Would You Nurse a 5-Year-Old if No One Knew?

room by emma donoghueOne the most well-reviewed and award-winning books of the year, Room by Emma Donoghue, will absolutely terrify you as you imagine what would happen if someone snatched your child off the street, locked her up, impregnated her, and abused her for years and years.

Inspired by the Josef Fritz case in Austria, Donoghue tells the story of Jack and Ma, from Jack's perspective as a boy born in a room -- and now 5 years old -- never having been outside his mother's (and his) captor's dungeon. Listening to a 5-year-old's POV of this heinous situation is completely disturbing, and you will feel claustrophobic and unable to breathe at times.

In addition to terror and sympathy, as a parent you may find yourself intrigued by the parenting style Ma creates under the circumstances. Decisions she makes in the room that is her son's only home beg the question: How would you parent if no one was around to tell you what you should do?


Ma is a stay-at-home and natural childbirth (by force), co-sleeping (when her abuser isn't in the bed with her), extended-nursing mother. She teaches Jack exactly what he needs to know, and nothing more. It is certainly a child-led living environment, because, hey, why not?

Jack's requests throughout the book for "some" as he raises his mother's shirt initially were shocking. After all, I have an almost 5-year-old who speaks in complex sentences, plays sports, reads, and has a rudimentary understanding of the war in Afghanistan. Our nursing days are so long gone I can barely remember them. I certainly wouldn't nurse her at this age in our home, much less in a public setting.

But Ma doesn't have to worry about NIP. She's locked in a room with her son and nursing him gives him comfort (he especially enjoys the left because it's "creamy") and certainly gives her some kind of comfort as well.

Still, it's a little skeevy. Especially in contrast to Jack's description of his penis standing up every morning. Somehow those two physical acts don't seem compatible.

Donoghue's room is fictional, thank god, but what would you do if you were out of sight from friends, family, heck, the entire world?

Would you extend nursing until your child asked to stop? Even if he was old enough for kindergarten?


Image via Amazon

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