Why I Still Breastfeed my 7-Year-Old. [April Fool's Day edition]

Via on Apr 1, 2012
Milk Drunk

I’m not ashamed to admit it.

There’s obviously no sexual connection between my child and myself. Sensual, yes. What’s not sensual about two humans with skin-to-skin contact, one sucking the others breast? But young children are sensual by nature. They love to be held close, rocked, diapered bottoms patted to sleep, hair stroked after every boo-boo.

First let me say, I have compassion for all mothers, no matter what…

Breastfeeding has always been near and dear to my heart. I attended my first birth at the age of 22 and became a Certified Professional Midwife, named “Best Midwife” by Dallas Child Magazine. I taught three-hour breastfeeding classes to couples at prestigious hospitals across Texas, yet I’d never breastfeed a baby or even had a baby for that matter.

Something stirred in my soul while in grad school in Boston in my early twenties when I learned about the benefits of eco-friendly nursing and natural birth. At the very least, the right to choose resonated with me, as homebirth midwifery is still illegal 12 states and alegal (not regulated either way) in 13 states.

A published, well-respected midwife was arrested this very morning in Indiana, taken from her home in her pajamas, and charged with a felony for delivering a baby at home with a normal, healthy outcome.

The right to choose to breastfeed may not be so obvious. Breastfeeding is free and infant formula is an eight-billion-dollar a year industry, which amounts to two-million-dollars a day!

With that kind of advertising budget, how could Nestle not convince third world countries to use their well needed resources on formula, which are inevitably mixed with contaminated water and stretched thin to last, killing thousands of babies? I signed the Nestle Boycott 10 years ago and to this day refrain from their products, including my formerly beloved, Nestle’s Crunch Bar.

Breastfeeding in Belize

Quick and easy biology lesson:

However much milk comes out, your body knows to produce exactly that much more for the next feeding.

How the formula companies prey on your motherly biology:

If I can convince her she should supplement with formula, her body won’t know she did it and will make less milk each feeding.

This leads to the common, “I just didn’t produce enough milk” syndrome. Clinically, less than 3% of women don’t produce enough milk. So where are all these dry, milk-less mothers in droves coming from?

The hospitals, which have formula readily available and seemingly doctor condoned in to-go bags! What you don’t know is formula is donated free to hospitals. Formula companies know the best chance they’ve got to secure a year-long, repeat customer is the first few days, when lactation is being established in its delicate dance with nature.

The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative was developed by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to assist US hospitals to stop their practices harmful to breastfeeding. To get this designation, the hospital could no longer accept free formula. It’s the number one reason most of them can’t get this highly sought after recognition. They can’t afford to let go of the financial assistance.

At six months, my daughter and I reached the milestone set by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states a baby should be exclusively breastfed until six months of age. This means for the first six months of life, a baby can and should live off breastmilk alone; no juice, no formula, no cereal, no water.

By one year, we had, painstakingly at times, reached the AAP’s conservative recommendation to breastfeed at least one year, then as long as it’s mutually agreed upon.

By year two, we had reached the World Health Organization’s recommendation of nursing for at least two years, then as long as it’s mutually agreed upon.

By year seven, well, the rest is history.

I chose extended breastfeeding because the health benefits to mom and baby are directly related to the duration of nursing. The natural age a child will self wean when cultural persuasion is avoided is age three to seven.

UNICEF claims that 1.5 million babies die each year because they are not adequately breastfed, stemming from unethical marketing practices.

We as an American culture have succumbed to the “sex sells” way of advertising. It psychologically works on us. Formula companies have been known to partner with and fund many companies that objectify our breasts as sex objects to subconsciously deter us from putting our baby’s mouths there. The most blatant I’ve seen are formula reps giving Victoria Secrets bras to nurses on maternity floors as incentive gifts.

So maybe I am the urban legendary La Leche League Nazi, but I stand by my research based opinions and motherly gut instinct. If nursing reduces my child’s chance of getting childhood leukemia, no amount of mainstream advertising will stand in my way.

And, April Fools. My nursing daughter is only 2 and mostly weaned (Thank goodness!). All the other information in this article is factual.

About Brooke Kochel

Brooke Kochel is a Tadasana Festival Ambassador and student of Shiva Rea. Her baby yoga mat, bendibaby, debuts this summer. I’m a lover of two soul mates: husband and babe. Jet-setting citizen of the world, foodie and cultural junkie: I’ll try anything twice. She is currently on a farm in Arkansas living off wild game, fish and fowl. Rantings of her satisfied soul can be found on her Yoga/Food/Travel blog, Yogastronomy and Facebook.

