extended breastfeeding

Tara - posted on 08/09/2010 ( 114 moms have responded )

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While I am an avid pro-breastfeeding mom, I am not into allowing my children to self-wean. They were all weaned by 2.5 years. That was long enough for me.



What do you think about women who nurse until their child is 4+ years old and allow that child to end the nursing relationship on their own terms.



I know someone who is currently nursing a 5 year old, my 5 year old's friend.



I wonder often who is benefiting from this relationship, she doesn't like to eat food, she doesn't like to drink anything other than boob milk from the boob. She is clingy in social situations, often ending up on mom's lap for a snuggle and a drink!



This mom is an extreme AP parent, her husband has been on the couch for the last 5 years! He would like her to end the nursing so he can have his wife back, she insists she is doing what is "right" for their child.



What do you think? When does nursing border on co-dependence? Does it become sexually inappropriate at some age? What age?



:)Tara

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Johnny - posted on 08/10/2010

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I consider myself pretty pro-breastfeeding. I've been called a titty addict ;-) a zealot, and even the dreaded N word (Nazi that is, not the other nastier one). But I find that really pro-breastfeeding people lose track of reality when it comes to extended breastfeeding. I have never found, after significant attempts to investigate the issue, any evidence that there are positives to extended nursing. I haven't found any negatives either. I've seen Kathy Dettwyler's stuff plenty of times, and frankly I find her research poor, not often peer reviewed, and there are virtually zero other studies to back up her assertions. I keep hearing in my "mommy groups" and through the LLL and breastfeeding websites that extended nursing is da bomb, but why? There is never a significant explanation aside from the fact that people in 3rd world countries sometimes do it (probably because they don't have access to clean drinking water) and that humans traditionally did so (probably for the same reason). But why do it now?

I'm not opposed to the concept, but I've actually been able to see more that suggests that in some cases (certainly NOT all, or even a majority) it can be detrimental. The only person I actually know who was nursed past the age of 3 was my mom's friend's son who she nursed until he was 6. He HATES his mother for it. He remembers it vividly and feels like she practically molested him. Not a good example, and I have no doubt that it's an extreme situation. But since it's the only one I personally know who has grown to adulthood after nursing that long, it's all I have to go on. Given that the "research" is pretty thin.

I've got to wonder why when it comes to helping our kids acclimatize to our broader society, we often encourage them to be "normal", but when it comes to breastfeeding, some people are okay with letting their kid be the "weirdo" who the other kids pick on for nursing. To me, that is really just taking a wonderful thing to it stupidest conclusion. Extended nursing (past 3 or 4) is considered just plain weird in our society in general. Not everyone thinks that, but why are some people so willing to set up their kids as the weirdos in their peer group just so they can keep nursing. I can not see what "benefit" those kids are getting from it. Really, where is the evidence that this extreme extended nursing is good for kids?

Johnny - posted on 08/12/2010

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Or how they treat breastfeeding mothers for that matter. My LLL experiences were pretty nasty, and I was breastfeeding.

Lindsay - posted on 08/10/2010

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I do wonder with all the concerns over obesity, what impact it would have on a child especially over 3 based on nursing for comfort. It's all the rave that nursing reduces the chances of obesity because the child learns to feed when hungry and stop when they are satisfied or full. But if they are nursing because they are upset and that's how they deal, could it not cause a potential once the nursing is over to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. I mean by that point, nursing is habit. You typically break one habit by replacing it with another. So if no other coping skills have been implemented, I find it very likely that the child would turn to food for comfort. I mean, that's all they've known. I could be way off, just typing as I think. I have no evidence to back it up. But it's definately food for thought...excuse the pun! ;-P

Sharon - posted on 08/10/2010

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See!? Thats my point. "They" say the average age is....??? What countries are they averaging this on? What is their lifestyle like? Is this TODAYS' study or figures from the 50's when people didn't have access to clean water??

I'd like to see a list
Ethiopia 2 yrs
Lithuania 3.2yrs
Greece 1.8 yrs
Germany 4 ys

something like that - it HAS to exist if "THEY" made these studies right?

