"Breastfeeding Older Children" - A Book that can Change your Life!

March 30th, 2010 by Diane Sam

It's not often a book comes around that can truly change how you think about things. "Breastfeeding Older Children" by Ann Sinnott is such a book. Compelling, thought-provoking and well-researched, this book has the potential of changing a culture.

If it finds an audience .....

Let me start by quoting the same mom that Ms.Sinnot does as she concludes her book:

"It all began to make sense to me - how our society had duped women and me around breastfeeding. How our society had "bought" a bill of goods called formula. How our puritanical history had shamed our beautiful maternal spirit. I saw how all of this wove together to undermine this most evolved and instinctive maternal-newborn behaviour."

I almost wept when I read those words. How close to home this book felt to me, like Ms. Sinnot had unpeeled a layer of fog from my eyes that I hadn't even realized was there to the extent it was. How she managed to take research from many fields, including health/medicine, anthropology, history, neurobiology and psychology, and weave into it the stories of how women and men are effected by the culture surrounding breastfeeding.

Read this carefully researched book with a open mind and it will turn your ideas around! Think nursing past a year is "extended nursing"? Read this book and you'll start thinking that weaning at 1 yr or even 2 or 3 is 'truncated nursing" or "weaning too early"!

Think it's no big deal to wean a child too early or too abruptly? Read her heartfelt discussion about our culture of "unbonded" men and women, and how many grow into adulthood in a state of unrecognized yearning and need. As Sinnott asks "Do the emotions triggered when a partner breastfeeds, especially when she breastfeeds long-term, stir up pre-existing emotional patterns laid down in childhood?"

Think breastfeeding a walking, talking, shoe-wearing older child is disturbing? You're not alone. But have you ever given it some extended and careful thought about why it disturbs you? Have you been "sold" a culture that is profoundly twisted in that it tries to convince us that "nuzzling a breast is more associated with sex than it is with the survival of our species and the optimum feeding of human infants"? This is the thesis (among others) that Sinnott so expertly presents to us in this book.

Think that a breastfeeding mom is "a slave to her children" or that breastfeeding for an 'extended" time is a form of regressive anti-feminism that is trying to promote a stereotypic "martyer" or 'super mama" notion of womanhood? Hmm.. well, read how the mothers in Sinnott's surveys repeat over and over again that breastfeeding, and in particular, sustained breastfeeding, increases female autonomy and independence. Women in her book speak of a sense of pride and empowerment from using her own bodily resources to feed and nourish her children.

Her critique of conventional feministic critics of breastfeeding is spot on. In a sub-section titled "Children, not Theories" she writes:

"Most mothers start with their children, not with theories. Well-attuned to their infants, mothers see what nourishes their children on all levels. Nurturing their children is a matter of both pride and pleasure and, in some cases, the result of an irresistible urge: a compelling, un-ignorable 'instinct'. Perceiving the difference between their children and their children's non-breastfed peers, sustained breastfeeding mothers are convinced they are raising children who will become physically and emotionally healthy adults. Such mothers can be under pressure from partners, friends, and family members, and are ever at risk of societal disapproval. To shore themselves up against attack, the do make comparisons between their own and other cultures, but their focus is on a shared common humanity. These mothers are aware of cultural and social differences, but they are also keenly aware that women in more traditional societies breastfeed their children for many years without criticism or negative judgment." 

So, here is where it gets personal for me. This book meant so much to me because it made me feel 1) I wasn't alone. 2) I wasn't crazy or crossing into some sort of line into wierdness and 3) my instinct to continue to breastfeed my nearly 4 yr old until he's ready to wean on his own is valid and healthy. Finally, it gave me some sort of context to place myself in.

Sure, I tell the world I'm a breastfeeding advocate, but very few of you know I'm still nursing Jimmy (who's turning 4 in two weeks). Because I've been so shot down by people close to me that I was afraid and hurt. I just believe in self-weaning. I don't offer, I don't refuse. Jimmy is blossoming into a self-confident, socially adjusted little boy. My instincts have been telling me that pushing him away from the breast before he is fully ready is counter-productive and unneccesary. I'm his mother. I have the power to do what I feel is best for him, and having read this book, I will. Say what you want. Look at me in 'disgust", but thanks to this powerful book I know have somewhere to hang my hat, a group of moms and a powerful health educator in my corner.

Thank you Ann Sinnott, for writing this book. I only hope I have done my part in helping it find the audience it deserves.


What do you think about breastfeeding older children? Comments welcome!

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Catherine said:

Wonderful review! I look forward to reading this book. I nursed two of my children full-term - 3.75 years old and 5.75 years old. They are all grown up now, but it's great to finally see some good press about this!

March 31st, 2010 11:21am

Caroline said:

Beautiful review! I really hope we (our sociaty, the wordld..?) is able to turn back to the nature of breastfeeding, That breasts are valued for what they are meant for.

Yesterday at the beach: I was breastfeeding my almost-three-years-old daugther and people stared at me while 5 meters away, topless women walked around. Isn't that the weirdest thing?

April 1st, 2010 8:42am

Diane Sam said:

That is the weirdest thing! Especially if, as I said, you start to think about it carefully, as this book encourages you to do. If you decide to actually think for yourself!

Good for you for following your heart and your instincts (and your brain!) and being an independent thinker and long term breastfeeding mom! And thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

April 1st, 2010 8:59am

Crystal Biehl said:

What a beautiful and inspiring review. My son is only 4 months old and already I hear "when are you starting solid foods?" "How much longer will you nurse?" Thankfully, my husband is incredibly encouraging and supportive and we know that this is what's best for him. And we also know it's our decision, regardless of what anyone else says or thinks.

I look forward to buying and reading this book. Thanks for sharing!

April 4th, 2010 10:48am

Kylief said:

I'm breastfeeding my 3.5 year old and my 7 month old. My husband has trouble with me feeding our older child and tries to 'interfere' in our breastfeeding relationship (he was adopted so not breastfed). The only result of this is that he upsets me and undermines his own authority with our daughter. She knows she can have a feed in the morning - and will be able to do this until she doesn't need it anymore. I am really glad someone is writing about this. I need to get a copy of this book and try to get my husband to read it. I am lucky in coming from a family of extended breastfeeders (I was weaned prematurely - at 6 weeks) but my siblings were breastfed to term. I don't breastfeed my older child in public - but will continue to feed the baby while it is a major source of nourishment for her.

It is suprising how many people I know who also breastfeed older children. Its not something most publicly disclose - but it is happening probably more than people think.

April 4th, 2010 2:17pm

Anna said:

Hurray for breastfeeding as long as both child and mother are comfortable. Now if only there were MoBoleez hats large enough for 1-2-3-year-olds! :-)

June 21st, 2010 6:52pm

Innate Motherhood said:

Great book to un-school and re-educate our culture back to the way nature intended on the topic of breastfeeding larger babies. We appreciate your great efforts.

Kelly Warnos

Founder of Innate Motherhood


September 3rd, 2010 3:38pm

Steve McPhail said:

As a very strong supporter of extended breastfeeding; I applaud any mother who has lovingly decided to extend their daughter's or son's bonding/breastfeeding relationship. Does the book

'' Breastfeeding Older Children'' actually show pictures of older children breastfeeding?

January 20th, 2011 2:54pm

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