The recent Time magazine cover featuring a woman breastfeeding a child (not an infant) may have stirred up a lot of controversy, but it does raise a valid point as well.
How long should women breastfeed? We know that breast is best for countless reasons.
But in the interests of the well being of mother and child, what is the optimum period that a woman should breastfeed?
Jamie Lynne Grumet, a 26-year-old mother from Los Angeles is the woman featured on the Time cover. She spoke about breastfeeding her son who is now nearly four and says she plans to continue for another year.
Is it OK to breast feed a 3-year-old?
On the Time magazine cover, a woman is standing and breastfeeding her three year old son.
People have responded by criticizing this as unnatural, perverted and even dangerous; but is it? However, anthropologists assert that this is normal and natural and nothing that needs to be commented against.
In fact in more traditional societies, women may continue to breastfeed babies to up to three to five years. It is only in westernized societies, where incidence of breastfeeding is already low, that women breastfeed for so short a time.
The fact is that many people question the arbitrary cut off point that many suggest for breastfeeding; that mothers can or should give up breastfeeding when the child is a year, a year and a half or two years old.
Women as well as experts question why it isn’t OK for women to continue to breastfeed since this offers the child valuable nutrition and strengthens the baby-mother bond. There are immune benefits that the child derives as well. So there are a lot of arguments in favor of breastfeeding the baby until later in life.
When should breastfeeding stop?
So obviously the natural question is until when is it OK to breastfeed? The answer to that would be until the mother and the baby, are comfortable doing so. Many mothers believe in baby-led weaning which is fine. Other women choose to stop for practical or logistical reasons, which is also fine.
Remember even breastfeeding for some time or supplementary breastfeeding still offers a lot of the immune and nutritional benefits to the baby.
So don’t worry about what people are going to think or say. Do what is right for you – what feels right to you as a mother and to your baby. This is what will make you happy rather than following the dictates of others.