[deleted account]

Calm down Marina I never said your opinion was wrong - I was just pointing out that it is unrealistic to use speech or walking as a guideline because many children can do these things before one - my son has been talking since he was 7 months old - in a very basic way and has been walking round the furniture since he was 8 months now at 10 months he is starting to walk on his own, I was only able to BF until 3 weeks (milk dried up) but wanted to BF until 1 but with the walking/ talking thing I would have had to stop at 8 months ish. If you look I do not think it is appropriate to BF a 5 yo either but I also realise that what will not work for my family works brilliantly for many others (and does no harm to their children). :-)

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*Lisa* - posted on 08/14/2010

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Oh my gosh I just had a heart attack reading those stats that Kathy posted about age of weaning... 45, 23, 35 etc etc. Arrghh! Then I noticed the 'in months'. PHEW!

[deleted account]

Dana, that's possible. But she's not an aggressive person to begin with so I doubt she would have pushed her views. Not everyone in the LLL fits the stereotype.

[deleted account]

I'm just posting to hopefully be able to see the responses on page 2 since COM won't let me view it...

[deleted account]

Sara, just a thought.....is it possible that your mom's friend (LLL member) treated or acted differently with you because she was there more as a friend than anything? Perhaps she would have been more forceful or aggressive in her approach if she were actually working, not visiting? Just a thought....

[deleted account]

Amanda, good for you for wanting to breastfeed. Pumping is hard work and it's hard to keep the supply up. It's possible though. Good luck!

I haven't had negative encounters with the LLL. When E was born, my mom's friend and long time LLL member came by the hospital and was a huge encouragement. Her intention in coming by wasn't to convince me to BF, but just to visit. E happened to be hungry when she was there, and she used the opp to encourage. Another experience was when my good friend was having trouble latching, she emailed the LLL and someone called her and talked her through it. Last experience, a friend from high school that is now a member is getting info on donating breastmilk for me, because I asked. I haven't encountered the zealots, though I'm sure they are out there.

[deleted account]

I guess I'm lucky to never have encountered the LLL while I was breastfeeding Roxanne. Carol, kudos for you for still breastfeeding M.....I wished I could have/ would have gone longer. Roxanne just had not much interest at 6 months when her first 2 teeth popped up so I figured it was a good time to wean with little resistance.

Amanda - posted on 08/13/2010

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i would be uncomfortable with breast feeding a kid that can say mom i need a drink and can help him/herself now i only breastfed my daughter for like 3 months and i do how ever plan on breast feeding my new baby when she comes for at least 6 months and pumping for the rest of the last 6 months. i think its highly wrong to breast feed a 5 year old a mom should think about what she is gonna put the kids thru kids will make front of them in school if and when they find out what is happening at home like that

[deleted account]

There are extremists, everywhere, but also some caring people who are concerned about mothers as people. Perhaps those of us in that category (and I'm putting myself there!) just don't make as much noise? Empty vessels and all that....

~♥Little Miss - posted on 08/13/2010

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LLL is truly a wonderful resource and "go to guys" when it comes to bf'ing. I have met wonderflully supportive people from LLL, who have even said some people involved are extremists. But there are also the normal people that understand that it is not always black and white. They just want to be part of something that teaches the beauty and healthy benefits of bf. This one women from LLL actually came to my house to help me...I was having such a hard time...and she help within a matter of minutes. My son was latching on fine, but it was how his tongue was working that made it so so so painful. I was so glad she came and helped me...I would not have been able to continue if she hadn't. Apparently there were 3 LLL people that were assigned to my area, and she told me to contact her again directly if I needed help...the others were a bit...well..you know...nuts! She and I were on the same level with BF, and she had to hide alot of her feelings about it infront of her co LLL people. She was an awesome women to me, and I have met a hanful of others like her. She just sticks out the most in my mind cause she rocked! LLL is a truly great recourse, I hope people do not make this an LLL bashing sesion. If you just want to look up there stuff it is very helpful, especially to new bfing moms.....but yes, they look at BF as a religion...cult like.

