I'm taking a public health class and we had to give a presentation on a community organization that deals with some health issue. I chose LLL, and mentioned that (among others) one challenge they face is the taboo against nursing older babies/children. Afterwards, someone asked me what I thought the upper age limit should be. Of course, I said I don't think there's a specific limit, I imagine most kids would wean between 2 and 4 years, and who am I to say anyway? There were titters and even the professor chimed in in a fairly judgmental way. Mind you, this is an extremely liberal professor/class and NO ONE would dream of voicing any judgment or imposing values on people who are poor, a different race, uneducated, homeless, immigrants, of various sexual orientations, have criminal records, substance abuse problems, mental illness, etc. etc. etc. The professor IMMEDIATELY calls out any sort of bias/judgment toward any of the aforementioned groups.
I don't think I answered as well as I could have and wanted to email the professor with a better thought-out response that she is free to share with the class if she likes. This is what I have so far. Any thoughts? I'm going for succinct, thought-provoking, and non-inflammatory (I'm of the "get more flies with honey" school of thought).
All edits or comments welcome. Thanks!
Dear Prof XXX:
I have to say that I was a bit dismayed today as it seemed people in class felt comfortable imposing their values or passing judgment on mothers/babies who nurse past whatever that magical age is at which it becomes inappropriate. One of the main things I have gotten out of this course is the importance of providing education, support, and services to all people without judgment. I don't think any of my fellow students (at least out loud) would judge people with addictions, criminal records, mental illness, or the poor, the marginally educated, or otherwise disenfranchised. I find it fascinating that it seems somehow ok to judge a woman for feeding her child.
I'm sorry that I was not better prepared to answer the question posed about the cut-off age at which breastfeeding should stop. Had I thought it out in advance, I would have said something along the lines of the following.
I would have asked what happens on day 365 of a child's life (or insert any other arbitrary age) that makes it suddenly inappropriate for that child to feed in the evolutionarily and physiologically normal way? All the major medical organizations recommend a minimum of one year of nursing, and no upper age limit (min one year from the American Academy of Pediatricians, min two years from the WHO, and the American Academy of Family Pracitioners warns that weaning before two years increases risk of infection). I also question why people feel that, although mammalian milk is a species specific food, there is an age at which a human baby or child is "too old" for human milk, but should then drink copious quantities of cow's milk, which is of course cow breast milk.
Please feel free to share this information with the class (or anyone else) if you feel it might be of value.