Back in the late '60s, it was not uncommon to see a mother breastfeeding her four-year old while enjoying an outdoor concert. Since the mid-70s or so, it's been fairly uncommon to spot a woman breastfeeding an infant, let alone an older child in a public setting!
Americans have a unique propensity for viewing a woman's breasts in the same way they view female (or male) genitalia -- as sexual "equipment" to be hidden from the general public. In recent years, women have begun to push back against this abnormal and unhealthy social norm, recognizing that the real and natural purpose of a woman's breasts are to make milk to nourish her offspring.
And they're not alone in their defiance of a misguided social norm. Experts say children up to six years old can benefit from breastfeeding, so why wouldn't a mother want to give her child the advantages of increased immunity, for example, for as long as possible?
The Experts Speak
According to the staff at the Mayo Clinic, in most of the world's cultures, children are weaned on average between the ages of 2 and 4. In some parts of the world, breastfeeding continues until a child is 6 or 7 years old. Unfortunately, in America, society tends to view breastfeeding as something that should be confined to your own home and hidden from the eyes of many who are offended when witnessing this most natural of acts.
Breastfeeding Provides More Than Nutrition Alone
Breastfeeding offers numerous benefits to both mothers and their children, such as:
- Breastfeeding -- both extended and for a period of at least one year -- has been proven to reduce the risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes in mothers.
- Research also suggests that breastfeeding, especially for extended periods, contributes to better overall health for moms.
- Babies and young children are getting what experts tout as the "gold standard" in nutrition. Your breast milk's basic composition naturally changes as your baby grows from infancy through the toddler years, ensuring that his nutritional needs are always being met. In fact, there is no known age when breastfeeding fails to provide proper nutrition for a child.
- Breastfeeding is proven to improve not only a mother's health, but the health of her child as well. Research indicates that the longer a mother breastfeeds, and the more breast milk her child receives, the better the effects on his health will be.
There have been a plethora of news stories of late involving strangers confronting women who "dare" to breastfeed in a public setting. One highly publicized story from June of this year involved a woman breastfeeding her baby in a Target store in Connecticut. The woman was sitting in the store's cafe quietly feeding her baby when she was approached by a man who called her actions "disgusting". The woman in question captured part of the confrontation on video, and confessed to being "shaken" by the encounter. On the positive side, a woman in the cafe came to her defense, telling her that she should not be ashamed of feeding her baby. In addition, two target employees soon confronted the man and escorted him away from the scene. (Connecticut law protects a woman's right to nurse in public, and it's also a policy with Target, so this man was not only wrong from a moral standpoint -- he was also breaking state law.)
Confrontations such as the one in Target happen everyday across the U.S., and most often with women breastfeeding their infants. You can imagine that the hostility toward women breastfeeding an older child is even worse! Fortunately for the small (and brave) subset of women who choose to follow the norms set forth by organizations like the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Family Physicians, it's usually not as necessary to breastfeed your older child in public since they're receiving other sources of nutrition as well. Most choose to breastfeed older children in the privacy of their own or a relative's home. Still, many face backlash even when people only hear about the fact that they're feeding a child who can walk and talk!
Breastfeeding Moms Unite for the Cause
Breastfeeding mothers are standing up for their rights more and more in an effort to end the stigma here in the U.S. and beyond. Women in Australia recently staged a protest aimed at making a clear statement about a mother's right to breastfeed her child whenever and where ever she chooses without being subjected to public shaming for doing so. The mass protest had dozens of breastfeeding mothers standing in the very same mall food court where a young mother had recently been asked to leave for breastfeeding her baby at one of the tables. All held their babies and let them nurse en masse in support of the rights of all breastfeeding "mums" in the country.
As the staff at the Mayo Clinic so eloquently put it, "How long you breastfeed is up to you and your (child)." They go on to advise that if and when extended family or strangers protest, it's your right to gently remind them that the decision about how long to breastfeed is yours -- not theirs. Try not to worry too much about what other people think, and just do what's right for you and your child.
We support extended breastfeeding and here are plenty of stylish clothing options to accommodate your needs through your breastfeeding months (or years!) at Bun Maternity!