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. Lorin Arnold Lorin says:

    Posted to the Elephant Journal main page on Facebook.

    Lorin Arnold
    Blogger at
    The VeganAsana
    Team leader for Elephant Food and Elephant Family

  2. Caley Spotts says:

    Great article! This issue is near and dear to my heart as well. We struggled to get to the 6 month mark due to overly demanding work hours (my 36 hour shifts) as an intern in my residency. I rarely had a chance or a place to pump at work! As much as I didn’t want to supplement I had to and my daughter couldn’t tolerate ANY formula! She dropped down to the 14th percentile for weight and had to be on 3 reflux meds to hold down her formula. Breastmilk she tolerated fine, my supply just dwindled being away from her, working and not able to pump :( Formula companies sure don’t help matters, but I ran into a lot of other roadblocks that I had never thought about. How about works providing quite clean breastfeeding rooms (some do, not many)? Or how about more tolerant work hours for new breastfeeding mothers? :)

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience Caley! It's really unspeakable that a hospital/medical environment wouldn't provide a clean pumping room for you. That just goes to show you our healthcare system is a little screwy. You're right, we need compassion and tolerance for mamas our there trying to care for little ones and others at the same time!

  4. lovely, sister. And had you still been nursing your child at 7, more strength and power to you both. My wife and son mutually chose to wean when he couldn't stop biting her, almost 3 years old. Now at 7 nothing but fond affection for those times.
    ~Frank via Elephant Facebook

  5. blessings that you've gone against the grain and done what's best for your child. They will only benefit for it. ♥ ♥ ♥
    ~Michelle via Elephant Facebook

  6. Camilla says:

    Elephant journal is soooo weird…full of strange April fools jokes that are just dull??? Must be a yankee thang methinks! Anyways….good on ya for keeping ya ankle biter on the tit for all of two years…it is truly a very rewarding, bonding experience that I can atest to.

  7. Hello Brooke,
    Thank you for your article today on Breast feeding. My sons are grown now, but one of my regrets is that I stopped breastfeeding my first born, when he was only 6 months old, based on others, including MD, opinions. It did not feel right, in my gut, and I did not follow my own instincts, being a young naive mother. With my second son, 10 years later, I followed my motherly instincts and he was a healthy, happy, well fed baby who naturally moved to sippy cups and beyond at a natural and healthy flow. I still regret the months that were short changed from my firstborn…and I wonder if his allergies and asthma in childhood were related to not getting the protective antibodies from me. THANK you for getting the word out to new mothers now, to embrace the gift of breastfeeding.
    Namaste,
    Imelda via Facebook

  8. You are so welcome. And don't you feel guilty for one second. 6 months of breastfeeding is fantastic immunity and gives wonderful health benefits! Celebrate that 6 months. Many mamas (most mamas) don't even see that milestone!
    Love and Light,
    Brooke Kochel

  9. Sheri says:

    Thank you for sharing! I am HUGE breastfeeding advocate. I have been nursing for 8.5yrs straight… three daughters, nursing through pregnancies, tandem nursing, my older two weaning at ages 3 and 5. With my first, I really took things day by day and found that it really became so simple and convenient. That just continued as our family grew. My youngest is 3.5yo, and I can tell that her nursing days are in the final stages as she is only nursing in the evening for a very short amount of time. I am cherishing each nursing session because my nursing days are numbered.

    I used to scratch my head trying to figure out why more women didn't do it. It wasn't until I got heavily involved with a local LLL group that I realized how fortunate I was to avoid all the "booby traps" of breastfeeding and that I was able to be home full-time with my girls up until recent months when I started teaching yoga part-time. Not only are formula companies, like Nestle, unethical and contribute to BF'ing failure, but our country's lack of support for nursing mothers is a major factor. The comment above about not having the time or place to pump while working being an issue is part of it. A Texas (my home state) judge has ruled that federal laws allowing employees to attend to family medical needs and prohibiting sex-based discrimination don’t apply to breastfeeding women who want to pump milk during the work day. Any protection during pregnancy ends the moment a woman gives birth. It makes me want to scream.

