There are moms that volunteer to make a hundred cupcakes for the school bake sale. There are moms that coach the soccer team when no one else steps up. There are moms who give in and let their child have whatever they want. And there are moms who breastfeed their kindergartners. No parent is perfect, and striving to meet the needs of children can get hazy along the way. The feeling of going above and beyond as a parent seems to rarely come around. For mothers who are fans of attachment parenting, however, a solution to almost any child’s meltdown is always readily available. Despite its many consequences, women continue to breastfeed their children into their elementary years with strong refutations against those who disagree, believing that it is a good way to raise a child providing comfort, confidence, and love.
Breastfeeding, in general, is wonderful. It is natural, it provides health benefits, and it is a form of bonding between mother and baby. These pros apply to every baby that is breastfed, but when a baby is able to eat solid food or comfort themselves, a mother might feel unwanted. She will always be needed, but she needs to create an umbrella for her and her child where she is the center of the child’s world and the source of all that is good and well. This is where attachment parenting comes from. Sleeping with your child, known as co-sleeping, and homeschooling are characteristics of the attachment parenting lifestyle taken on by many modern day parents, but a recent addition has heads turning. Breastfeeding children well past the normal age is becoming a bit too popular, thanks to women believing that it will answer all of their problems as a parent and more. A May 2012 cover of TIME magazine left a woman and her choices under scrutiny when it depicted 26 year old mom Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her preschool aged son. She states that she, as a child breastfed until the age of six, had a very secure feeling of confidence and love throughout childhood and strives to pass that nurturing environment on to her two children. Australian mom Maha Al Musa publicly spoke out in May of 2015 about her experiences with extreme breastfeeding, arguing that because her six year old likes it so much, she will continue as long as needed. Her daughter Aminah although young and naïve about the subject spoke to an interviewer and said “I might stop when I’m eight,”. Psychologists, health care providers, and parents around the world are scratching their heads. Extreme breastfeeding stemming from attachment parenting has proved to have more negative outcomes than positive ones. What mothers are not realizing is that this attitude towards raising their children, while designed to strengthen bonds and nurture them is actually harming them and damaging their futures.
Child development is a highly studied area, with new findings and theories being proposed every day. Like any field of study, there are controversies and different ideas, but there is also common knowledge. Children develop the ability to self soothe within the first few months of life, and continue to learn throughout their toddler years. It is one of the first personal abilities children will have, and is therefore vital in development. At three months old, it is acceptable to breastfeed an infant and rock them when they are inconsolable. At five years old it is not. Extreme breastfeeding has proven itself as a way for mothers to give themselves a purpose when their preschooler skins their knee, no longer a way to provide food for their baby. If a child from a home where extreme breastfeeding can be found has a meltdown in a public place such as school, they know no other way to calm down. Mommy will not always be there for a quick feeding session to stop the tears. At that age, it is unhealthy for a parent to suppress their child’s ability to self soothe and grow into themselves.
If the self-soothing mechanism is overlooked, then parents can forget about cognitive and social development. Contrary to the belief that Jamie Lynne Grumet and Maha Al Musa possess, extreme breastfeeding alters the thought process of a young mind in a way that will be difficult to undo. It carries a stigma that cannot be shed. Al Musa’s daughter told reporters that when she is not at school, breastfeeding is her favorite thing to do. At the ripe age of six, little Aminah is going through a time when social development is peaking, as children learn to interact with people in their environment and communicate thoughts. While she is in school, the topic for extreme breastfeeding will most certainly not be appropriate for show and tell or playground gossip, but what else does she know enough about? Suppose in a few years as she goes through puberty she is confused as to why girls do not show their breasts in public, or she is ridiculed by kids in her class for being the girl who was breastfed until she was an adolescent. Aminah is sheltered to all things unrelated to attachment parenting and extreme breastfeeding, and her mother is blind to the obstacles that extreme breastfeeding may cause down the road. To protect a child’s innocence and support their growth as an independent person, a parent must step back and allow the child to move on.
Ablow, Dr. Keith. “Time magazine cover — forget the breast, what about the boy?”. Foxnews.com. 11 May 2012. Web. 2 November 2015. http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/05/11/time-magazine-cover-forget-breast-what-about-boy.html
O’Brien, Susie. “Who does extreme breastfeeding really help: a child or their mum?”. The Daily Telegraph”. 25 May 2015. Web. 2 November 2015. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/rendezview/who-does-extreme-breastfeeding-really-help-a-child-or-their-mum/story-fnpug1jf-1227368766830
NEW SOURCE * Khoo, Isabelle. “Mom Maha Al Musa Won’t Stop Breastfeeding Until Her 6-Year Old Is Ready”. The Huffington Post Canada. 25 May 2015. Web. 9 November 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/05/25/maha-al-musa-extreme-breastfeeding_n_7435856.html