Response to classroom question of "upper age limit" - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 10 Old 11-28-2007, 03:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Background:
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!

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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.

Sincerely,



------------------------------------
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#2 of 10 Old 11-28-2007, 03:28 PM
 
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The AAP actually updated their Statement on human milk in 2005 to address this. Taken from here (I put the whole section in to avoid "editing")

Quote:
Pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of lifehttp://aappolicy.aappublications.org/math/Dagger.gif and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection.30,34,128,178184 Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.185
  • Complementary foods rich in iron should be introduced gradually beginning around 6 months of age.186187 Preterm and low birth weight infants and infants with hematologic disorders or infants who had inadequate iron stores at birth generally require iron supplementation before 6 months of age.148,188192 Iron may be administered while continuing exclusive breastfeeding.
  • Unique needs or feeding behaviors of individual infants may indicate a need for introduction of complementary foods as early as 4 months of age, whereas other infants may not be ready to accept other foods until approximately 8 months of age.193
  • Introduction of complementary feedings before 6 months of age generally does not increase total caloric intake or rate of growth and only substitutes foods that lack the protective components of human milk.194
  • During the first 6 months of age, even in hot climates, water and juice are unnecessary for breastfed infants and may introduce contaminants or allergens.195
  • Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother, especially in delaying return of fertility (thereby promoting optimal intervals between births).196
  • There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.197
  • Infants weaned before 12 months of age should not receive cow's milk but should receive iron-fortified infant formula.198
There is NO set deadline to stop breastfeeding!
There are lots of studies referenced as you can see, I'd be interested in reading some of them, especially the one below.

Dettwyler KA. A time to wean: the hominid blueprint for the natural age of weaning in modern human populations. In: Stuart-Macadam P, Dettwyler KA, eds. Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter; 1995:39 –73

ETA- http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...ec/ai_60072778
there ya go. Children were designed to wean from 2 1/2 to 7 years of age
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#3 of 10 Old 12-01-2007, 11:22 AM
 
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I think the letter sounded great! to you for following up on this.

Just as an FYI, I think the "titters" were just that -- nervous laughter because they assumed this topic was sexual . I mean, they KNOW it's not -- but somehow they have been brainwashed by modern American society that it is.

Someday maybe we can get over that bias.

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#4 of 10 Old 12-01-2007, 01:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BusyBeeMom View Post
Background:
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.
Overall the letter looks good. However I would definitely shy away from comparing extended breastfeeding with such an extended list of negatives. By doing so you propagate the idea that women who breastfeed past 6-12m are of the same genre as the uneducated, poor, criminal etc. I would try to come up with a more balanced list of examples to associate extended breastfeeding mothers with but still get the idea of tolerance across, respectful disagreement. Maybe focus on a variety of culturaly alternative family/parenting choices that you know your classmates wouldn't "titter" at and then you can ask your prof "how is choosing to nurse a 4y old that different from these?"

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#5 of 10 Old 12-01-2007, 08:24 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ziursrm View Post
Maybe focus on a variety of culturaly alternative family/parenting choices that you know your classmates wouldn't "titter" at and then you can ask your prof "how is choosing to nurse a 4y old that different from these?"

I second this.

And, way to go for doing this! I have found that most people giggle at this topic b/c, as pp mentioned, it is close enough to sex to be a "danger" area of the type that comedy is made of.
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#6 of 10 Old 12-02-2007, 02:02 AM
 
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I think its a very well-written and overall well-thought out letter... though I do agree that you might not want/need to include quite so many other negative things to judge others via...
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#7 of 10 Old 12-07-2007, 07:39 AM
 
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Have you had a response to your letter?
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#8 of 10 Old 12-07-2007, 12:38 PM
 
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Hmmm... what would be the "upper limit" to hugging your child, kissing your child, expressing other sorts of comforts? We will always be in a society that has decided our breasts are sexual first and foremost....
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#9 of 10 Old 12-07-2007, 01:34 PM
 
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Tell 'em Manny Ramirez nursed until he was 4 and Michael Jordan until he was 3. I have found that using athletic gods as examples is a very good tactic in this sports-obsessed world.
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#10 of 10 Old 12-07-2007, 02:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soxfan Mom View Post
Tell 'em Manny Ramirez nursed until he was 4 and Michael Jordan until he was 3. I have found that using athletic gods as examples is a very good tactic in this sports-obsessed world.
... Says soxfan

Agree with the others about not comparing it to the negatives so much. Also, I believe the world average for true self-weaning is 4.2 year. So some will be older and some will be younger but that is the average and it's certainly not "wrong" after that.

LP
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