A mother who breastfeeds her four-year-old and films it for her YouTube channel has been forced to defend herself against those who say she is exploiting her son.
Every day, Sophie Rose wakes up to the suckling of her son, Shaye.
Throughout the day she continues to allow him to nurse, when is upset, tired, needs comfort or whenever he demands. She feeds him to sleep and allows him to nurse throughout the night.Most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at this routine. Its sounds normal - though perhaps a little tiring. But it’s when the age of Shaye is revealed, some start to get uncomfortable.
British mum Sophie Emma Rose, 40, lives in Chiang Mai in Thailand with her new partner Danny, and her four-year-old son.
It’s her quest to stop people feeling uncomfortable about breastfeeding of children beyond toddlerhood that drives her to posts videos of her breastfeeding journey with her son.
She hopes what she is doing is helping to normalise extended breastfeeding.
“I want other mothers to feel confident about feeding older children” she says as Shaye feeds.
“I also want mothers to not feel shame and to feel they could do it wherever they want and have no negative comments or fear.”
She tells Mamamia she makes videos " lots of them" to show "that it is a normal everyday thing for our family, not something strange or controversial."
She calls her milk "almost like a perfectly formed multi vitamin and mineral supplement."
She says she believes that children should breastfeed until they are eight as it is important.
“As well as the nutritional value of breast milk, you also let your child know in a very physical way that you are there for them. It's about the comfort and emotional connection” she explains.
In her videos she explains that her YouTube channel – which has had more than eight million views – is a part of her mission to make breastfeeding in public and of older children an everyday part of life.
“I think the work I'm doing affirms other mums who want to breastfeed older kids or babies. I feel the act of me breastfeeding without shame on YouTube sends the message out that it is okay.”Sophie practices attachment parenting. Shaye will be home schooled, sleeps in her bed and she reveals she has had no qualms in the past having sex in front of him.
"Attachment parenting is about treating a child with dignity and respect and meeting their emotional needs fully. Practices like co-sleeping and breastfeeding make a child feel close and reassured.”
In a video where she explores the idea of having sex around children she says that when she was with Shaye’s father, and Shaye was younger she hadn’t thought twice about continuing her love making even if he entered the room.
She says she has even allowed him to latch on to breastfeed and continued having sex.
But she says now she is with a different partner and Shaye is older so if he enters the room when she is being intimate usually she stops.
“We are very natural about sex. I don’t believe it needs to be hidden from children. I won’t be broadcasting it to him, but I won’t pretend it doesn’t exist.”
She says Shaye still breastfeeds three or four times a day.
“Every morning and every evening, but he will if I am around and if he is not busy he will ask me, or make it known he wants milk a couple of other times a day.
"It could be maybe four times a day, three times a day."
The practising vegan says she will breastfeed Shaye for as long as he wants it.
“That is the goal."
"I know that breastfeeding does end - children eventually lose the latch and are not physically able to breastfeed past the age of about seven or eight-years-old.
"I have no fears that I'm going to be feeding Shaye at eighteen years old when he's at university."
But she shuns the idea that her breastfeeding is sexual.
“We have been conditioned in western culture to see breasts as a sexual part of the body, so you see it as sexual when really it's not sexually intimacy at all. I don't feel sexual pleasure when Shaye feeds, it's a nice sensation but not a sexual act.”
And she tells Mamamia that those who say she is "harming" her son have no idea.
"How can a biological norm be harmful? If I was an addict and had a substance in my milk that was harmful, sure. But really, how can breastfeeding be harmful? I see no evidence in him of any trauma and I doubt anyone evaluating him independently would. He's a very chilled and generally happy boy."
As expected she receives a lot of backlash for her posts with online criticism ranging from being told she is a “bad mother” to those accusing her of harming her son.
She says she deals with it by remembering why she does it.
" I deal with the criticism by remembering why I choose to continue feeding Shaye. I know I am in integrity, I'm inline with all the best research and I'm certainly doing my best as a parent. As a recent Mum blogger wrote after reading some awful critical comments, "it's not like I'm feeding him Smack or Gin chasers"!" she tells Mamamia.
But she also has many supporters who say she obviously loves her son and is helping women right around the world feel comfortable about their decisions to breastfeed.
“I have nothing but admiration for this woman,” one woman wrote on Facebook .“Yes she is making an 'issue' of it because breastfeeding older children is normal too!”
“If it's the right thing for her child who am I to judge?”