    Mothers are guilt ridden when they can't make BF'ing work, but they don't realize that they have been set up to fail by the formula industry leading women to mistrust their bodies and our country with lack of protection to allow for pumping or even an extended maternity leave. I only hope that my advocacy for BF'ing will help pave the way for my daughter's when they time comes for them to have their own children to not be set up for failure and to not have to choose between family (helping facilitate a successful BF'ing relationship) and work if that is their desire.

  10. Thank you for sharing Sheri! Nursing is no easy task at times. I've had my fair share of road bumps…tube feeding and nipple shields in the beginning, a three month round of painful thrush, and an all night nurser that left me delirious for the first year but the benefits and sheer joy of the relationship and confidence I see in her was worth it all!
    Also, I am from Texas and there was a law then that stated wherever the mother has a legal right to be, she has the legal right to breastfeed. For example, someone cannot ask you to leave a store or go the bathroom in a restaurant, which happens frequently!
    Brooke Kochel

  11. Mandy says:

    Love all the facts and landmarks in timeline for breastfeeding. So glad that our generation can feel empowered and knowledgeable and make such healthy, life-affirming choices–always with love compassion, and tolerance mixed in for those who have different experiences or choose another path. Nothing about nurturing and raising kids is ever completely easy, and breastfeeding has its ins and outs, but I looooved that time with my kids, and still remember the innocence and carefree moments of sitting down to nurture–and relax. With my first, I never tried to multi-task while breastfeeding, and I think that was best. Another interesting article, Brooke. Kudos!

    • Thanks Mandy! The best advice I ever got on parenting was "Do whatever works for you" That's why I prefaced the article with a remark about compassion and non-judgment. I just wish our culture and industry supported nursing mothers and gave them a fighting chance :)
      Brooke Kochel

  12. instinctive mom says:

    Mine had his last nursing on the night before his 6th birthday. It was a lovely period in both our lives, and I highly recommend child lead weaning!

    • Thanks for sharing! I honesty don't see how people wean any other way. Maybe their kiddos aren't as persistent as mine! I've been on 2 "weaning trips" overseas for 2 weeks at a time. Still didn't work!
      Brooke

  13. Omg!!! I had to read this!! I had to know why this 7 year old was still in the titty!! Thanks I needed the laugh!
    ~Kyli via Facebook

  14. shay says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the brand new Elephant Health & Wellness Homepage.

    Shay Dewey
    Please "like" Elephant Health & Wellness on Facebook.

  15. Great aricle, you got me!
    ~Lauren via Facebook

  16. jeanine says:

    my son, even after his 7th bday would from time to time…come and ask for "tété"…we would both laugh a lot as i was highly skeptical about having milk while he would swear the opposite…*precious*! I do believe that the hypersexualisation of modern societies comes from the lack of this first, fulfiling mothering relationship.

    • Thanks for sharing Jeanine! After multiple weaning attempts, and long periods apart "weaning trips", my daughter swears I've still got "Milkies" :)
      Brooke Kochel

  17. Funny one! You had me going!
    ~Heather via Facebook

  18. Great article Brooke, and such a great way to grab attention and promote a good cause. As you can see, our views are very liberal in the UK…….(ok this link is a comedy sketch from a popular, if a little dark at times show called Little Britain) http://youtu.be/DuPBbFOiygo
    ~Claire via Facebook

  19. Amy says:

    Brooke – that was a fantastic article. I nursed both of my children my son to 14 months, he weaned when I started traveling for work frequently. He still had to cuddle for an hour at night on the rocker. My daughter and I had a rough start to nursing, she was 3 lb 14 oz at birth and spent a week in the NICU. She left on the breast and the bottle. We met with a lactation consultant, used nipple shields, etc but she was a happy healthy baby. She loved her “nursies” and was forced to wean when I was hospitalized for 2 two-week hospitalizations. However, she still swore there was milky there and would try once in a while. If fact she asked last week. I was hospitalized in August when she was 25 months. I would have gladly let her self wean, but this worked out ok too. I met my milestone of 2, even though most people thought I was crazy. She didn’t and that’s all that matters!