[deleted account]

I've had a look at both websites That make me sound condescending, as if I'm some kind of expert - it's not meant to sound that way.

I tend to favour the Australian Breastfeeding Association: http://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/. That's probably because it's the one I'm most familiar with - I used their services and info when my babies were breastfeeding, and I was a breastfeeding counsellor with ABA for many years. You can best judge this site by having a look through it. There is also information on the various training pathways, and on the Code of Ethics.

I am not as familiar with the LLL website (and I can only form an opinion based on their website, as I've never had any contact with LLL, although I believe there is an Australian branch.) The information is good, and covers a huge range of topics. I found this comment:

"We ask that all members make an effort to provide information rather than advice, and refrain from lecturing, criticizing, arguing, or pressuring other members. This is a place for support, not for convincing others they're wrong. If you don't like another member's approach, you can offer your own perspective without criticizing hers."

There are nice statements like that on the Australian site, too, and that's one of the things that was emphasised during our training.

However, a website is one thing; experience is quite a different issue. I can't remember a qualified breastfeeding counsellor ever telling someone what to do, or being so militant they turn people off. I do remember one formula-feeding mum coming to the group I was the leader of because, as she said, it ewas the only place she felt relaxed!

What I have seen are ABA members, and pro-breastfeeding mums who were strident and offensive in their advocacy, and perhaps this is what happens with LLL.

With ABA, it was often mums who knew a LITTLE bit about breastfeeding that were most self-righteous. And I've heard them, believe me! Wince-making.

But the policies are definitely to support all mothers - one item in the code of ethics is "Breastfeeding is for the baby, not the baby for breastfeeding." They are interested in the relationship between the mother and the baby, and emphasise that breastfeeing is only ONE aspect of happy, caring mothering.

I'm sure the LLL would have the same sort of emphases and values, judging from their website.

Shelley - posted on 08/13/2010

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yeah i breast fed on a routine i think thats worse than not breastfeeding with them

Isobel - posted on 08/12/2010

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I'm sure that their website doesn't describe how they treat non-breastfeeding mothers

[deleted account]

I can't imagine a breastfeeding support group being that bad. I grew up with the Anstralian Breastfeeding Association, which doesn't seem to be so militant. I'll have another look at the LLL site.

Sharon - posted on 08/12/2010

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I have nothing against sleeping while your child eats. I was just making a point that the KKK breastfeeding league is always harping about - that bottle feeding is lazy. Whereas - I hear plenty of "lazy" stories from BFing moms.

Sorry I was gone and couldn't reply.

I asked for those stats and maybe you missed that post but I'm glad you found it and posted it.

[deleted account]

I've always though of myself as lazy, but now I think resourceful is a better word! Thanks, ladies.

Sharon, I only put those stats there because some people like stats, and because I love looking up stuff!

[deleted account]

Loureen, I agree it's resourceful! lmao. I don't actually think I was being lazy....I was just trying to explain that I think bottle/formula feeding isn't easier or lazy. I can see how some people might think breastfeeding is the lazy way.....I do agree though, "lazy" has a negative connotation so from now on we'll call it "resourceful", ok? ;)

Charlie - posted on 08/11/2010

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Hey you want to know whats even "lazier / resourceful " which ever side of the fence you sit on , since its winter here even though i co sleep and breast feed sometimes i poke Jamie and make him get up and warm a bottle of expressed milk to feed Harry so i can sleep haha.

Stifler's - posted on 08/11/2010

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Don't people burp their baby these days? I doubt there's any "pooling" so to speak if they do.

[deleted account]

I agree with Sharon. I breastfed and on occasion bed-shared with Roxanne because it was easier and I continued breastfeeding as long as I could because I was too LAZY to bottle feed/formula feed....it's a lot of work and it was one of the things that motivated me to keep trying to breastfeed. I'm not saying everyone that breastfeeds or co-sleeps is lazy but I was! :)

Tara - posted on 08/11/2010

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@Sharon
We co-sleeping moms (me anyways) are not lazy, yes I don't have to get out of bed, rarely even have to wake up actually. This doesn't make me lazy it makes me resourceful. I have other kids to care for, sleep deprivation is my enemy. I love co-sleeping for a ton of reasons, one of them being I cherish my sleep. I need my sleep, and it's natural to sleep with my baby. In the animal kingdom you would be hard pressed to find a mother who puts her baby out of her sight and reach to sleep for the night, it just doesn't make any sense to me if you can choose to sleep well or choose to wake up a lot and stay awake. Why suffer if you needn't? Why make a sleeping baby wake and cry to be fed?

