I practice “extended” nursing. I don't really consider it to be extended because historically and anthropologically, the average age for weaning is roughly three years of age. According to various studies, biologically, humans would normally wean at about three years of age if it is a societal norm. What I mean by weaning is that a child is no longer breastfeeding.
While the Koran says children should be breastfed until age two and historical evidence affirms that ancient Jewish women were expected to breastfeed until age three, somewhere in history, Americans have decided that breastfeeding a toddler is gross. There is a complete disconnect that Jesus was breastfed longer than my two year old has been.
Because it's considered taboo, I normally don't breastfeed my toddler in public. When the Time Magazine recently published an issue with a three year old nursing on the cover, I braced myself. The backlash was horrendous. Everyone from the ladies of The View to the average Jane blogger had something negative to say. I felt like I should run and hide in my home. Trying to explain why I practice “extended” nursing to others during that tumultuous time period felt like fighting a loosing battle.
I didn't care for the Time cover either but for different reasons than the ladies of The View. I felt like it made extended nursing look unnatural because a toddler standing on a chair to nurse is really uncommon. My toddler usually cuddles on my lap.
Fortunately many other brave bloggers spoke up. Many of them agreed that the Time cover made us look bad and that it was giving “extended” nursing a bad reputation. I watched as one by one they spoke about the things I've always spoke. Some said they nursed for bonding, for pain management, and/or for nutrition when at times their toddlers couldn't hold any food down. Why didn't Time interview any of us or take pictures of us breastfeeding in a natural environment? I think the most simple explanation is that controversy sells magazines. Printed magazines aren't making as much money as they did before.
After the hoopla died down, I have once again decided to nurse my toddler in public. Because in order to make “extended” nursing seem normal, people need to see what it looks like in real life– not how Time portrayed it. Even though I didn't like the magazine for what it did, it has some positive effects. People are becoming aware of “extended” nursing, and I have readied myself to tackle and ultimately crush a cultural norm– one nursing toddler at a time.
Latest posts by Laura Weirich (see all)
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