The perplexed mother admitted that while she didn't mind indulging the child occasionally, she was concerned about the psychological impact of her decision.
When it comes to extended breastfeeding, it's usually the mother's call on when she deems fit to stop. However, in the case of a mother-of-two who recently reached out to the Care and Feeding advice column, it's her six-year-old daughter who's attempting to call the shots. Writing to author Nicole Cliffe, the unnamed mom revealed that her elder daughter has recently been wanting to breastfeed again after watching her 2-year-old brother nurse. The perplexed mother admitted that while she didn't mind indulging the child occasionally, she was concerned about the psychological impact of her decision.
“Extended breastfeeding may not be our cultural norm, but this does not stop it being the biological norm” https://t.co/HSiRxm5kjY— beth michael-fox (@bethmichaelfox) January 23, 2020
"I currently still breastfeed my 25-month-old toddler—we were slowly weaning before the pandemic, but now that we’re almost always in our small city apartment, he reverted and happily nurses whenever he wishes. In general, I’ve almost always been happy to breastfeed on demand. Breastfeeding has always been simple and easy for me, and both of my kids enjoyed it," the concerned mother began her letter. "We had weaned our oldest, an almost-6-year-old, back when she was a year old. But now she wants to breastfeed! This comes up almost every day."
My 6-year-old is jealous of me breastfeeding my toddler. Should I feed her too? https://t.co/OBBvjobzr9— Slate (@Slate) August 11, 2020
"She's surprised me by latching several times (as in snuck up and jumped my free breast while I’m feeding the toddler), and when I gently have conversations about why she would want to breastfeed, she just gets so relaxed and a dreamy look comes over her eyes, and she says 'Oh, it's just so soft, and the milk is so warm and yummy,'" the letter writer revealed. "I'm completely perplexed! I never pictured having a child this old even be INTERESTED in breastfeeding, let alone be able to articulate her reasoning so clearly. And she really seems so hurt when I try to explain that she's a big girl now and has so many other great things to eat. She's definitely sad about it."
The woman explained that while she makes "plenty of milk to indulge her occasionally," she is "completely freaked out about how this may affect her. I mean, which is worse: breastfeeding a 6-year-old and having her realize how odd that is when she’s older, or denying a 6-year-old for perhaps no good reason and having her feel rejected and left out?" The mom said that she and her husband had tried reasoning with their daughter, pointing out how children her age get so many cool things her baby brother doesn't. However, their efforts proved unsuccessful as the little girl refused to change her mind.
You can talk about the “terrible twos” till you’re blue in the face but I can tell you, 2 year old tantrums don’t have shit on a 6 year old experiencing ANY emotion of any kind. pic.twitter.com/tcvy1L7Rcg— Kerry (@Stargazefordays) April 24, 2019
"We also tried indulging her with extra attention and hugs and kisses and cuddles, but she just really wants to breastfeed. We’ve also given her tons of actual milk (warm too), but it just isn’t what she’s looking for. If you know of a great way to deny a 6-year-old a working boob that doesn’t crush them emotionally during the already stressful situation of a pandemic, or if you think there’s even a chance that breastfeeding a kid that old won’t create other problems, please let me know," the mom concluded. Responding to the letter, Cliffe explained that it is in the best interest of everyone involved to stand their ground and not indulge the 6-year-old's requests.
"Do not back down and breastfeed your 6-year-old. You have said no, you have explained why there is literally no reason to start again. It’s always a problem to teach your kid that if they just keep working you, you'll give in and say yes to something you have very clearly said no to. Kids her age want lots of things they can’t have," she pointed out. "If she wants more time, more physical affection, more cuddles, go for it. She saw you go back to nursing your toddler because times are stressful and probably thinks it’s unfair, but it’s not going to scar her for life. Just hold the line."
"She’s a big girl and she gets to do big girl things and that’s great—she is too big to breastfeed. I don’t have a precise 'This Is When You Stop Breastfeeding' guideline for other people’s children, but I do think 6 is too old, and, more importantly, you said no and you should stick to it," Cliffe advised. "Pay lots of good attention to her, and stop responding beyond 'Honey, we already explained that the answer is no,' and this will clear up in due course," she promised.