Jaime - posted on 08/11/2010

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I don't have an issue with extended breast-feeding. If I was able to breast feed my son past 3 weeks, I would likely have continued to age 2 if possible. Beyond that I would have personally felt it was time to wean.



If I ever saw a toddler or school-age kid breast feeding I would find it odd because it's not the norm, but I wouldn't find it disturbing or abusive as I've heard some people suggest in past conversations.



I will say that in our Western society, the need to extend breast feed is much less for nutrition and more so for the comfort of the child. But, I still don't have an issue with it either way.

Sharon - posted on 08/11/2010

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I like the list of countries and ages - thats awesome and proves one of my points.

That breastfeeding until your kid is in college is bullshit and is done purely for the benefit of the "mom".

Sharon - posted on 08/11/2010

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So April - um us bottle feeding moms just throw liquid at our infants and walk away?

Frankly - its the breastfeeding moms I know who are lazy. They stuff a boob in their kids mouth and go back to sleep. They choose to co-sleep they don't even have to get out of bed.

Nice.

April - posted on 08/11/2010

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@Emma... nursing and bonding go hand in hand. nursing a baby is automatically more than just for food. that's what it is for me anyway. i have always thought nursing WAS comfort. how can it not be when your baby gets to snuggle closely to mom's chest and gets to eat at the same time?

[deleted account]

It certainly doesn't rot your teeth to the extent that a bottle of Coke will! And yes, you certainly should be making oral hygiene a big issue, though I think wiping gums is a bit early. However:

"Referring to bottle mouth as nursing caries, implies that a breastfed child is at the same risk as an artificially fed child is from the contents of a bottle. The bacterial impact of any breastmilk left in the mouth is more than offset by the natural antibiotic action of breastmilk..."
http://www.infactcanada.ca/codewach.htm

Also, A study by Dr. Norman Tinanoff showed that breastmilk in itself does not give rise to cavities as much as was previously thought. Dr. Tinanoff (who conducted the study)believes that the milk proteins in breastmilk protect the enamel on the teeth, and that the antibacterial qualities in breastmilk stop the bacteria from using the lactose in breastmilk in the same way as regular sugar. This dentist also showed that 5 minutes of breastfeeding lowered the pH-level only slightly more than rinsing the mouth with a little water."
http://www.kellymom.com/bf/older-baby/to...

FRom the same source:

Before the use of the baby bottle, dental decay in baby teeth was rare. Two dentists, Dr. Brian Palmer and Dr. Harold Torney, have done extensive research on human skulls (from 500-1000 years ago) in their study of tooth decay in children. Of course these children were breastfed, probably for an extended length of time. Their research has led them to conclude that breastfeeding does not cause tooth decay.

One of the reasons for nighttime bottles causing tooth decay is the pooling of the liquid in baby's mouth (where the milk/juice bathes baby's teeth for long periods of time). Breastmilk is not thought to pool in the baby's mouth in the same way as bottled milk because the milk doesn't flow unless the baby is actively sucking. Also, milk from the breast enters the baby's mouth behind the teeth. If the baby is actively sucking then he is also swallowing, so pooling breast milk in the baby's mouth appears not to be an issue."

So make sure you do watch oral hygiene, and make sure you don't let any liquid pool in your baby's mouth.

But this is way off track! (Can't resist a bit of research!) Despite the arguments and stats, I enjoyed my long term breastfeeding relationships, but if you don't want to, don't. It's a personal choice and therefore not one we should be arguing with or being judgemental about.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 08/11/2010

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I don't want my children in therapy as an adult becouse they can remember breastfeeding.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 08/11/2010

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Ummmmm...Kathy actually it DOES rot your teeth. Ask any Pediatrician or Dentist. That is why you are suppose to start wiping the babies gums throughout the day.

