little girlA mother of four has just stepped into a mondo controversy. Sharon Spink breastfeeds her daughter. Not seeing the controversy? Well, Sharon's daughter, Charlotte, is 5 years old.

Still not seeing the controversy? Maybe you're a to each his own type of person? Well, it would be a lot easier to agree with you if not for this one thing: Sharon Spink breastfeeds her 5-year-old in public.

A lot.

She admits it's not about nourishment, and yet she says she won't wean because it would be like taking away her daughter's teddy bear, and she'll do it just about anywhere. As Spink says of her extended breastfeeding:

I've breastfed in the hairdresser's, supermarket, and church before. I've even breastfed Charlotte in front of her school friends. Children don't judge. It tends to be adults who do that. But thankfully their parents are all very supportive.

Children don't judge? Since when?

We could get into a long debate about extended breastfeeding and whether or not it's necessary, but the Internet has already taken care of that for us. Spink is being flamed in comments across the interwebs at the moment, and a few experts have even joined in to comment on potential psychological harm to a 5-year-old who is being breastfed.

But the real issue here isn't how long a mom should breastfeed necessarily so much as the decision to do so in public with your school-aged child.

More to the point, it's realizing that what parents do in public with their children -- be it breastfeeding or general helicoptering or what have you -- could have possible detrimental effects on a child's well-being. It may not affect a baby, who has no clue what's going on and whose friends are just as clueless.

But what you do with your school-aged kids in public, in front of their friends, sure as heck affects them and can affect them for a long, long time.

Kids do judge. In fact, surveys have shown that parents of kids as young as 3 are dealing with bullied children. One study out of Brigham Young University found that the "mean girls" phenomena starts as young as 4.

Five-year-old kids are certainly old enough to notice what their friends are up to, and to start seeing things as "different." They're old enough to judge one another's differences.

Certainly we should stand up for what we believe in -- some little 5-year-old brat doesn't get to change the way you parent just because they're a bully.

But it behooves us as parents to look at our own choices and really weigh out whether or not they're in our children's best interests.

A mom who is breastfeeding her 5-year-old may be able to claim that the child enjoys it. But she can't legitimately say the child needs to breastfeed on demand, when they're out and about, anymore. That's where the tough choices have to be made, where a mom has to truly put her child's needs first.

What do you make of this? When do you feel kids are too old to nurse in public?

 

Image via jessicalsmyers/Flickr