This thread seems to be nearly played out, but I'll put in one more word. I can agree to disagree. I do NOT think there should be a law against breast feeding at any age since it does get into privacy issues, and the legal bar would likely be set much too low (IMO). If someone wants to bring a complaint of abuse against this woman, it should be based on more than the simple act of SBF. I also see the merit of Devrock's (and others') argument that if we disagree with a cultural norm, we should define the norm as the problem rather than those who refuse to conform to it. Ultimately, I guess I'm not ready to disagree with the cultural norm in this case, though. (I am also not ready to say that BF an 11 year old is *always* wrong in every place and time, since I can't know every possible circumstance, but I have grave reservations. In this case, I am very troubled by the fact that the mother "brags" about it at work. That indicates to me that she may not have her child's best interest at heart.)
The one argument I've heard that I really don't agree with at all is that if a child wants to do something, he must have a legitimate and normal need. With regard to BF, this is certainly true of babies and toddlers. (Studies of biology and anthropology back this up.) Preschoolers and slightly older children may have a need as well, although sometimes their request to nurse may have as much to do with boredom as anything else. (I have heard this at many LLL meetings, so it *must* be true!
) But there *are* limits for everything, and in a few cases, the mother may need to take a more active role to help her child find ways to replace nursing as a coping strategy. Even in the animal world, you can see mothers taking a role in weaning. They will cut nursing sessions short, or refuse to nurse all together as their young approach or exceed the normal age for weaning. I'm not arguing against child-led weaning per se, I'm just saying that a mother's instinct and experience is as important and natural
as a child's. A mother brings to the relationship her experience and wisdom. Not all children develop normally; physical, mental, and emotional problems *do* occur. They are usually not anyone's fault, but it's the parent's job to prevent these problems where possible and seek treatment for them when prevention is not possible. For example, a child's desire to wash her hands when they are dirty is normal and healthy, but if she starts "needing" to wash her hands 20 times a day, something is wrong. As a parent, I would be remiss if I simply gave in to this "need" without exploring what might be causing such unusual behavior. (This is an imperfect example, since excessive hand washing is *never* normal, whereas breastfeeding is *always* normal for infants. Someone earlier mentioned toileting, which may be a better example. I think the point is still valid.)
I stand by my opinion that BF and 11 year old boy in this (or any?) culture is unhealthy. Criminal? No. Bad or lazy parenting? Probably. Risky? Yes.
Oy. I've spent too much time on this debate - my house is a mess!