All this bickering and supposed stats, and I still have the same perspective. If they can walk over and lift your shirt and take a drink...they need to stop. But a more important previous statement I made...If they can make a vivd memory of it STOP!

[deleted account]

Certainly by the time my kids were about 2, they had other means of comforting themselves, not just the breast. That's probably the case with most extended breastfeeding relationships.
And I have seen situations when toddlers and children are "comforted" by a biscuit or a bottle of Coke. That's probably more of an obesity-related issue, as breast milk has fewer calories and doesn't rot your teeth!

[deleted account]

I don't really think the stats make all that much difference. It's a personal choice. My first 2 daughters were breastfeed somewhere between 2 - 3 years. I breastfed my youngest daughter till she was almost kindergarten age. There all well-balanced young women, very independent, eat everything (real foodies, in fact!)

I don't think breastfeeding alone determines whether a child is going to be dependent etc.

Stifler's - posted on 08/10/2010

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I just don't see the point of it. I wish I could have breastfed but for nutrition reasons only, not for bonding and attachment/dependence reasons.

Johnny - posted on 08/10/2010

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Interesting. Thank you Kathy. I'm just noticing that the top number in that list for homo sapiens is 4 years, 1 month. Quite a bit different than age 7 or 8. I do know that in Mongolia, it is not uncommon to nurse until age 7 or 8 (the only population that I am aware of that does this on purpose) but that's not exactly a worldwide behavior reflecting our natural evolution. But if I lived in Mongolia and everyone else was doing it, and all my children's friends were, I'd be less concerned about the potential negative impact from the peer group. But here, where I live, I don't really want to give kids an additional reasons to tease and bully my kid. We all have enough problems.

[deleted account]

The oft-quoted Ms Dettwyler says herself that her "stats" are not accurate:

"One often hears that the worldwide average age of weaning is 4.2 years, but this figure is neither accurate nor meaningful…. It is meaningless, statistically, to speak of an average age of weaning worldwide, as so many children never nurse at all."



"A comparison of weaning age and sexual maturity in non-human primates suggests a weaning age of 6-7 for humans (about half-way to reproductive maturity)"



This lady seems to have extrapolated to a large extent from her studies on primates. I am aware this is often done in research, but I’m not certain of the validity, not being a researcher myself.





From there it seems to have developed into a mantra that the average age of weaning, globally, is 4.2,4.5, between 2.5 - yrs...Often when I found these quotes I found no references.



But there are some stats out there. This is from Journal of Human Evolution 48 (2005) 123e145, an article called "From the ape’s dilemma to the weanling’s dilemma:

early weaning and its evolutionary context" by G.E. Kennedy)

Department of Anthropology, University of Calfornia, Los Angeles, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles

http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/anthro/facult...



Age at weaning in natural fertility populations

(in months)

Homo sapiens

Africa

Algeria 14.4

Amhara 24

Azande 24-36

Bambara 30

Bemba 24-36

Burundi 24

Dogon 24

Gambia 21

Ganda 36

Hadza 45.1

Hausa 24

Igbo 24-26

Inesis 23.2

Ivory Coast 42

!Kung 49

Masai 36

Nigeria 21

Nuer 14-24

Ovimbundo 24

Sine 24.3

Somalia 24

Tiv 24

Ubena 24-36

Wolo 18-24



Asia

Bengali 24-36

Kanuri 18

Lepchus 24-36

Sanlei 24

Thai (Central) 24-36



South America

Ache 25

Aymara 12-24

Hiwi 45.1

Tarahumara 36-48

Warao 24

Yanomano 34.4



Meso-America

Kogicol 12

Maya 18-24

Delaware 36-48

Inuit 36-48

Ijibwa 24-36

Iroquois 24-30

(Yokut 24



Pacific Islands

Amele 36

Fiji 12

Gainj, New Guinea 43.3

Trobriand Is. 24



Primates

Pan troglodytes 48-54

Gorilla gorilla berengei 42-54 42-54

Pongo pygmaeus 92.6



(I did try to get this list into tabular form so it wouln't take up so much room, but it didn't work!)



