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"This mum wants to ‘normalise’ breastfeeding older kids. She may be in for a long wait."

A British mother has created a series of YouTube videos of her feeding her four-and-a-half-year old son.

Sophie Emma Rose, 40, who’s from Blackpool and now lives in Thailand, says the videos are intended to “normalise breastfeeding older kids” and she wants “to expose it until it becomes part of normal reality”.

She may have a long wait. Breastfeeding older children is not the norm in Western society, it’s not necessary, and certainly we don’t need to see it.

Surely babies stop breastfeeding when they develop teeth? Then they can begin to eat solids and their development continues.

Sophie Emma Rose with her four-and-a-half-year old son. Image: Instagram.  

Rose adds, “Breastfeeding older children is so 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.”

Hang on. It’s not nutritionally crucial to breastfeed older children and there are plenty of ways to show your child you’re there for them. What happened to cuddling up and reading stories together and building a nest of trust?

This child won’t be four-and-a-half forever; he will grow up into a young man with a pretty challenging Google history to contend with.

Is it really being there for your child to give them such a hefty head start with their damning digital footprint? Rose chooses to homeschool her son.

“The average age to stop breastfeeding across the whole world is actually six years old; this takes into consideration developing countries," Vera Auerbach, Clinical Psychologist and Principal at Gymea Lily Psychotherapy Centre in NSW, tells Mamamia.

"As a society it’s very hard for mothers in Australia and the West who choose extended breastfeeding. They need more support. Lots of mothers turn to ‘closet feeding’, where they secretly feed an older toddler once at nighttime. Some don’t even tell their husbands they’re still doing it.

“I understand mothers turning to Facebook and social media for support. But people need to be careful posting photos publicly," she continues.

"I understand mothers feeling very positive about the experience, or having a strong reaction to criticism and wanting to take a stand, but they really haven’t thought it through. They’re not thinking ahead to when their son’s 17 and going for a job and their potential employer Googles their name.”

Experts agree that breastfeeding needs to stop “before sexuality kicks in,” Auerbach says. (Image: iStock)
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The truth is, whoever you ask about this topic will give you a different opinion — because ultimately it is a mother’s responsibility to make the right decision for herself and her child.

Rebecca Naylor, Chief Executive Officer Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) tells Mamamia, “ABA’s position is that breastfeeding should continue as long as a mother and child wish."

"We endorse the World Health Organization (WHO) position on breastfeeding that recommends your baby should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, WHO recommends breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond," she adds.

So, taking all of the professional advice and insights on board, we can see that, yes, it’s a personal choice. Experts do agree that breastfeeding needs to stop “before sexuality kicks in,” as Auerbach says, “otherwise the child thinks it owns the mother's body.”

"Homeschooling doesn’t last forever and the big wide world can be vicious and cruel"

However, as Auerbach also rightly emphasises, we don’t live in a supportive world. Judgement and fierce criticism run rife and Google has an irritatingly long memory.

Why are people so hell-bent on making a point they forget there are long-term consequences to posting images on social media? We have all got to wrap our heads around protecting ourselves better. Homeschooling doesn’t last forever and the big wide world can be vicious and cruel.

In the case of these breastfeeding toddlers, they don’t have the luxury of deciding for themselves what is posted online.

Your decision to continue breastfeeding is entirely separate to your decision to take photos and post them publicly.
If this is really about doing the best for your child, perhaps you should think twice before setting up a YouTube channel.

* For access to private psychologists in your area, contact the APS Find a Psychologists Service on the toll free number 1800 333 497 or check out www.findapsychologist.org.au.

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