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Excuse Me While I Breastfeed My Seven-Year-Old

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I still remember the day very vividly. I was waiting tables at the Lawrence Old Chicago (may it rest in peace) and I walked up to my first table of the day to take their drink orders. When I looked down, I was horrified to see a mom openly breastfeeding her toddler. Not only had I rarely, if ever, seen a woman breastfeed so freely out in public, but I had NEVER witnessed a mom breastfeed a child old enough to ask for it... with words.

I was shocked, disgusted and downright offended. I was sure this woman was mentally scarring her child. She was a negligent mother and I was sure of it (Of course, as a 22-year-old, I had EVERYTHING figured out).

Now, I’m her. Well, not exactly her, but in the same species. It’s just one of the many things that switched in my head when I had my own children. I rarely use a cover now. I only go to a back room if I know it will make the people I’m around very uncomfortable. B is past the age of one and I don't see us stopping any time soon. Therefore, I'm the one nursing my toddler who asks for it by saying, “Meh.”

I'm a crazy hippie. I'm a weirdo. Call me whatever you want. The fact is it’s good for her. Ask the World Health Organization. They recommend exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age and continued breastfeeding with solid foods for up to two years and beyond.

That being said, my current views on this were rocked last week. A friend of mine showed me a clip from a documentary where a child was still breastfeeding at the age of seven. She (in a British accent) says, “I'd rather have lots of breastmilk than a million melons.” Sorry, I have to laugh again as I type that.

In all seriousness though, it disturbed me that this elementary school-aged child was still breastfeeding. She drew pictures about it and even named her mother’s breasts. But I’m kind of conflicted about how I feel about this. Science has shown that kids who are breastfed longer have higher IQs. The health benefits are great — for both mom and the kiddo. However, at what point do we sacrifice a healthy relationship with breastfeeding for a higher IQ?

I mean, I personally don't have problems with a three- or even a four-year-old breastfeeding for occasional comfort, but I would be totally creeped out by 12-year-old doing it. So where is the cut off and why? Is it when they learn about sex? Is it when they go to school? Is it when they potty-train? Even though I no longer agree with my previous stance on this, I’m still not sure where to draw the line.

At what age is it detrimental to the child to continue? Or is it at all?

I don’t think I’ll nurse B much longer if we even make it to age two. That’s just where my comfort level ends. I get why other women would continue though. But there are those (even some in my own family) who think it’s crazy to continue after a year.

What is your stance (whether you breastfed or not)? At what age or stage is it time to throw in the towel and tell the kid the milk machine is closed?

By the way, if you want to check out the documentary I saw, you can watch it here. Beware, they show boobs (I know! The horror!).

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