    Shared it on facebook.

    • I've been on many two week "weaning" trips. And she swears theirs still "milkies" in there! I guess we adults are more easily fooled than these sweet babes with their natural instincts. Thanks for sharing!
      Brooke K

  20. yogaboca says:

    Brooke, great way to bring awareness to a serious issue!

  21. MZ says:

    April Fools! Although, I can’t imagine breastfeeding my 6yr old, he is 4ft 5in and 63lbs…that would be a little awkward and strange. He says “eew” about boobs, and girls in general.

  22. guest says:

    thanks, I really liked the article. However, I still feel bad for the mothers who can't breastfeed (for whatever reason, medical or work-related) I think all those breastfeeding advocates should be considerate of other peoples situation and not make them feel guilty. Yes breastfeeding is best but sometimes it's just not feasible…

    • Yes, promoting breastfeeding is always a delicate subject because all mothers should be celebrated, no matter their choices. Motherhood is hard enough. That's what my intention was in the opening of the article when I mentioned that I had compassion for all mothers, no matter what. But with so many babies lives at stake, it's become a world public health issue that needs attention and education. I've never judged a mother, especially when she makes a well informed decision, either way.

  23. Karli Pearson says:

    I'm definately a fan of breastfeeding and value it immensely but I can see that some Mum's are made to feel very guilty when they just can't make it work for them. First bub weaned at 18 months and my second at around 8 months. I went back to work when she was 5 months old and pumped everyday. I had loads of milk available fro her to drink while i wasn't home but she refused to take it. Initially she refused to take a bottle at all and we struggled. Finally we tried formula (at the advice of a child health nurse) and she took it no problems at all. She still fed from me intially, everytime it was offered but she wouldnot touch EBM out of a bottle. Eventually I gave up pumping as it was heartbreaking to keep throwing it away. At around 8 months she refused to drink from me but heartily gulped down bottles. I still had plenty of milk supply but she wouldn't take it. I feel good that she got as much from me as she did, because it is so valuable, but feel awful that she didn't get more.

    • You're time spent breastfeeding should be celebrated Karli! You've done a wonderful service for your children, BOTH of them!! 8 months is a tremendous amount of protection from immunity and benefits. And it's so much longer the the average mother nurses. Don't forget the benefits you have received as well! A double dose of protection from osteoperosis, breast and ovarian cancers. You're babes are lucky to have such a compassionate, persistent mama. Thank you for sharing your experience. It helps moms everywhere to hear from other moms so they aren't so isolated.

  24. chalres says:

    First, Thank you for teaching an ignorant person (me) not only the basics of all aspects of nursing and midwifery, but also your experitse and facts on the subject.

    Second, I feel most individuals, not affected directly by breastfeeding and midwifery (home birth, birth centers, field eithics – as some cultures are subject to the labor process being the mother, by herself, in a field, giving birth and catching the babe herself…amazing) are ignorant to both subjects, so I appreciate you sharing with individuals, not in the know.

    Third, about the midwife in Indiana. I'm ashamed to call myself an American because of this act of ignorance of the law. My belief is it should be a women's right to choose how and where she gives birth, not the state, but the fact that the state of Indiana arrested a legal practicing midwife is wrong. This should be brought to the attention of the masses and decision makers.

    Thank you again Brooke, wonderful article (but you did not get me on the April Fool's) -much love, namaste

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts Charles. It takes a lot of support from men and fathers to make breastfeeding successful. It's the tribe/family support that helps moms and babies reach those important milestones. Please pass along to other fathers you know.

