When I see sensationalist breastfeeding articles about children being breastfed past infancy, occasionally (just for entertainment) I will read the comments. Quite often there is a concern about the child’s welfare, with worry expressed that the child will actually remember being breastfed. There’s an implication that a child would be mortified to recall suckling their mother’s breast, or perhaps that this is an incestuous act, and that the child will probably grow up to become some sort of sex pest with mummy issues.
As an adult who was breastfed past infancy, through toddlerhood and into preschool age, I am here to tell you these assumptions are not remotely close to my own experience.
I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent and fairly well-adjusted with healthy and normal relationships and attitudes towards sex. I don’t have inappropriate feelings about my mum (unless you count the infrequent bouts of extreme irritation that I get, but I’m sure this isn’t limited to those who are breastfed to term). If you asked the people who know me, they might describe me as a little bit of a weirdo, but I don’t think that has anything to do with mum’s boobs – I’m just a unique individual.
I remember being breastfed. I don’t actually remember having my mum’s boobs in my mouth, but I remember the very best kind of cuddle in the whole world. I remember hoping my mum would hold me that way whenever I was upset or afraid. But most of all, I remember feeling like I was the only person that mattered in my mother’s eyes, like mum and I were the only two people to have ever walked this earth. There is true beauty in breastfeeding an older child.
The specific memories of being breastfeed are soft and dull, as they have faded over time. I can’t remember the days, the times or the circumstances but I can remember the feelings that I felt. I can compare the overwhelming feelings of love to those that I felt when my new babies were first handed to me, and the day my husband looked into my eyes as we stood at the altar and said “I do”. Except weddings and births are milestone events, and you may only be lucky enough to experience those a handful of times in your life. Children can be breastfed over and over again.
People will often fear what they don’t know, don’t understand or haven’t experienced and that is OK. But please keep your fears in check. It’s confronting because it’s not normal for you. Please don’t project your feelings onto other families and individuals simply because their “normal” is different to yours.
I don’t remember the taste of milk, feeling hungry for it or craving it. But I do remember the love, comfort and security of those nursing sessions. Regardless of your stance on breastfeeding an older child, I think we can all agree that these are feelings we want our children to have, and to remember from their childhood.