me uncomfortable. i suppose many people would say that is my problem. and you’re probably right only i am a dude and i really don’t want to see the breast of my friend’s wife. as i say there should be a time limit on breast feeding.

Virginia says:

the picture above with the newborn being breastfed seems so precious, and natural, but the one published on the cover of Time Magazine where the mother was breasfeeding an oversize toddler who looked about 4 was disturbing(my personal opinion of course)….

Kim says:

Ok since it’s quiet and comments are being asked for…here’s mine.

Here in Italy I kind of missed the whole uproar about the Time magazine’s article…..maybe I was too busy breastfeeding my son 🙂

But seriously after reading about it I find it baffling that some people would feel the need to express disgust towards a mother’s individual and personal choice to breastfeed their child for as long as they feel it is right for both mother and child. As Bryony mentioned it is a different experience for every mother and child.

I’m still breastfeeding my 22 month old boy, and after some intial trouble getting started in the first few months and pain, it’s all been pretty smooth sailing for us, and I have never had any problems with milk supply, so I feed him….and it works for us, as we go ahead we’ll see.
But I would never feel the need to judge or make a negative comment towards a mother for not breastfeeding for a long period of time,(or even at all), every one has an individual set of circumstances to take into consideration eg: the mother’s health and wellbeing, family support for the mother etc, and therefore I don’t think there is one right age for every child and mother to stop breastfeeding. If the mother for some personal or health issue needs to stop breastfeeding to be a healthy and sane mother then so be it.
It’s individual, so lets leave it at that without the negative aspersions towards those mothers who still feed their children past 1yr. Why do people have a problem with it?

By the way I have a few of the Sears books and they are honestly the most helpful books I’ve read on parenting, at least they are doctors and PARENTS themselves….so they do speak from personal experience as parents too.