How Old is Too Old to Breast-Feed?
A hot topic on a national debate
ANCHORAGE - The question of how old is too old is being debated as TIME Magazine images of moms breast-feeding their three- and four-year olds circulate on the Internet.
Nursing a baby until he or she is a preschooler is more common in Alaska than some might realize.
"I see a lot of moms who are feeding past the second birthday, sometimes to the third or the fourth birthday," said Sarah Stevens, a lactation consultant at Midwifery and Women’s Health Care in Anchorage.
But Stevens said societal pressures force moms to feed behind closed doors.
"Mothers who practice extended breast feeding are sometimes perceived as a little bit different, or treating their child differently, and children who do extended breast feeding are sometimes perceived as different, but I think at home it happens a lot more frequently than we are aware of,” said Stevens.
Deadra Hall breast-fed four-year-old Cannon until he was two-and-a-half years old.
"My family was very supportive, but I'd still get looks if I was out in the community and I decided to breast feed, because I didn't go to a bathroom - in fact I wouldn't go to a bathroom - I wouldn't try and hide it", said Hall.
Lactation specialist Sarah Stevens said there is no right answer to when a child should stop breast-feeding.
"I don't think that there is an age that is too old; obviously nobody is coming home from the prom or coming home for lunch from high school to breast feed. Most kids wean by themselves by the time they are two or three,” said Stevens.
Mom Deadra Hall said extended breast-feeding helped reinforce the bond between her and her son Cannon.
“It was a factor for me in the sense that I wondered if it was more about my need to bond with him that continued it or whether it was his need to bond with me, and so I struggled in that because of societal pressure saying he's getting older it's time to let go," said Hall.