I was driving home from Zumba — yes, I’ve crossed something off my now-I’m-33-years-old list — and listening to a radio show. The host was discussing Alanis Morisette, who has vowed to continue nursing her son (who shares a Christmas 2010 birthday with Cousin It) for as long as he wants and how weird and bizarre and gross that is.
Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. Yes, we’re STILL talking about extended nursing and how totes cray-cray it is. The radio show host’s “expert” was Dr. Phil McGraw.
Since Dr. Phil works in entertainment, and no longer holds a license to practice psychology, I was expecting that he’d jump on board with the whole “breastfeeding past the age of XYZ is not okay”–
– while we’re on the topic of time limits suggested by people who don’t have children or have never nursed, the most eye-rolling one I read is “you should stop breastfeeding when they kid is old enough to ask for it.”
Animal and Mineral didn’t talk much til they were two. And I don’t think they could have said, “Mommy, can we please have breastmilk now?” until at least three. And yet some kids can say it at one-and-a-half — and many children can make the sign for “milk” or “nurse” before the age of one! Suggesting that the right age for weaning has anything to do with when children start talking is ridiculous.
Another one, brought to my attention by Miss Manners is, “when the kid can reach into your shirt.” Have you ever had a baby and nursed it? They can start reaching into your shirt pretty early in the game. Or maybe they’re too polite and never do it. Yet another dumb timeframe.
So, Dr. Phil was asked about Alanis’ proclamation and his response was fairly awesome. First he mentioned the health benefits of breastfeeding until age two. He talked about other countries and cultures where breastfeeding til much older than two is the norm, and the risks to children in third-world countries who aren’t breastfed.
Fine, Radio Host says. He reluctantly admits there are benefits to breastfeeding. “But what about sexualizing young children?” This was, of course, the crux of his argument for how gross and inappropriate it is to breastfeed past the age of one.
But Dr. Phil did not take the bait. “To kids, it’s not sexual at all! We see breasts as sexual. Kids don’t.”
GO DR. PHIL! I KIND OF LIKE YOU NOW!
When pushed, he said that his personal opinion is that children should stop breastfeeding by the age of two. However, he added that “there’s not a shred of evidence that suggests that long-term breastfeeding is harmful to a child.”
I am hopeful that the millions of listeners will consider Dr. Phil’s words — and maybe give him some credence since his name includes the word DOCTOR — and start subscribing to the idea that breastfeeding is normal. And also, that child-led weaning is normal, and is a natural process.
I have never done child-led weaning — my first three kids were hardly breastfed, unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons; I weaned My Masterpiece so I could have weight-loss surgery when she was 13mo — and I’ll let you all know about it when it happens. In a year or two or four.