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Stephen Acott – “Who Breastfeeds a Three Year Old?”

To Stephen Acott,

I recently read your opinion piece published by The Daily Telegraph and I noticed you asked a lot of interesting questions. Perhaps you were being rhetorical but clearly this entire post came from a place of genuinely not understanding and so I would like to take this opportunity to answer some of your questions for you.

“Ask yourself ‘What would my parents have done?'”

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Babywearing isn’t new

My brother and I were breastfed until we self weaned (myself around 1 year, and my brother was 2.5 years old). My parents also “wore” us, and not just when we were tiny babies – the above picture is of myself as a reasonably large toddler on my father’s back. Also my brother and I were allowed to sleep in our parent’s bed whenever we wanted until we moved out of home. We also had chickens and wore cloth nappies!

Though they never called it “Crunchy Parenting” or “Attachment Parenting” – it was just “Parenting”.

“But who breastfeeds a three-year-old in the middle of a wedding? In fact, who breastfeeds a three-year-old full stop?”

Extended-Breast-feeding
Breastfeeding an (almost) three year old at a wedding!

 

To both questions the answer is – me. I have and I do. Actually when I breastfed my son at a wedding he was turning 3 the following month – but close enough.

With regards to the situation at the wedding you described I’m not sure exactly what your issue is. The child was being noisy and disruptive, then breastfeeding made him quiet and still. That sounds like a win to me.

Also many people breastfeed 3 year olds! If you’d like to understand a little bit about why it’s perfectly normal and appropriate to breastfeed at that age read “Why I’m about to breastfeed a 3 year old – again” That might help you get your head around it.

I know this wasn’t a question but:

“ I just did a quick snap poll in the office here and (unanimous) consensus is first birthday is long enough to keep a child on the nipple. “After that it’s all about the mother, not the child,” said Stephanie, the go-to person for all moral dilemmas.”

A handful of people from your office is not a very good study for what is ultimately a health decision. I’d would personally start with looking up the Australian Breastfeeding Association, or the World Health Organisation; which both support and promote breastfeeding toddlers.

Also, your colleague Stephanie is wrong. So very wrong. I don’t have the words to describe how wrong she is, but perhaps have a glance over this post “Weaning a toddler – and failing” and get back to me if you still think that I’m breastfeeding my 3 year old ALL for myself and not for her.

“If you subscribe to points 4, 5, 7, 13 and 20 I want to ask you a couple of questions. How will your child not grow up to be a capital “N” narcissist?”

  • 4. You and your husband haven’t slept alone in your bed since your first child was born.
  • 5. Your children indicate their need to nurse … in full sentences
  • 7. You coordinate your wardrobe around wraps, slings, and other baby-wearing devices. (ie, you “wear” your child.)
  • 13. You use “family cloth” instead of toilet paper.
  • 20. You talk about transitioning your children into their own bed … about the time they’re ready to go to college. 

Seeing as my parents subscribed to points 4, 5 7 and 20 (though not 13, we had toilet paper) and neither my brother or have narcissistic personality disorder I’m going to assume my children won’t grow up to be a narcissists either.

“Where do you get your ‘you’ time?”

I tend to stay up late after the kids go to bed, so that I squeeze a little bit of time for myself, but I think that most parents struggle to find time for themselves when they have small children, no matter how they choose to raise them. Thanks though for your concern.

“Can you hear the sniggering behind your back? If it’s been a while since you’ve been invited out by a non-Crazy Mama there is a reason.”

Umm, not really. No. One time I had a couple of friends over who were talking about that Time magazine cover with the 3 year old breastfeeding and they scoffed and laughed at the idea of a 3 year old being breastfed – obviously unaware at that stage I’d breastfed my son until 3 – and I politely told them this.

Firstly the were very embarrassed by what they’d said and apologised immediately and profusely. Then they asked me a half dozen questions about why I’d chose to breastfeed that long (not like your questions, but out of actual curiosity.)  And I answered them all as best I could from my own experience. Funnily enough they didn’t stop asking me out! Despite this revelation, 3 years and another breastfed toddler later, we’re still friends!

DSC_0155
Breastfeeding three year old number two!

With regards to your final words that people like yourself who’ve apparently previously shunned us for how we’re raising our children, would accept us back into their lives with open arms provided we conformed to your idea of how parenting should look – frankly, I don’t need “friends” like that in my life.

I’ll keep my “Crazy Mama” friends any day (if by “crazy” you mean people who either practice, or don’t exclude people who practice, attachment/crunchy parenting.)

I hope that clears some things up for you! And hopefully you’ll be a little bit more informed before you start to rip shreds of how other people choose to raise their children.

