Opinion Brief

Breast-feeding: Is 6 too old?

No, says a British woman who breast-feeds her school-age son alongside her infant. Many others, however, are not so sure

The story of an English woman who nurses her infant alongside her 6-year-old has parents around the world debating "how old is too old" when it comes to breast-feeding. The woman, Amanda Hurst, tried to wean her eldest when he was 3, but when he threw tantrums, she let him continue to nurse. "I know some people think it's strange," she says. "But I think it's perfectly natural." Is it?

It is creepy and wrong: Breast-feeding is usually a "beautiful and natural thing," but it's something else entirely when it's a 6-year-old who's doing the suckling, says Wendy Atterberry at The Frisky. The mother in this case claims it's more convenient and says she's too lazy to deal with baby bottles, which makes me think she may be clinically depressed. She needs to "get out of bed" and pour a bowl of Cheerios for her son.
"Woman still breast-feeds 6-year-old!"

And embarrassing for the child: I "do fear" for this woman's son, says Ursula Hirschkorn at Parent Dish. "By the age of 6 children are becoming increasingly aware of what others think of them." By continuing to breast-feed him, she's "opening her son up to teasing and mockery from his classmates who, quite reasonably, wouldn't understand his unusual feeding habit."
"Breast-feeding a six-year-old at the same time as his baby brother?"

It is the mother's decision, not yours: My son is almost 2 and a half, "happy," "healthy," and still breast-feeding, says Mayim Bialik, the child actress turned neuroscientist, at Raising Kvell. It has lots of health benefits, "and in all primates, nursing continues well into 'toddlerhood.'" I hope my son is done by age 3 — I "see 4- and 5-year-olds nursing, and I cannot imagine it for me." But "ultimately, I get to parent the way I want to, and you get to parent the way you want to."
"I breast-feed my toddler. Got a problem with it?"

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