This is post is made possible by the generous support of Leading Lady.
The online world was abuzz yesterday with the release of Time Magazine’s newest cover, featuring the portrait of a young, slender mother breastfeeding her 3-year old. The image garnered some intense attention and it is no surprise why: Many Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding – especially breastfeeding that goes beyond the first year of life. It’s a Booby Trap that often keeps nursing past infancy “closeted.”
The fact is, babies are biologically and evolutionarily designed to nurse well into toddlerhood to reap the full benefits . . .even their cute one-size-fits-all button noses are built for dining at the breast and remain until about the age of 5. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for one year “or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.” The World Health Organization (and Health Canada) recommends breastfeeding “for up to two years of age and beyond.” The American Academy of Family Physicians states, “breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement, noting a number of benefits of nursing past infancy, and stating that the estimated “natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years.” See this for the benefits of “full-term” breastfeeding, and this for the biggest misconceptions. And if you aren’t breastfeeding, or couldn’t or didn’t breastfeed, read this.
But because breastfeeding past one year is often hidden from view, it might appear that children such as the one on the Time cover just don’t exist . . . but they do. Best for Babes collects and shares celebrity stories to increase the cultural acceptance of breastfeeding. The celebrity stories below show that this “uncommon” act of nursing a toddler might be more common than you think.
“I am still breastfeeding Benjamin and it has been incredibly rewarding and healing. . . . I am also sad to hear that so many moms are being discouraged from breastfeeding past a few months when there are clear benefits to nursing much longer.”
Salma Hayek is a movie star who
proudly breastfed her daughter, Valentina, for more than 15 months.
“When I see how much good it is doing her, I can’t stop.”
“My son is busy doing other stuff and it’s more of a comfort thing, but it is really cute when they are nursing together. He just looks at her, and checks her out, and puts his hand on her little feet. It gives him this close-up intimate look at her, and it’s very beautiful to see them to kind of get to know each other. ”
Gwen Stefani shared with The Guardian in 2007 that she was
breastfeeding her son Kingston well into his second year,
“I don’t know when I’m going to stop breast-feeding,…
I’ll just keep going while I can.”
Mayim Bialik has been very vocal about
her experience breastfeeding her boys into their toddlerhood and beyond.
“When I see my precious son gaze into my eyes and grin that milky grin – the same eyes that looked into mine minutes after he careened out of my body; the eyes that convinced me that my only job was to keep this child thriving with the miraculous resources given to me through my body- not much else matters.”
Erykah Badu, who has added the titles of birth advocate and doula alongside those of singer and songwriter, had this to say about her child,
“When I first had the baby, I breastfed for two years straight, so we were together for two years of his life every day, all hours of the day. So I was two people, and I eventually morphed back into one.”
Jada Pinkett Smith shared with Fit Pregnancy
in 2000 about breastfeeding her son, Jaden.
“[I breastfed him] a good 18 months. That baby never even saw a bottle. He went everywhere with me — premieres, award shows. I would just find a back room and hook him up.”
Nelly Furtado, singer and mother,
took her breastfeeding daughter with her on tour in 2006.
“I’m a lot more comfortable with myself now,” she says. “I was pregnant for nine months and breast-feeding for two years.”
Finally, legend has it that Michael Jordan was breastfed until he was 3 years old. His mother, Deloris Jordan, has reflected:
“I feel this is why he is the athlete he is.”
As more celebrities breastfeed their children and choose to share this experience with the public, let’s cheer them on and celebrate each and every moment, moving it from uncommon to common.
How do you feel about breastfeeding beyond one year? What could change in our culture that would encourage mothers towards extending the time before weaning?
Photo Credits: Kelly Preston, Salma Hayek (John McNab via Flickr), Kelly Rutherford, Gwen Stefani (Dennis Stefani), Mayim Bialik (Mingle MediaTV via Wikimedia Commons), Erykah Badu (Badu Nation via Flick), Jada Pinkett Smith (Jerry Avenaim via Wikimedia Commons), Nelly Furtado (Ovtovaz via Flick), and Michael Jordan (Steve Lipofsky at basketballphoto.com. via Wikimedia Commons).