Take care.

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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14 comments

  1. Dear Rachel,

    Thank you for taking the time to read my article and post a reply, however I’m disappointed you chose to focus on just two points of the many that made up the sum of the article, but let’s deal with them first before we get to the bigger picture.

    Babywearing. I actually have nothing against it (I used to have a Baby Bjorn ) so long as it stops by the time your child can walk because that goes to the bigger picture I was trying to draw – ie, there comes a time where you and your child need to be separate entities.
    There comes a time when your baby becomes an infant, then a pre-schooler,
    primary schooler etc etc and they will be better prepared for the world if they
    lose their dependence on you (and vice versa). But, just to be clear: babywearing is fine. In fact it’s fantastic.

    Breastfeeding. I’m all for breastfeeding and breastfeeding in public. Where you and I differ is on when to stop. You say three is fine and I don’t doubt it’s healthy (as in nutrient
    healthy) for the child and cost-effective for the parents, but there comes a
    time when it needs to stop. (I assume your mother is not breastfeeding you
    still – yes, I’m joking, but you never know. This woman is breastfeeding her
    16yo: http://www.kveller.com/why-i-breastfeed-my-sixteen-year-old).

    I note you did not say when you think you’ll stop breastfeeding your children. I think this would have been good to know because if it’s 16 then some might question your opinion.

    Now, to the wedding and the breastfeeding incident. You deliberately
    overlooked HOW Heather was holding her child – ie, under the arms, head up, feet dangling in the air. I’m sorry but that’s just weird and bordering on attention seeking. If she had cradled the child in her arms (as you are doing in
    your photo) I wouldn’t have even mentioned it. As it happens the only thing
    anyone remembers about the service is the Vertical Breastfeeding Incident – and
    the parents’ unwillingness to not stop the child distracting it. You say the breastfeeding “made him quiet and still”. Yes it did, but again you are ignoring the main point – and that is the child was running wild for several minutes during a wedding and the parents did nothing to stop it. It only stopped when the child went to the mother – the mother did not go to the child. And that’s because they think the child can do as he pleases. He is not being taught social skills and, worse, they are putting their child before the bride and groom.

    You say you and your brother don’t have “narcissistic personality disorder” but you fill your post with several photos of yourself. Mmmm.

    Perhaps my favourite “own goal” though is the sniggering. You say you can’t hear it and yet – YET – you had some friends over who “scoffed” and “laughed” at “the idea of a 3 year old being breastfed” – until you told them you do it. Then they were “embarrassed” and “apologised immediately”. Of course they did – they’re your friends. But they still sniggered.

    And speaking of friends – it will always, inevitably, be a two-way street. Sometimes one party may go off track – most of us do at some point – but if you stay off track the friendship is doomed. What defines that “street” is up to the people involved. Many people go “off track” when they have children – and by that I mean they lose all perspective about the child’s place in the world – and that was also part of the article’s bigger picture. When I occasionally run into Heather it is impossible to have a conversation about anything other than her children. And her children are ALWAYS present at the conversation. Never once have they been encouraged to play with the other children. You might not have a problem with that but I do – and I reckon I’d be
    in the majority. (I note of the 11 comments my post created nine supported my
    arguments).

    I’m not telling you or anyone else how to raise their child. It’s none of my business. But I’m allowed to have an opinion on the subject. I have three teenage daughters and we are very close so I’d like to think it’s an informed opinion.

    Oh, and I have a composter and would love to have chickens running around the backyard, so maybe there’s a bit of Crunchy in me after all.

    But I’ll leave the last word to Little Britain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyHm8oqkOB0

    Steve

  2. Dear Rachel,

    Thank you for taking the time to read my article and post a reply, however I’m disappointed you chose to focus on just two points of the many that made up the sum of the article, but let’s deal with them first before we get to the bigger picture.

    Babywearing. I actually have nothing against it (I used to have a Baby Bjorn ) so long as it stops by the time your child can walk because that goes to the bigger picture I was trying to draw – ie, there comes a time where you and your child need to be separate entities.
    There comes a time when your baby becomes an infant, then a pre-schooler,
    primary schooler etc etc and they will be better prepared for the world if they
    lose their dependence on you (and vice versa). But, just to be clear: babywearing is fine. In fact it’s fantastic.

    Breastfeeding. I’m all for breastfeeding and breastfeeding in public. Where you and I differ is on when to stop. You say three is fine and I don’t doubt it’s healthy (as in nutrient
    healthy) for the child and cost-effective for the parents, but there comes a
    time when it needs to stop. (I assume your mother is not breastfeeding you
    still – yes, I’m joking, but you never know. This woman is breastfeeding her
    16yo: http://www.kveller.com/why-i-breastfeed-my-sixteen-year-old).

