Last Orders

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Forgive the vaguely amusing title, but perhaps it is necessary to counter the level of enmity and ire this issue seems to attract. It seems at a glance to be such a personal, small, mind your own business kind of thing and yet if there is one thing that is virtually guaranteed to divide any room of present or prospective mothers it is this.

When is it the right time for a mother to call last orders at the boob cafe?

It doesn’t take much to fan the flames of this debate. Take the Times cover piece, featuring a mother, Jamie Lynne Grumet, breastfeeding her then four year old child. She maintained in the accompanying article that it was likely she would continue to do so until the child was at least five. She defended her decision on the grounds of attachment parenting, which I’m sure anyone reading this blog or indeed parenting within its broad parameters are familiar with. She went further than this, suggesting adamantly, if all mothers lived on a deserted island (presumably she is referring to the lack of public opprobrium and the need for extra sustenance here) they would all do it.

Clearly this piece was obviously intended to provoke debate, which it did so in spades. In parenting terms the picture went nuclear, reactions ranging from merely vitriolic to alleging child abuse. My initial reaction of a child standing on a chair and latched to a boob was that it felt wrong in an ill defined way. The question is why does it stoke such controversy?

Of course women who breastfeed into a child’s early years would argue that the outrage exhibited is hysterical nonsense, a by-product of modern conditioning and that in actual fact there is nothing inherently wrong in this practice. They would no doubt expound the notion that each mother should be free to follow the dictates of her own heart and mind. And seems reasonable, which prompts me to wonder where do I really stand on the issue?

Firstly and perhaps more importantly, I would suggest to those women that do not breastfeed at all (those without psychological or physical impediments) are perhaps removing a natural source of immunity and health benefit for their child, not to mention the bonding and security that comes with the act. With that being said I would argue, based on the available literature, that there is little benefits continuing past a certain age and arguably has the potential for more harm.

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