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"I'd rather have breast milk than a MILLION melons!"
This video makes me feel funny. Not funny-good. Funny-bad.

Posted by KELLY O | June 12, 2007 12:27 PM

Dang, I shoulda titled the post "A Million Melons."

Posted by Paulus | June 12, 2007 12:31 PM

My former gf breast fed until her son was five.

Here, that's unusual, but historically it was fairly normal.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 12, 2007 12:33 PM

If they're old enough to draw pictures of your breasts, then it's time to stop.

But, Will's right. In the bad old days before reliable contraception, women would breast feed for many years to reduce the chance of pregnancy.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 12, 2007 12:50 PM

I was 100% a nursing mom, never used a bottle and I let my daughter ween herself, and she did at around 18 months with no fuss! 18 months is when she started drinking from a cup and eating solid food 3 times a day. She had no reason to nurse any longer.
No child with a full set of teeth and vocabulary should still be nursing. I think nursing is great, and I am totally pro breast feeding in every sense, but that video made me feel like I was was watching somethng REALLY wrong and made my stomach feel yucky. Like I should be reporting her or something.


Posted by lilblackcat | June 12, 2007 1:05 PM

I'm trying not to come at this from a "the unknown is icky!" phobia standpoint. The mother raises a few fair, if arguable, points.

Still, though: I decree that she is NOT allowed to home-school those girls. Something's gotta keep those kids grounded in, or at least connected to, the rest of Western civilization.

Posted by Christin | June 12, 2007 1:18 PM


Posted by Carollani | June 12, 2007 1:19 PM

Will in Seattle @3: A lot of things are historically normal; doesn't mean they meet contemporary tribal standards.

keshmeshi @ 4: Thank god we have the pill.

Posted by misrule | June 12, 2007 1:21 PM

"Milchior"!? If that's in reference to The Silmarillion, they are definitely too old.

Posted by gfish | June 12, 2007 1:28 PM

I assumed it was a biblical reference to Melchior the magi. Bearer of gifts, I guess.

Posted by Paulus | June 12, 2007 1:34 PM


Well, inasmuch as I always try to promote enlightenment and educating oneself about different perspectives and cultures, I now know that some things are better left unknown. (Shiver)

Posted by Bauhaus | June 12, 2007 1:54 PM

Why, Paulus, WHY?

Posted by Mary | June 12, 2007 2:08 PM

Thanks for ruining my afternoon, Dan.

Posted by Lisa Ann | June 12, 2007 2:26 PM

Kathy Dettweiler, an anthropologist, has done a lot of work on this, and when you compare human development to other mammals, the 'right' age for people to stop nursing is between 2 and 7. Most kids will wean themselves beween 2.5 and 4 years old.

My kid weaned himself when he was about 3.5--happened very gradually over about a year. For several months he nursed 2-3 times a day, then once a day, then every couple of days, and then we both sort of forgot about it. Not a big deal.

Obviously breast milk is not the ONLY food these kids get! Breastfeeding is never just about food anyway. After about 18 months, breastfeeding is often more for comfort if the kid cracks their head or something (and this is really important--in our scientific society we tend to consider the emotional side of breastfeeding to be irrelevant). It can be an instant tantrum-ender--all of the most relaxed 2-year-olds I have known (including my own) were still nursing. (Nursing also releases hormones for mom that make her chill out too.)

After age 2 most kids just nurse a couple of times a day, often to help them go to sleep at night.

We think this is weird, but preindustrial societies almost always nurse past age 2 or 3--it's just not a big deal. (BTW nursing is NOT a reliable form of birth control, especially after the kid starts eating solid food at 6-7 months.)

Why do we think it's normal for children to drink cow's milk until they're like 24? (I know, I know--it's because we don't sexualize cow breasts, because we are very anxious to deny the sensual side of parenting a small child, and because of a tremendous marketing campaign in the 1950s. Kids weren't expected to drink 3 glasses of milk every day until very recently.)

BTW the whole "they should stop nursing when they can ask for it/draw pictures" thing is just silly & random, and has no basis in actual child development.

Nursing when the kid is 8 does seem a bit much though--at least pump and give it to them in a glass!! (This might also solve the fatwa problem.)

Posted by toadlady | June 12, 2007 2:47 PM


Honey...the time to stop breastfeeding is when the kid gets teeth.

I think some women just get a juicy-eyed thrill at something tugging at their udder and use Dr. Spockisms to justify their neurosis. Lots of women have reported getting off on nursing. Is that good or bad? I don't know, but I do think it's wrong to rationalize little 5 year old Jimmy at your breast with, "Oh it helps bonding and improves IQ."

There's a point where the kid becomes parasitic. It's sick and wrong and very, very them thar hills.

Posted by Bauhaus | June 12, 2007 3:28 PM

child abuse.

Posted by bing | June 12, 2007 4:49 PM

Sure, I had a reaction to this, but I try to remind myself, "Don't believe everything you think." Most of the objections that people raised here are about as convincing as my grandma saying its just wrong to have sex before marriage, or my aunt saying that babies should not be comforted when they cry or they will get spoiled. Who knows? There may be evidence that this is harmful, but don't confuse your reaction to reality.

That said, I could not help wondering whether those kids would have weaned themselves on their own if the mother had not been so downright enthusiastic about her breasts. Kids are sensitive - they could easily have absorbed that "mom wants me to keep breastfeeding" and "mom will be displeased if I stop." Infants typically go through separation-individuation before in the first three years, when most of their patterns get fixed. A 7 year old breastfeeding suggests incomplete separation. But... who knows?

Posted by Jude Fawley | June 12, 2007 5:23 PM

Bauhaus: Actually, when they get teeth is when you start solid foods. (logical)

And how many teeth? One? Three? Ten? If you wait until they get their 2-year molars, then you'd make some sense.

And different kids get teeth at different ages. Some get their 1st at four months, some at 8 months. The American Pediatric Association recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months then as long as both parties want to afterwards. The World Health Organization says kids should nurse for 2 years because of the obvious beneficial effect it has on health, especially in places with bad water etc. (What would you rather give your 18-month-old--cholera-laced water or breast milk?)

You're being emotional and you don't know much about breastfeeding research or child development.

Posted by toadlady | June 12, 2007 6:02 PM

ooh paulus, you are so jealous...and i, am so grossed out.

Posted by dre | June 12, 2007 6:42 PM


Posted by matt | June 12, 2007 7:29 PM

My Dad grew up in China with his grandmother in the 40s and 50s. His grandmother hired a wetnurse, who breastfed him (as was traditional in the region) until he was about 6, and has...ahem...rosy and detailed memories of the experience.

I have never asked him how this has affected his sex life.

Posted by Liz | June 13, 2007 10:09 AM

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