recently, i was a guest at someone's home, and i was asked to leave the room if i had to feed my son, even though i was planning to use a blanket to cover. for some reason, it's fine for teenage girls to run around in their bikinis at this home, but a mother nursing her child with a blanket over her shoulder is told to hide out in a different room. this just shows how flip-flopped our view of breasts and breastfeeding is! it is truly sad.
it's an unfortunate fact that we live in an over-sexualized nation. the purpose and relationship of baby and boob should be simple. babies breastfeed. breasts are for feeding babies. however, it seems we've forgotten what a woman's breasts are for. in our society, for some reason this is ok:
maggie gyllenhaal in one of many photos she posed in for a lingerie line.
and this isn't:
maggie gyllenhaal received a lot of crap for this photo of her nursing her daughter in public.
might i point out, just about the same amount of boob is showing.
until just breastfeeding becomes the norm, extended breastfeeding will continue to be misunderstood. i don't blame people for not accepting what they don't understand.
weaning surveys have been shady and not very accurate, but the most reliable number i could find for the common weaning age is 2.8 years, while in some cultures women breastfeed for much shorter or longer lengths of time. [the number 4.5 has been thrown around to suggest a common age of weaning worldwide ... or something... :) but like i said, not very reliable. it is probably accurate to say most children world-wide are breastfed until they are about four years old.] the World Health Organization recommends that a child be breastfed up to two years or beyond, but in america, most babies are weaned between the ages of six months and one year. children who are given the opportunity to wean naturally normally do so between 3 and 4 years. early weaning became common in the 19th century, when women were worried breastfeeding would make them look old or poor. today, breastfeeding beyond one year of age is considered weird to many people.
it was never strange to me, but that's because i grew up around it. my own mom breastfed my sister until she was two and a half years old, and at the same time, my aunt was breastfeeding my cousin until he was nearly three and a half. it was never odd to me to see a toddler breastfeeding. it was natural.
i remember when i was around middle school-age, seeing on a television show a mother in a remote village in africa breastfeeding a child who looked to be about five years old. at the time, that wasn't even that odd to me, just different. it made sense, actually. breastmilk is the perfect, most amazing food, whether the child receiving it is five months or five years. in the midst of the conditions which she was living, where food and water are scarce, why wouldn't she be breastfeeding her child?
what i find amazing is how science supports that breastfeeding beyond the age of two to be more natural than not. the age in which most large mammals wean their young is comparable to five to seven years in a human child. some scientist say large animals are weaned when they are triple their birth weight - this is about the age of a toddler. not only are the ages comparable, but human children also lose their ability to properly suck between the ages of three and eight!
extended breastfeeding and child-led weaning is not for everyone, and i absolutely don't think a mom is wrong for not doing so! however, while it may seem odd to us here in the western world, it's important that we understand that it's not unnatural, and may actually be best for some mamas and their children.
and being around tons of breastfeeding mamas :)