      And the legal issue with the Midwife in Indiana is a very serious one. The right to choose how and where to have a child, even with a safe licensed birth attendant, has been stripped of millions of American women. Her name is Ireena Keeslar. Their is a group on Facebook now that is keeping everyone informed of court dates and details. Please support the cause if you feel passionate about the subject.

  25. Joanna says:

    I breastfed to nearly five years and it started feeling wierd so I stopped then (even though I would have preferred that it was my child's choice). I'm pretty sure our western sexualised culture had a lot to do with my feelings…plus not seeing anyone else breastfeeding little boys instead of babies

    • Thank your for sharing your experience Joanna. Many women are ridiculed for extended breastfeeding even when they are going by the top medical professionals recommendation. I applaud you for going with your natural instincts.

  26. Go Brooke!! You go girl! x
    ~Evolution Parenting Facebook Page

  27. I'm glad I read this through to the last line…I was thoroughly confused.
    ~Jay via Facebook

    Thanks for reading Jay. I bet your armed now with more knowledge about breastfeeding than any man you know!
    ~Brooke

  28. Thank you Brooke Kochel for sharing the facts and your knowledge. Breastfeeding truly is one of God's "out of the box" creations…In my opinion, God has wit. Well done.
    ~Charles via Facebook

  29. Informative and hilarious article by activist-yogini Brooke Kochel!
    ~Ina via Facebook

  30. those years have long gone in our family but good sound advice…..Next how to deal with disconnected Teenagers or shall we say disconnected Parents….?
    ~Robert via Facebook

  31. Love that piece! Will share with our readers in tomorrows newsletter. :)
    ~Chloe via Twitter

  32. Great article Brooke, it's something everyone needs to read, so take a moment and educate yourself on birth, breastfeeding and midwiferey.
    CK via Facebook

  33. interesting fact – God created breastfeeding. Man created formula.
    ~Guy via Facebook

  34. Mine nursed until 18 months, and she weaned herself… My first I bottle fed, and was an awful experience!
    ~Angie via Facebook

  35. great article.
    ~Monica via Facebook

  36. Yes, but eventually won't his beard kind of scratch?…
    ~Stephen via Elephant Facebook

  37. Nursed all of my babies for over a year and cried like a baby when they were done. Wonderful article.
    ~Debbie via Elephant Facebook

  38. April Fools!
    ~Jenny via Elephant Facebook

  39. Primitive cultures seem more advanced in some ways/ late weaning for example
    ~Needle via Elephant Facebook

  40. I read your article on April 1 and talked to several friends about it. I did appreciate the sentiment of your article, and I am always thankful for people speaking out about normalizing nursing, especially nursing past infancy. That being said, my friends and I were disappointed with the April Fool's aspect of the article, and I'd like to share with you why privately.

    When I read the title of your piece, I was fairly shocked. This comes from the mama of a four year old who occasionally nurses. The information in your article was good, but I feel like the readers who may have really benefited from that info might have missed it – they were too busy waiting for the punchline.

    I don't want to come off as *that woman who nurses forever,* (because honestly, I'm ready to be done with my 4yo who still nurses once every week or two), but I feel like this was a loss for the *nursing past infancy* movement. What really disheartened my friends and I was this at the end: "My nursing daughter is only 2 and mostly weaned (Thank goodness!)." That "thank goodness" just affirms what many people already think – that nursing so long is unnatural, uncomfortable, unnecessary, etc.

    Having written several pieces online about nursing past infancy, I can personally attest to the awful comments mothers receive from readers who do not agree with this decision. Having a woman – a midwife! – poke fun at breastfeeding past infancy does not seem constructive to me, and to be honest, it hurts. Mothers who nurse past infancy feel enough shame without one of our own making a joke of this normal and healthy practice.

    I want to reiterate that I appreciate your intentions. It takes voices from all over – using different angles – to reach out to those who are outside of the breastfeeding community. I know that not everyone shares my gut reaction, and that you probably did reach some people who may think differently about nursing past infancy after reading your article.