    I note you did not say when you think you’ll stop breastfeeding your children. I think this would have been good to know because if it’s 16 then some might question your opinion.

    Now, to the wedding and the breastfeeding incident. You deliberately
    overlooked HOW Heather was holding her child – ie, under the arms, head up, feet dangling in the air. I’m sorry but that’s just weird and bordering on attention seeking. If she had cradled the child in her arms (as you are doing in
    your photo) I wouldn’t have even mentioned it. As it happens the only thing
    anyone remembers about the service is the Vertical Breastfeeding Incident – and
    the parents’ unwillingness to not stop the child distracting it. You say the breastfeeding “made him quiet and still”. Yes it did, but again you are ignoring the main point – and that is the child was running wild for several minutes during a wedding and the parents did nothing to stop it. It only stopped when the child went to the mother – the mother did not go to the child. And that’s because they think the child can do as he pleases. He is not being taught social skills and, worse, they are putting their child before the bride and groom.

    You say you and your brother don’t have “narcissistic personality disorder” but you fill your post with several photos of yourself. Mmmm.

    Perhaps my favourite “own goal” though is the sniggering. You say you can’t hear it and yet – YET – you had some friends over who “scoffed” and “laughed” at “the idea of a 3 year old being breastfed” – until you told them you do it. Then they were “embarrassed” and “apologised immediately”. Of course they did – they’re your friends. But they still sniggered.

    And speaking of friends – it will always, inevitably, be a two-way street. Sometimes one party may go off track – most of us do at some point – but if you stay off track the friendship is doomed. What defines that “street” is up to the people involved. Many people go “off track” when they have children – and by that I mean they lose all perspective about the child’s place in the world – and that was also part of the article’s bigger picture. When I occasionally run into Heather it is impossible to have a conversation about anything other than her children. And her children are ALWAYS present at the conversation. Never once have they been encouraged to play with the other children. You might not have a problem with that but I do – and I reckon I’d be
    in the majority. (I note of the 11 comments my post created nine supported my
    arguments).

    I’m not telling you or anyone else how to raise their child. It’s none of my business. But I’m allowed to have an opinion on the subject. I have three teenage daughters and we are very close so I’d like to think it’s an informed opinion.

    Oh, and I have a composter and would love to have chickens running around the backyard, so maybe there’s a bit of Crunchy in me after all.

    But I’ll leave the last word to Little Britain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyHm8oqkOB0

    Steve

  3. The kveller article you linked to was an April fools joke and clearly says so.
    I think you should mind your own business. Nothing you complained about with the exception of vaccination has any effect on you and the way someone mothers their child (I say mothers because your article attacks mothers specifically, not parents) is none of your business. Your intimation of psychological harm from breastfeeding has no evidence to support it. I actually wrote a response to your article as well because I’m so sick of breastfeeding and gentle parenting being criticized ignorantly in public forums. http://www.handbagmafia.net/a-crunchy-opinion/ Why not just accept that people parent differently and move on? It doesn’t hurt anyone so why waste your time worrying about it and inciting parents against each other? You have a voice in the media- use it for something better

  4. The kveller article you linked to was an April fools joke and clearly says so.
    I think you should mind your own business. Nothing you complained about with the exception of vaccination has any effect on you and the way someone mothers their child (I say mothers because your article attacks mothers specifically, not parents) is none of your business. Your intimation of psychological harm from breastfeeding has no evidence to support it. I actually wrote a response to your article as well because I’m so sick of breastfeeding and gentle parenting being criticized ignorantly in public forums. http://www.handbagmafia.net/a-crunchy-opinion/ Why not just accept that people parent differently and move on? It doesn’t hurt anyone so why waste your time worrying about it and inciting parents against each other? You have a voice in the media- use it for something better

  5. The kveller article you linked to was an April fools joke and clearly says so.
    I think you should mind your own business. Nothing you complained about with the exception of vaccination has any effect on you and the way someone mothers their child (I say mothers because your article attacks mothers specifically, not parents) is none of your business. Your intimation of psychological harm from breastfeeding has no evidence to support it. I actually wrote a response to your article as well because I’m so sick of breastfeeding and gentle parenting being criticized ignorantly in public forums. http://www.handbagmafia.net/a-crunchy-opinion/ Why not just accept that people parent differently and move on? It doesn’t hurt anyone so why waste your time worrying about it and inciting parents against each other? You have a voice in the media- use it for something better