And she has no plans on stopping.
We’ve all seen the controversial magazine covers. We have all read the extended breastfeeding debate. And we all know the inevitable uproar whenever any topic like attachment parenting is criticised, or whenever co-sleeping or controlled crying or bottle-feeding or the use of pacifiers is discussed.
So it’s almost surprising that women like Maha Al Musa are still making headlines. You would kind of think we’d all have gotten over it by now.
But no. Today’s issue of Woman’s Day magazine features an interview with Maha that has spawned fresh stories of breathless shock.
In the story, her daughter Aminah tells the magazine, “Sometimes it tastes like candy canes. It tastes like a lot of different things.”
Because the fact of the matter is that in today’s society, extended breastfeeding IS unusual – and Maha Al Musa ISN’T your ordinary mother.
Aside from being 52 years old and having her third child when she turned 46, Maha Al Musa is a belly dancing guru – a doula – a ‘human rights activist’ and probably what she is best known for – a breastfeeding mother.
Possibly right now you are wondering more about the belly dancing than the breastfeeding. Well that’s because the unusual part of this hasn’t been made clear just yet.
Maha Al Musa is an advocate of extended breastfeeding, which she likes to call ‘continual breastfeeding’.
She says she has no plans to stop and as long as her daughter wishes to continue then she will too.
Even if her daughter wants to still breastfeed at the age of 10.
Her daughter Aminah is turning seven this year.
Maha has told Mamamia that her daughter still nurses morning and night.
She tells Mamamia that back in the 1980’s when she was a teacher at a Melbourne School, there was a special ‘lunch time breastfeeding room’ for some of the Turkish mothers who used to come and nurse their children.
“At no time did we think this was odd or crazy or indeed exceptional, the school just catered for these mums as a natural and normal requirement. We seem to have gone backwards as we have moved in to the 21st century. That I think is an oddity.”
To see more of Maha’s lifestyle, click through the gallery below. Post continues after gallery.
Maha has made worldwide headlines with her practice of extended nursing.
From the UK’s Daily Mail to CNN she has been debated, discussed and dissected, with views ranging from admiration, to curiosity to concern.
Maha says she just wishes society would let go of its judgements and let mothers be mothers.
She says her decision to breastfeed her daughter is because she feels it is beneficial for the kindergarten aged child.
‘I believe it helps boost her immune system. To this day, she is very rarely ill and her temperament is calmer and more relaxed than the other children,’ she told the Daily Mail.
Maha weaned her two previous children, Kailash, 16, and Tariq, 13, when they were two – and told Mamamia that her sons don’t bat an eyelid about her breastfeeding their sister.
Below is an interview Maha did on the topic last year. Post continues after video.
She breastfeeds her daughter in public whenever she asks for milk and has stated she couldn’t care less what the public think.
“Everyone is entitled to an opinion. The fact we are having open dialogue and debate is very very positive, the topic is being explored and I am grateful for that and I am grateful to be spear heading this debate especially for older children and older mums. “ She said
Maha told Mamamia that “in an ideal world we should be accepting of a mother’s choice to do what’s best for her, her baby/child and circumstance. This should not really even be an issue .“
She strongly believes that there is not enough information about what she says is the benefits of choosing continual breastfeeding.
From Maha: “Some facts – and there are more – a child has milk teeth which are the teeth they have whilst lactating and they fall out around ages 6-7.
The worldwide age for self-weaning if a child is left to naturally wean is between 4 and 7. The average is 4.2 years of age”.
She says there are many health benefits for both mother and child “Breast milk helps to regulate a child’s blood sugar so for example a toddler having a tantrum can be calmed through the breast milk. “
Some of the critics of extended breastfeeding say that the practice does not provide any nutritional benefits for a child after the age of one. Maha disputes this.
“Two years ago when I was 50 and Aminah was 4.5 I had my breast milk tested at the University of WA bio chemistry department where they do a lot of research on human milk. This was the first time they had tested a woman’s milk of my age group and I can report that my milk still had all the properties and nutrients relative to that of a woman half my age with a smaller baby has. So this fact is worth noting when people’s opinion claims breast milk has no nutrients after a child reaches one year of age.”
However it seems even the experts can’t agree. In an article for the BBC in May 2012 Dr Mary Fewtrell, who specialises in childhood nutrition at University College London told News Magazine that “there isn’t any research into the health benefits of continuing to breastfeed children up until school age.”
She said that “even for the health benefits of breastfeeding beyond a year or 18 months, there is little research” and that this was far more a social than a nutritional issue.
Two years ago the Time Magazine cover of a breastfeeding mother with a nursing three-year old suckling at her breast sent shock waves throughout the world.
The magazine was criticised for igniting the bottle-breast wars, for sensationalising attachment parenting and for exploiting a three-year old boy who would have to live with the publicity his entire life.
At the time actress Alissa Milano tweeted “@TIME, no! You missed the mark! You’re supposed to be making it easier for breastfeeding moms. Your cover is exploitive & extreme.”
Discussion groups went wild.
Maha Al Musa told Mamamia that she is amazed at the reaction her breastfeeding choice continues to get. “I have had the extremes from disdain and repulsion to absolute support, joy and encouragement.”
She is however simply pleased that people are talking about breastfeeding and encourages women to do what’s best for them.
“My philosophy has always been do what’s best for you and your child- whether breast or bottle. And that when we love and support mothers, women and eliminate making her feel shameful around her body then the body will relax and open.”
Want to read more on this topic?
What do you think of the continued focus on this breastfeeding choice? Will mothers ever just support each other in our choices?