    Thank you for taking time to read, and I hope that you can get a feel for where I'm coming from without feeling attacked. I welcome a dialogue with you, I do feel it is important for breastfeeding advocates to take time to communicate.

    Warmly,

    ~Concerned Breasffeeding Advocate via Email

    • I understand. And my daughter is almost 3 with no end in site. There is always a delicate balance when advocating nursing in the mainstream public. I mainly put the the last comment for validation from the masses so they would not discount my information. The article has been read 4000 times and shared 3000 on Facebook. I feel that even to normalize breastfeeding to age two would be a huge accomplishment in the US on a macro level. Over 50 people took time to comment on the article, sharing experiences, many extended nursers. Which I feel we need. To start a conversation. Give people a safe open forum for conversation so nursing moms don't feel isolated and have the facts, which aren't generally given by their OBs and Peds. Certainly not their friends or older generations who were encouraged not to nurse. I feel like I got the WHO 2 year + recommendation across effectively. That arms women with information to defend their choice to others and probably introduced an idea that many were unaware of. I also had some backlash from the other side, saying the article make mothers who "can't" nurse feel guilty, which I tried to avoid by my intro on compassion to all mothers no matter what. The nursing rates in the US just past 6 weeks is even so low! I'm looking at it from a macro public health issue. I think on a statistics level, normalizing breastfeeding past 6 weeks, 6 months, 1 year would affect a larger number of babies. We're both on the same side for sure! And I appreciate you taking time to respond.
      Warmly,
      Brooke

  41. Good writing, it fooled me for a minute. I thought that baby is not & did not think about the breastfeeding statement – just the age.
    However, the days do fly by and it could have been 7 years !!
    Love gail
    I sent it out to share
    ~via email

  42. Great article!

    ~Kim J. via Email

  43. I knew boobs were for sex at four. this would be gross and what i would consider abuse.dang 7?
    ~Merritt via America's Sexuality Day Facebook page

  44. Seriously after age 2 it's child porn.
    ~Evan via America's Sexuality Day Facebook page

  45. UMMMMMM? WOW!
    ~Saundra via Facebook

  46. Great article. I love the April fools part
    ~Andi via Facebook

  47. Im not a momma…yet, but I loved this blog.
    ~Susan via Facebook

  48. Mansoor Sikander says:

    I have a question ladies. My wife is a breast cancer survivor – she lost one breast and due to reconstruction, had the other, healthy breast reduced so her body could be symmetrical. The issue is that because of the reduction of the healthy breast, that breast's nipple was removed and then reattached – does anyone know if breastfeeding from that side would be possible after all this? She's really passionate about being able to do that – thank you!

    • Thank you so much for sharing Mansoor! Having men and husbands involved, knowledgable and supportive plays a huge role in the success of breastfeeding. The first thing I would do is contact a Lactation Consultant in your area. They are licensed medical professionals specifically trained to deal with simple to complicated breastfeeding issues. Most major hospitals will have on staff. They are officially called International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. IBCLC will be after their name. What city are you in and I'll try to connect you with one. You can google this too and find one in your area.

      From what I understand, if the nipple's intricate vessels that help milk come out are cut during a surgery, it's more unlikely that milk will be able to come out, but its very individual. Their are other options for if that's the case. Their are milk banks all over the US where mother donate extra breast milk, which is sterilized and made available for mothers who can't produce. You can put this milk in a contraption that hangs around the mom's neck and tape a small tube to the breast. The baby latches on to the breast, gets breast milk which allows it to get the benefits. It also allows for skin to skin contact and bonding of mother and baby and she's get the experience.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions. I'm happy to help or clarify.

  49. [...] Read full article here to find out the real scoop… Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Filed under Uncategorized and tagged babies, birth, breast, breastfeeding, breastmilk, childbirth, homebirth, midwifery, midwives, moms, nursing, sex | Leave a comment [...]

  50. great article! Thanks!
    ~Christina via Facebook

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