Why I Still Breastfeed my 7-Year-Old. {April Fools’ edition}

Via Brooke Kochel
on Apr 1, 2012
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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.

 

Relephant: 

Weaned: A Reluctant Requiem for Breastfeeding.

42,474 views

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.

Comments

84 Responses to “Why I Still Breastfeed my 7-Year-Old. {April Fools’ edition}”

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

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

  3. April Fools!
    ~Jenny via Elephant Facebook

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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. Great article!

    ~Kim J. via Email

  8. 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

  9. 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

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

  11. UMMMMMM? WOW!
    ~Saundra via Facebook

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

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

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. […] 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 […]

  17. great article! Thanks!
    ~Christina via Facebook

  18. 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.

  19. […] 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. […]

  20. 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.

  21. 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?'…………

  22. 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.

  23. 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?

  24. 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.

  25. guest says:

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

  26. guest says:

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

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. Leah says:

    But, no.

    As a social worker, I’m gonna have to opine that breastfeeding past one is fairly creepy and probably more for the mother than the child, and breastfeeding after two borders on child abuse.

  31. Chill says:

    DL Moore, you strike me as someone who takes offense to many things just for the sake of being offended. Relax, it’s a blog, not the State of the Union Address. She wanted click bait and what better excuse than April Fools Day. You clicked, I clicked in fact many people who wanted to be shocked and appalled that she was breast feeding a 7 yo clicked and are now better informed because of it. It did it’s job. If Seinfeld, a Jewish man, can call a man withholding soup a Soup Nazi, than surely this woman can be afforded the same use of a colloquialism that has connotations of strictly aggressive in ones belief or manner.

    While it’s important we nourish our children properly, perhaps we can lead by example not to be so thin skinned. The world won’t do us such favors my dear.

  32. maryb says:

    I agree, there is no reason for a seven year old who is in 2nd grade to be nursing. I don't care what nut case breastfeeding feeding militia people are out there, there is no nutritional or nurturing need that can't be provided in healthier ways. First, beyond 2 years old, a child develops thought process, by 7 how does a child explain to their friends "excuse me, I need a drink, mom lift up your shirt", not too mention, the child can be picked on at this point by not only other kids but parents, too. They are playing T-ball, soccer, going to birthday parties, ect… in the U.S. no matter how much one wants to push their views, this is not fair to a child that can cause repercussions for them. This mother is selfish. Life is not just about mothering but slso letting a child be a normal child with normal friendships. This child will go out into society soon and be labeled as the kid that drinks from the tit. I breastfeeding fed my children, but only the recommended time, when they wanted a soppy cup and started modeling like others to drink formula, and juice, water ect, breastfeeding feeding was out the window.

  33. Kae says:

    I think my two year old would consider me forcing her to stop breastfeeding more abusive than letting her continue. I wish she was weaned. It's exhausting, physically uncomfortable at times, and definitely not being continued for me. Also, her pediatrician is thrilled I'm still breastfeeding her and her one year old sister.

    Fortunately, as a social worker, your ignorant opinion holds no weight on the matter and the scientific community, both social and biological, all say that breastfeeding past one and two are nothing but beneficial. Which is based on observed facts. So thanks for sharing your thoughts (and pointlessly sharing your profession , but they're completely wrong.