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Why Moms Choose Extended Breastfeeding

A Mother Defends Breastfeeding Her 7-Month-Old, 3-, and 5-Year-Old Kids

Here's a post from our partners at BabyCenter! Every week, we bring you the best parenting and lifestyle stories from the experts at BabyCenter, including this post about extended breastfeeding.

Extended breastfeeding existed largely at the margins of motherhood until May 2012, when TIME magazine’s provocative cover pushed it into the spotlight.

The issue featured California mom Jamie Lynn Grumet nursing her then 4-year-old son, and the tagline, “Are you mom enough?” proved to be just as controversial as the image itself.

Related: Raising a boy who likes pink

While the TIME cover managed to outrage just about every category of moms, it also succeeded in getting people talking. Now, two years later, UK mom Samantha Williams ­hopes to spark that conversation once again. In an interview with The Mirror, the 42-year-old gives a glimpse into her own experience with extended breastfeeding, revealing that she still nurses all three of her children, who are aged 7 months, 3 and 5.

“I never intended to breastfeed for so long. I simply felt it was a bit cruel and unfair to just cut the older ones off when it brings so many emotional and physical benefits,” Williams says, explaining that she tandem nurses, with one of her older children latching on at the same time as the baby. Though neither of them now feel comfortable nursing in public, her 5-year-old son, Trevor, “breastfeeds maybe once a week,” while his 3-year-old sister Claire “feeds about once a day.”

Keep reading to see what Samantha's husband thinks and the reaction she's received.

Not surprisingly, Williams says that she’s been on the receiving end of more than a few stares and glares.

“I’ve heard it all,” she admits. “People think we’re weird and we’re setting our kids up to be weird. They think the normal thing is for the mum to cut the kids off at around the age of one and be done with it. I’ve been told the kids will be too ­attached to me for their own good. And some people think I’m being selfish — that I can’t let go of my babies . . . You can’t really force a child to do anything after about 18 months, let alone latch on to a breast. It’s their choice and they love it.”

Williams’s husband Eddie is also completely on board with her decision to nurse far beyond “the norm.”

“It doesn’t bother me what anyone else thinks — this is right for our family and that’s what matters,” he says. “If you like a food and it’s not harmful — eat it. What’s the problem? Trevor will occasionally come into our bedroom, he’ll see the baby breastfeeding and think, ‘I fancy a bit.’ It’s not like he’s having it for breakfast, dinner, and tea.”

Critics aside, the mom of three hopes that by sharing her story she might encourage other moms to think more about extended breastfeeding: “I know some people may find us strange,” she admits. “But I’m really proud of my family and I’m not ashamed of what we do. I hope my story can help empower mothers. I’m thinking of them, not the few silly people who will find be offended by it.”

I’m all for families finding what works for them, naysayers be damned. That being said, I know that extended breastfeeding isn’t for me. There comes a time when I want my kids to start inching their way toward independence, and when I want to reclaim a tiny bit of that for myself. I don’t think that’s selfish, I think it’s healthy and essential. Like Samantha Williams, like every mom, I want to always be able to connect with and comfort my children, but for me, breastfeeding beyond a certain point just isn’t the best way to do that.

— Carolyn Robertson

More great reads from BabyCenter:
Are you an "I'm the baby" enabler?
The 5 best viral pregnancy videos of all time
These magic morning sickness-busting ginger pops are a life-saver
Should you bring your baby to a wedding?

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RavenTrue1379909906 RavenTrue1379909906 2 years
I breastfed my older kids till four and I am currently nursing my two year old. The article begins extended breastfeeding was on the fringe till Time magazine brought it up. An evolutionary biologist would point out that all humans everywhere have been breastfed for 4-5 years throughout human evolution except Europeans and Americans in the last fifty years. It' like Frankenfood, just because everyone you know does it, doesn't make it normal. Securely attached infants never become mentally ill. It's one of the cheapest, easiest ways you can make sure your children are healthy. I really wonder about the repression that leads to the belief that this is weird, like its better for them to be attached to video games or something. Whatever.
CoMMember13631181200179 CoMMember13631181200179 2 years
Weird, you say? I agree! This is simply ridiculous.
CoMMember13630061664031 CoMMember13630061664031 2 years
The dentist would say...good for her because the natural sucking action you get with breastfeeding, helps incoming teeth align properly. The orthadontist would say that longer the duration of breastfeeding, the lower the incidence of malocclusion. The speech therapist or pathologist would say breastfeeding promotes normal development of the face and mouth, it would make sense that breastfeeding would enhance speech development and help to prevent speech problems. Personally I would not have choosen to breastfeed up to 5 years, but if it is working for her I say go for it hon! :)
Proudtobeamommyof2 Proudtobeamommyof2 2 years
I think its amazing that she does'nt let society dictate whats right for her and her family. I still BF my 4 yo and am happy to say she is a strong, independent and healthy little girl. The choice to let her self-wean is one I'll never regret and she is doing it slowly but surly on her own. As for the Dentist/Orthodontist/Speech pathologist?? Her teeth are perfect (according to her dentist) as is her speech. In fact she has never had an ear infection and has been sick maybe twice in her young life. I can't say the same for my eldest who BF for 3 months. She had so many ear infections she needed tubes and was always catching every bug that went around. Both kids were in day care settings. I have to say the benifits of BF are well worth enduring the negative opinions of society, i just wish more women felt this way.
blubegonia blubegonia 2 years
i'd love to hear the reactions of a dentist, orthodontist and speech pathologist!
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