I haven't worked out the average, and I am aware it's not a complete list, but for those who want stats, here they are.



Despite all that, despite all the cultural and evolutionary contexts, I breastfed my children for extended periods because it was my choice, it was their choice, it was my family's choice. And I think they are the only reasons you need. There's no law that says you have to, so if you don't want to, for whatever reason, don't.

Shelley - posted on 08/10/2010

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i agree with Sharon the study was just pulled out of her a**
i don't see any truth or real fact what so ever.
I worked in a fiji in an orphanage that also had a womens shelter attatched they were living in poverty and there were no women breastfeeding past 2 the mothers were not eating enough to make any milk alot of infants die because quite literally no milk comes in.
I have friends who say the same about Ethiopia.
Until i see more evidence i would go as far as to say extended breastfeeding past 3 in third world countries is a myth.

Sharon - posted on 08/10/2010

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LOL kathy detwyler - or whatever - she cites no facts, prints out not studies, its all "her research" and "her opinion" nothing she says is verifiable on that page.

I'm looking for independent research from legitimate and respected sources (NOT the KKK) regarding breastfeeding in various cultures.

All these pages talk about these studies but I can't find them. they don't even talk about who does the studies!

[deleted account]

I'm very pro-breastfeeding. I breastfed my girls for extended periods. But I'm not particularly passionate on extended breastfeeding generally - if it suits you, your baby and your family, go ahead: if it doesn't, don't. What's all the fuss about?

I do think there has been some funny reasoning here. So this child is clingy and not a good eater? I've known plenty of kids who were clingy and not good eaters - some were short-term breastfed, some were formula fed, some were long-term breastfed.

Does it really matter what's "normal" and what's not? I don't think society should be dictating what we do and don't do. For those who feel long-tern breastfeeding is weird, sorry. I think barracking for Collinwood is weird.

Also, there seems to be a sense of "well, I guess it's OK for those in 3rd world countries, but we've got clean water so we shouldn't be doing that."

And I think it's pretty insulting to suggest that he mother who's breastfeeding the 5 year old is doing so only because she feels obliged to as a LLL leader. This places no validity at all on her beliefs.

Instead of just talking about people whose actions are different, maybe someone could just get into a dialogue with them and discussing their opinions?

By the way, I breastfed my kids for years, but I never kicked my husband out of bed!

Stifler's - posted on 08/10/2010

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It's just a habit for the kid, like a dummy. It's not of any benefit as she doesn't live in the third world and wouldn't even need like formula feeds etc anymore if she was bottle fed. That's what I can gather from what Tara just posted.

Lindsay - posted on 08/10/2010

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Well even if it's not the breastfeeding "causing" her social issues, it's definately contributing to preventing her from getting over those issues. I mean seriously, allowing her to breastfeed at least 3 times in 5 hours when she gets upset? ridiculous. Her mother should be encouraging new ways to cope and calm her down because she's not going to BF forever (at least I hope not). She's 5 years old so there needs to be encouragement for her to grow and use more age appropriate techniques.

April - posted on 08/10/2010

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and if this little girl has problems sharing/acts like she is 3 years old....maybe she does have special needs.

i don't think it's fair to say that breastfeeding is causing her to have social problems. she could have had social problems to begin with.

Tara - posted on 08/10/2010

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I would have to say that she is rather overprotective of all her children. She treats them all younger than they are, and she doesn't allow them to learn to make decisions about their life.
And I think Marina makes an interesting point. She likely does feel pressure from herself, and her position as LLL leader. However, this is clouding her sight when it comes to her daughter. Several other friends have asked her why she keeps allowing it whenever her daughter feels like it, her response has always been "if she needs it, than I won't deny her".
I"ve known other LLL Leader moms who nursed until past 4. The other story I mentioned earlier about the 11 yr old boy, his mom was a longtime LLL leader too.
:) While not a breastfeeding nazi, I do refer to myself as a zealot!!

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