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80 Responses to “Why I Still Breastfeed my 7-Year-Old. [April Fool's Day edition]”

  1. Dr. Nancy says:

    I am triandem nursing my 5 1/2 year old, 3 year old and 6 month old. The benefits just go on and on. I do have to say that other peoples sexualization of breasts does come into my mind even though I know these are not my beliefs. It is amazing how much cultural influences do affect us even if it is not within our own belief system. I have always been a public nurser and never had any problems with it until my second was born and I became self conscious of nursing my older one. I still nurse in public because I feel it is important for others to see breastfeeding as normal.

    • Thanks Nancy. Sorry for the last reponse. Now my daughter is 4.5 and she still likes to nurse with her little sister, 10 months. I turned out to be me that wanted to wean the older child, but those few moments that I tandem nurse them still are precious. I'm interested to know if you are still nursing all three or how the weaning process went for you.

  2. [...] The age at which you stop nursing your child—by his choice or by your own—is not what makes or breaks your value as a parent. [...]

  3. Peggy Seehafer says:

    Would you say there is a difference between breastFEEDING and sucking a breast? I think we don't talk about caregiving with food at this age.

    • Actually, all of nursing is a combination of suckling and actually drinking milk. Even now as I'm nursing my 10 month old who clearly needs the milk, just last night she waasn't hungry but needed the comfort of suckling to fall asleep. The nursing relationship is a balance of both providing sustenance and emotional support for security and attachment. The benefits for both are clearly outlined in research. Also, the milk an older child receives can give nutrition but its more about the immunological boost it continues to give their immune system. I like to nurse my older child when she's sick, sometimes as its the only thing she can keep down. And theoretically, when I'm sick I try to nurse her, because it gives her my immunity so she can't get what I have. Hope this clarifies.

  4. Dr. Fiona MacVane says:

    I would say that baby led weaning is totally appropriate, and children will be ready to do this at different ages, but part of good mothering is also about equipping and supporting a child to move onto the next life stage.Physical comfort does not have to include non-nutritive suckling. If you watch other mammals, there comes a time when the immature animal is encouraged to relinquish the teat, in other words it is denied (this denial might come in the form of moving away, a gentle nip or kick). Think of what your response might be if the question was 'My child is still wearing nappies at age 7, but isn't this OK because she doesn't like the toilet?'…………

  5. Dr. Fiona MacVane says:

    OK, I was April fooled. A good information packed article and I totally support the Nestle boycott in which I have been participating for the past 37 years! First as a breastfeeding mother and La Leche League Leader and then as a nurse, midwife and midwifery educationalist. I stand by what I said about good mothering helping children to have the confidence to move to the next stage of development.

  6. Karen Watt says:

    I really DOUBT that anyone is still "Breastfeeding" at 7 years of age. At that point, one is offering suckling for non-nutriative reasons. At 7 NO child survives on breast milk alone! – If mom is not home schooling, what gets packed in the lunchbox? – On what occasions does the 7 year old need the breast? – A quick snack when s/he's too tired to go get something out of the cupboard or frig?

  7. Alicia says:

    What about the mothers who struggle mentally and emotionally with breastfeeding? I have Bipolar and managed to breastfeed my baby for 8 weeks before having to go back on my medication. It was a traumatic and painful decision to stop feeding my baby, I had a natural drug free birth and wanted to raise my child as naturally as possible, however breastfeeding was not an option when I was too depressed to get myself out of bed.

    I accepted that I needed to stop breastfeeding to become a better mother to my daughter, but I have continually come up against people such as yourself who tout the huge benefits (ie reducing chances of childhood leukemia) without recognising that there are many reasons woman give up breastfeeding their children. Every mother wants the absolute best for their babies and before putting it out there that your way is the right way you must consider how this makes the rest of us feel.

  8. guest says:

    This has to be a joke. No animal, human or otherwise, needs mothers milk beyond toddlerhood.

  9. guest says:

    What a clever way to bring attention to the issue! There's a typo in paragraph 3 "breastfeed" for "breastfed."

  10. dl moore says:

    While I appreciate the accurate knowledge in this article, as an extended breastfeeding mom, I felt the sting of covert judgement of those who truly extended breastfeed (past 2 years if age) and felt the April Fool’s content a jab and attempt to side with those who continue to judge moms who do nurse until a child is older. It seems the “not judging mothers” attitude is not afforded to all mothers after all. That’s disappointing, especiallycoming from a midwife. I also detest the use of the word “Nazi” with anything less than WWII. It is disrespectful and dismissive to those truly affected, hurt and killed by Nazis and to those who are members of LLL.

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