Is Breastfeeding a 4-Year-Old Immoral and Inappropriate?

Community Leader
Registered: 10-01-2010
Is Breastfeeding a 4-Year-Old Immoral and Inappropriate?
1
Thu, 09-20-2012 - 3:45pm
Against Breastfeeding Toddlers

 

There is simply no need to breastfeed a child past 2-years-old; in fact it's somewhat odd and bordering on incestuous. There’s little evidence of any health benefits beyond the age of one. It seems morally wrong to breastfeed a child that is old enough to walk over to his mother and open her shirt. It may also be confusing and embarrassing to the child when he or she sees that his or her friends are no longer breastfeeding.

It’s self-indulgent on the mother’s part - it keeps the child more dependent psychologically and physically on the mother which gives her comfort. But this is harmful to the child's development. Children need to learn independence so they can go to nursery school and be socialized. It also leaves fathers out of the mix, especially if the father no longer lives with the mother.

How can these children learn to cope without their parents if they rely on the breast? At what age is it no longer appropriate in our society: 5-years-old? 6-years-old? 7-years-old?

Source: http://www.equibbly.com/disputes/is-breastfeeding-a-4-year-old-immoral-and-inappropriate

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2008

Let me pick apart the flaws in the anti-ext. BF'ing argument, one by one:

There is simply no need to breastfeed a child past 2-years-old;

Since the breastfeeding beyond 2 years old has very little research o done on it, and what does exists is mostly about nursing 2 year olds not 3 years olds and above, we really don't know from a scientific standpoint what the benefits may or may not be to that. What's important here is a) Is there are proven harm, b) Is there any proven benefits. If the answer to a and b is no proven harm but no proven benefits then while we can conclude it has no benefits the lack of harm fails to justify telling moms not to do it. Not everything must have a clear benefit for us to to something so long as it's not harmful. Now given that most children are not breastfed beyond a year even one can argue that no one truly needs to BF beyond 2 years. But if there are provable benefits then I see no reason to argue it should not happen solely because it does not qualify as a need.

in fact it's somewhat odd and bordering on incestuous.

It is only seen as odd because so few do it in this country. If you lived in a country where it was the norm then it would not be seen as odd. If we went back 60 years into the past in this country we would find it very odd for men to have long hair, something no one finds odd these days, though some older people still don't agree with the practice But the idea that it borders on incestuous is likely based on a false understanding of child sexuality. Adult heterosexual males and lesbian/bi-sexual females can and often do find the breasts of a women very sexually arousing. If anyone of us was to try and nurse of a woman's breast at our ages, we most likely would all find it very weird and sexual in nature as would many men. But we have all gone through puberty and have developed at different sense of sexuality then when we where kids. I know as a young girl that the sight of a sexy man did nothing for me but that change once I hit puberty. I finely understood why woman went wild for the bare-chested body builder guys and such. The same generally principle applies to a child nursing on their mother's breast at age 3 or 4. They do not perceive it a sexual as the likely will 10 years later.  Even if they are aware that adult men find a woman's breast sexually arousing, to them it's simply just a feeding and comfort object.

There’s little evidence of any health benefits beyond the age of one.

The reason there is little evidence most IMO is the simple fact that there is a dearth of studies on the practice. Thus I find this sort of argument to be faulty. If we do more studies and we find evidence it's harmful then you can argue against it on those grounds. But if it's simply has no proven benefits then who cares if some mother and child wishes to do it anyway? How is it any skin of other people's noses?

It seems morally wrong to breastfeed a child that is old enough to walk over to his mother and open her shirt.

I understand how a person growing up in a society where ext. BF'ing is a extreme minority practice might be weirded out by the sight of a child walking over to mom and opening her shirt to BF, but that IMO is not a good reason to argue mom's shouldn't be allowed to do it. There is nothing about that that makes a good argument for that being the cut-off point for breastfeeding. What exactly is about that that makes it a sign BF'ing should end other then it weirds some people out? That simply a problem of the viewer not the mom allowing that to happen, unless she would prefer the child asked to nurse first as nursing manners thing, of course.

It may also be confusing and embarrassing to the child when he or she sees that his or her friends are no longer breastfeeding.

I think children are capable of realizing that they may do things that other children do not do or no longer do. What about a vegetarian or kosher keeping child who sees other children eating meat or non-kosher foods? Does the potential there mean that kid's parent have to provide lunches with meat or non-kosher foods to avoid embarrassment?  Any confusion the ext. BF'ing child may can be dealt with by educating the child that no every parent allows their children to BF as long and not every child wants to BF that long. This kind of reminds me of the parents who don't want their child to be exposed to public BF'ing due to being uncomfortable with the idea of having to explain what the child just saw. Children are more capable of understanding things like BF'ing or differences in BF duration between them and their peers then some people realize.

It’s self-indulgent on the mother’s part - it keeps the child more dependent psychologically and physically on the mother which gives her comfort. But this is harmful to the child's development. Children need to learn independence so they can go to nursery school and be socialized.

This is another claim that completely lacks any evidence to back it up and is solely based on assumption as to why she continues to do it. Sure, maybe a small minority of mothers do it solely for their own personally benefit but most do it under a genuine belief in it's benefits. Even if research ends up proving they where wrong on the benefits, that still does not change that they genuinely believed in them, even if mistakenly. Doing something you belief is beneficial for your child even if proven later to be worthless does not make you self-indulgent. But it may very well be proven as I believe it will that the practice does in deed have benefits. I also have to take issue with the claim it harms the child and prevents socialization in nursery school. I have never seen any evidence of that and all the children I have met who went to nursery school still BF'ing (at least part time at home) have shown no signs of being unable to socialize. But once important fact to remember is that some children's personality makes them shy and less likely to socialize as well as others and that has nothing to do with ext. BF'ing or not and would not be different even if they were bottle-fed from birth. Correlation is not the same as causation.

It also leaves fathers out of the mix, especially if the father no longer lives with the mother.

This is another claim with that is simply not true. There are lots of ways for father to be involved with their kids even if they still BF. It may make visitation harder if the parents split while the child is still nursing but that can be worked around if both parents are willing to put in the effort.

How can these children learn to cope without their parents if they rely on the breast?

This women would be suprised to learn that many ext. BF'ing children cop just find when away for short periods from their moms despite having not yet weaned. I realize it may seem illogical that this would be the case but I have seen and experienced it myself with my own child. As weird as it may be to some, many attachment parenting preactices, including ext. BF'ing actually promote independance from what I have seen, I believe this is likely due to the fact a child who feels that their mom will always be their for them via frequent physical physical comfort, co-sleeping, BF'ing, etc. feels more confident beign away from mom for periods of time knowing mom will be their when they return. A child whose mom never comforts them whether by BF'ing or other means of confort may always worry their mom might go away and never return at any time so they become clingy.

At what age is it no longer appropriate in our society: 5-years-old? 6-years-old? 7-years-old?

The answer is that there has never been any specific age that has been determined through research as being too old. I think most ext. BF advocates would agee the BF'ing once puberty has started is probebly too long (with rare exception) but they also believe they generally normal children would self-wean before that point so it's unlikely to be an issue. I don't believe that a normal child will BF longer then would be appropriate so in general I would not worry about it. Maybe in some rare instances there could be a case made for setting a cut-off point for a rare child who doesn' self-wean before puberty despite no clear need for it. but I also believe a case could be made for some children with rare medical issue to be allowed BF beyond the world-wide average maximum BF duration (7 years).

Photobucket