Over in the UK on GMTV, Lorraine Kelly did a segment on a book by Ann Sinnott called Breastfeeding Older Children. Sinnott was there along with another breastfeeding "expert" and midwife -- Clare Byam-Cook -- as well as a woman who was tandem-nursing her 4-1/2-year-old and her younger child.
Lorraine opened up dialogue with these women, and I have to say, I was not very pleased with one of them, especially after she made one of the most ridiculous statements about breastfeeding I've ever heard. The discussion begins slowly, but then heats up. Video after the jump.
When talking to women about breastfeeding older kids, opinions were a mixed bag: one woman seemed to think that a human child needed processed cow's milk and that somehow was superior -- only a worthwhile statement if you're looking for a laugh. The woman who stated 6 months was her personal cutoff for nursing seemed very defensive about knowingly going against recommendations, though 6 months is certainly better than none. And one woman said 1 year, which is halfway to the recommended bare minimum for the UK (yes, it's 2 years).
None of that was really surprising, I've heard it all before. Well, except that in India, children often nurse until 5. The United States' breastfeeding rates are so disturbingly low, but there are sufficient amounts of full-term nursing in other countries to raise the worldwide average to the 2-1/2 to 7 years that it is.
What got me was the midwife and supposed breastfeeding expert, Clare Byam-Cook. I say "supposed" because, frankly, I think wherever she received her education should be shut down. It doesn't take an expert to realize how wrong was each fallacy she spewed:
"I think breastfeeding beyond the age of 2 is a private decision, I don't see why mothers need support."
Ever consider, Clare, they need support because there's women like in the video, who think that cow's milk is superior or that breastfeeding is weird? How about because there are people out there who say such ridiculous things about letting a child self-wean as your next sentence:
"If your toddler decided that she wanted to spend all day eating sweets, watching television, and going to bed at midnight, would you say, 'Well that's your choice'? No!"
The mother on set says, "But those are all bad things, though," and Clare has the audacity to decree: "Breast milk beyond the age of 2 isn't necessarily good because it's very, very sweet, and giving sweet things to a child as a comfort every time she falls over ... the fact that it's breast milk doesn't make it any better than a glass of Coca-Cola."
This woman calls herself a "breastfeeding expert" but this is a perfect example of why I talk so much about getting the RIGHT support -- women like this, who are completely, ridiculously uneducated on breastfeeding and yet call themselves an expert do so much more harm than good. This is also WHY breastfeeding women who go beyond the recommended minimum need support. Clare -- It's a minimum, not a maximum, meaning it's suggested that all children breastfeed until at least 2, which means if the World Health Organization and other health organizations had their way, many children would be breastfeeding past 2 and it's good for them!
As far as the Coca-Cola and indulgent parenting suggestion, breast milk does not have artificial sugars or acids to eat at teeth -- it's sweet naturally. Antibodies in it help kill bad bacteria. Comparing nursing when a child asks to watching television all day is akin to suggesting that a child asking to eat a banana for a snack is a bad thing ... which would be true, if they were filling up and therefore not eating dinner, but I guess she missed the memo that comfort nursing doesn't necessarily equal eating -- children can nurse without eating and often do when nursing for comfort or sleep or to up your supply.
They let her spew her nonsense, and the other women didn't correct her, nor did the host really give them adequate time to, though their faces said a lot. We go for shock-value in media so often that horrible information runs rampant -- now there are going to be women who do think that the things this woman said were true, and won't do research themselves and are likely to even repeat it. When I encourage research, it's because of things like this!
You wouldn't know that she's wrong unless you looked it up yourself. Take everything with a grain of salt, and find out the truth, or else you'll end up sounding like Clare -- showing astounding ignorance on live television.
What do you think of what happened here? Do you think breastfeeding women need support to nurse full-term?
Image via Troy B Thompson/Flickr