real life

Meet the 51-year-old still breastfeeding her five-year-old

Maha Al Musa is a 51-year-old NSW mum who has made headlines around the world by pledging to continue breastfeeding her now five-year-old daughter as long as she likes, even if it is until she is 10.

She's also an advocate of belly dancing through childbirth.

Yep, she's pretty unique.

Al Musa feels that her body was made for childbirth and breastfeeding. She danced her way through labour pains and embraces every single aspect of motherhood after having her third and final child.

Al Musa pregnant with her daughter

However she raises quite a few eyebrows by breastfeeding daughter Aminah whenever she requests milk. The practice is called "extended breastfeeding" and many mums are embracing it, believing it wards of illness and optimises health.

"I am sick and tired of being told by outsiders what I can and cannot do with my body and my baby," she says. "When will we start to hand back the power to mothers and parents and respect the journey of a thousand miles. A journey that has been taken for thousands of years. My knowing and my instincts are embedded within my veins and are a result of those whom have walked the earth before me."

Al Musa agreed to talk to me because I can't help but admire how much she celebrates the two parts of motherhood I struggled with the most. I experienced so many problems through childbirth and was guilty of swearing, screaming and sobbing my way through them. And when it came to breastfeeding ... I wasn't a natural. I really struggled and it was really painful.

Could my first few years of motherhood have been greatly improved by a complete attitude change on my behalf?

All I needed to do was accept that my body knew what it was doing, to understand that pain was part of the process and focus on something that celebrated my body instead of fighting every moment of discomfort.

Here's what Al Musa had to say when I interviewed her:

What are your views on women's bodies when it comes to birth and breastfeeding?

We were designed for this and we are very much influenced by our emotional and energetic body that flows in unison with our physical body

I speak of this in my bellydancebirth teachings - that we must be mindful of the many bodies we as women are "living in" and each has an influence on the other. Often in mainstream childbirth education we neglect this understanding and I believe it if we are not holistic in our approach we can label women's bodies as problematic when in essence it may just be that she is feeling unloved, insecure, unsupported, misunderstood, hungry, cold, sad etc . A more compassionate approach when we are dealing with birth and breastfeeding may very well be the medicine a woman requires to "let go" and feel what her body can do.

Al Musa at a Bellydancing For Birth workshop

Where do most women go wrong?

I see that women hand their power over to an "expert" or someone outside of themselves whom they believe are an authority instead of trusting the knowing that is inherently within. In this modern day there is so much information "out there" that distracts and dilutes a woman from her inner resources.

I often say that the Living Book is within, many chapters have been written and there are more to write. Trusting in ourselves is a good foundational starting point and then move like a spiral from this place to the outside rather than the other way.

Do you regret weaning your first two children at two?

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With my sons I followed in accordance with my Middle Eastern roots to breastfeed babies till 2 years of age. In many ways both my boys would have kept feeding long term because they did not naturally wean and actually my first son went back on to the breast a few weeks after I weaned him when he had a cold and was miserable....this helped to comfort and connect him back to the Source of Love and familiarity. It worked a treat! Yes in some ways I wished I could have breastfed them for more than two years.

What is the goal/philosophy of bellydancing births?

Bellydance For Birth which I founded in 1997 after the birth of my first son is essentially a way for women to tap into their bodies birthing wisdom moving through resistance into  remembering the mystical rhythm and nature of birth  that is part of the feminine blueprint - the Mystery codes.

I have written an award winning world first book that has been endorsed by many well known birth advocates and a follow up award winning DVD - Dance Of The Womb that is available for those interested to find out more. I now travel worldwide teaching workshops to birth professionals.

Do you feel differently about breastfeeding your third child? 

It's been interesting breastfeeding my daughter, who is now five and the seeing that she is still very happy to have a couple of feeds a day usually bedtime and morning. This has never been predetermined or agenda based. Rather, as her mother, I have followed her instinctual cues because Lets face it I can still give human milk to my human child!

She took to breastfeeding well after her beautiful natural home water birth when I was 46. We had a strong bond and as time has passed I am allowing her independence to self wean. We do the "don't offer/ don't refuse" method now that shes older. You cannot  force feed a breastfeeding child and I naturally feed her if that's what she wants. There is a notion out there in society that a mother is "holding on" and that the mother has physchological  problems. I find this judgement is inaccurate in my case as I don't feel at all perturbed or unbalanced from giving to my child the best that I can as I make conscious choices for her well being and mine!

Many people also have this impression that a mother and older child are sitting around all day breastfeeding in a similar vein to a newborn/small baby. This is a totally misunderstood media representation of the facts. My daughter will feed to sleep, sometimes when she wakes up and if she is feeling the need for comfort and reassurance, needs to regulate her blood sugar or just wants to connect. She also eats a variety of foods and drink and takes what she needs.

Eearlier this year I had my breastmilk tested at the University  of WA as they had never had a 50yr old woman's milk to test and I wanted to donate my milk for other women in their late 40's and guess what??? My milk still has all the nutrients that a woman's half my age feeding a younger baby has! So that dispels the very aggressive opinions that I have read around extended breastfeeding that the milk no longer has nutrients !

So really it is ridiculous the way in which feeding older children is portrayed as some kind of "extreme" idea when as the mother and child we are naturally choosing to connect in this beautiful, heartfelt space and this does not negate the choice of another mother/parent and child to connect in the way they feel suits their circumstance or life style and with gently allowing the child to self wean at their own pace I am placing trust in my daughters natural judgement. If you don't like it don't look.

Al Musa is definitely embracing all aspects of motherhood. Watch this amazing footage of her 'birth bellydancing'. It sure beats swearing, screaming and crying. Find out more at Belly Dance for Birth

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Images credit: Facebook

If this video is called 'birth bellydancing', what would your children's births have been called?

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