Sustained breastfeeding, one of the tenets of attachment parenting, has been placed centre stage due to TIME magazine’s controversial cover photo of Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her almost four-year-old son. Thanks TIME for reigniting the debate around attachment parenting; this is a long overdue, necessary public debate and one to be celebrated, especially if it leads to a more balanced, understanding of sustained breastfeeding.
However, reading the backlash so far confirms my suspicions, and therefore saddens and frustrates me; most of us are ignorant and misinformed about sustained breastfeeding, so deeply culturally conditioned, that we accept and propound the many breastfeeding myths which have been floating around Western society for the past century or so, mostly without question and touted as facts. We have lost awareness of the facts because so few of us actually see breastfeeding practiced (or practice it ourselves), especially with older children. It has become a dying art, and with it we have suffered a huge collective loss of skills and knowledge.
Unsurprised by the defensive chafing of attachment parenting and a renewal of the ‘mommy wars’ between ‘so-called’ attachment and non-attachment parenters, I began formulating answers in response, trying unsuccessfully to answer the many attacks placed at mothers who nurse past one year. I soon realised even a thesis on this subject would only begin to unravel the cultural, political, social, sexual, economic and historical interplay of factors behind this phenomena. However, not all of the mainstream media portrayal of sustained breastfeeding has been negative; I have been pleasantly surprised by a number of responses, such as that by Channel 4 news, with guest speakers Denise Sumpter and Dr Charlotte Faircloth http://www.channel4.com/news/staying-abreast-of-the-debate.
Instead, I decided to write a personal response to Bonnie Fuller’s ‘Hollywood life’ blog post ‘Time’ Breastfeeding Mom Is Nuts Like Other Extreme ‘Attachment Parenters’!’ posted 11th May 2012, in the hope this will dispel a few of the many myths she and so many others, espouse. I only speak for myself, but know through extensive research on this topic, through attending La Leche League GB, spending the past two years with other mothers who breastfeed, as well as an upbringing where sustained breastfeeding has been practised as the norm, that I DO NOT speak alone.
Note on terms used; I choose to use the term sustained breastfeeding in reference to the activity of breastfeeding past a child’s first birthday up until the point he/she naturally weans, which usually falls between the ages of three and seven. The term ‘extended breastfeeding’ carries the assumption that this activity is extended beyond its ‘normal’ duration. However, the length of time a child breastfeeds for is in the West is very much culturally determined.
Check out tomorrow, Friday and Saturday for my response
About Caroline Jane Cole
I am a full-time Mum to Ewan James, born in June 2010. When I get chance, I write on natural parenting issues, on topics including sustained breastfeeding, baby-wearing, bed-sharing, home-education and natural living, for parenting magazines and websites. I am an active member of La Leche League GB and a trained breastfeeding peer supporter. See my website; www.stoneageparenting.com.