Mom defends breastfeeding her 4-year-old son - and she doesn't plan to stop

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By Kim Novak

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A mother has defended her decision to keep breastfeeding her four-year-old son, and has revealed she is planning to keep doing it for the foreseeable future.

Allison Yarrow, a journalist and author of Birth Control: The Insidious Power of Men Over Motherhood, has opened up about her choice to keep breastfeeding her child long after most have stopped.

According to the CDC, it is recommended that a baby is exclusively breastfed (if possible) for the first six months of its life, and ideally, breastfeeding should continue for at least a year to allow the baby to benefit from the immunity boost it provides while also being weaned onto other foods.

There are also health benefits for the mother too, with the greater number of months or years combined that she spends breastfeeding her children, the greater the benefit to her own well-being.

Yarrow has revealed that as well as the health benefits for both her and her son, part of the reason she wants to continue past the age of four is down to the intimacy and connection it has fostered between them.

Speaking to People, Yarrow explained: "We haven't stopped breastfeeding because breastfeeding works for us. It's something we do once or twice a day. Sometimes it happens more than that if he's hurt or sick, but it is a way that we connect and communicate with each other."

While most parents have weaned their children by the age of two, the American Academy of Pediatrics also backed breastfeeding (alongside other foods introduced at six months) for longer, as long as it is "mutually desired for two years or beyond."

Yarrow added that research shows that breastfeeding for longer can reduce breast and ovarian cancers in the mother, as well as releasing the happy hormone oxytocin.

She explained: "It's a way of connecting. And I don't think I would still be doing it if I didn't enjoy it. I wouldn't be just sacrificing myself at this stage. My four-year-old has other food, right? He's not coming to me for food."

While breastfeeding past a year is a personal choice that is different for every mother and child, Yarrow revealed the reasons she and her son have carried on so long.

"We still breastfeed because it's a way to connect with each other. We feel good. It's intimacy. It's looking into each other's eyes. It's cuddling. It's having a physical connection. And that strengthens our connection in general," she revealed.

wp-image-1263228604 size-full
Breastfeeding is recommended at least for the first 12 months of a baby's life, though there can be benefits to both mother and child for continuing longer. Credit: Getty Images

Though Yarrow is open with her choice to breastfeed into childhood, she acknowledged that there's often a stigma in American culture for those who keep going when their child is over the age of two.

She lamented the lack of research into extended breastfeeding as well as the difficulty many new mothers have with lactation support or help if they are struggling to breastfeed, as well as it often not being covered by health insurance providers.

While Yarrow believes breastfeeding her four-year-old is "not very much of a commitment" as it only takes a "few minutes a day", she also says "no" to him at times when she doesn't want to berastfeed him, to teach him "boundaries".

She added: "It's mostly something we now do at home, and I am very open about still breastfeeding...with my family and friends, with my neighbors and his preschool teachers.

"People are aware of it because I find that it's really important to normalize this and to make it known that it's absolutely up to mothers and their kids what they want to do in general, but certainly around something like breastfeeding."

And while her son has continued to breastfeed to four and beyond, Yarrow revealed that she stopped with her other kids before they were two.

She has, however, noticed differences between the kids she breastfed for shorter as opposed to her son, but is unsure whether it's a direct link to breastfeeding or not.

"My son who I breastfeed is a very cuddly, physical guy. He's [got] very intense feelings, but I don't know if...it's kind of like a chicken or egg thing. I don't know if he's sort of more cuddly at this stage than his siblings because of that breastfeeding or if we are breastfeeding longer because he internally just has this need to physically connect that's more pronounced than it was with my other kids at their age," she admitted.

Yarrow also revealed that she has no plans to stop breastfeeding her son, having considered ending it when he goes to kindergarten but felt like that was a "socially imposed deadline" over anything else.

She added: "This is a relationship. Like any other relationship, there are two participants in this relationship. And so any decisions that we make around this intimacy that we share will be a decision that we make together."

Featured image credit: Getty Images

Mom defends breastfeeding her 4-year-old son - and she doesn't plan to stop

vt-author-image

By Kim Novak

Article saved!Article saved!

A mother has defended her decision to keep breastfeeding her four-year-old son, and has revealed she is planning to keep doing it for the foreseeable future.

Allison Yarrow, a journalist and author of Birth Control: The Insidious Power of Men Over Motherhood, has opened up about her choice to keep breastfeeding her child long after most have stopped.

According to the CDC, it is recommended that a baby is exclusively breastfed (if possible) for the first six months of its life, and ideally, breastfeeding should continue for at least a year to allow the baby to benefit from the immunity boost it provides while also being weaned onto other foods.

There are also health benefits for the mother too, with the greater number of months or years combined that she spends breastfeeding her children, the greater the benefit to her own well-being.

Yarrow has revealed that as well as the health benefits for both her and her son, part of the reason she wants to continue past the age of four is down to the intimacy and connection it has fostered between them.

Speaking to People, Yarrow explained: "We haven't stopped breastfeeding because breastfeeding works for us. It's something we do once or twice a day. Sometimes it happens more than that if he's hurt or sick, but it is a way that we connect and communicate with each other."

While most parents have weaned their children by the age of two, the American Academy of Pediatrics also backed breastfeeding (alongside other foods introduced at six months) for longer, as long as it is "mutually desired for two years or beyond."

Yarrow added that research shows that breastfeeding for longer can reduce breast and ovarian cancers in the mother, as well as releasing the happy hormone oxytocin.

She explained: "It's a way of connecting. And I don't think I would still be doing it if I didn't enjoy it. I wouldn't be just sacrificing myself at this stage. My four-year-old has other food, right? He's not coming to me for food."

While breastfeeding past a year is a personal choice that is different for every mother and child, Yarrow revealed the reasons she and her son have carried on so long.

"We still breastfeed because it's a way to connect with each other. We feel good. It's intimacy. It's looking into each other's eyes. It's cuddling. It's having a physical connection. And that strengthens our connection in general," she revealed.

wp-image-1263228604 size-full
Breastfeeding is recommended at least for the first 12 months of a baby's life, though there can be benefits to both mother and child for continuing longer. Credit: Getty Images

Though Yarrow is open with her choice to breastfeed into childhood, she acknowledged that there's often a stigma in American culture for those who keep going when their child is over the age of two.

She lamented the lack of research into extended breastfeeding as well as the difficulty many new mothers have with lactation support or help if they are struggling to breastfeed, as well as it often not being covered by health insurance providers.

While Yarrow believes breastfeeding her four-year-old is "not very much of a commitment" as it only takes a "few minutes a day", she also says "no" to him at times when she doesn't want to berastfeed him, to teach him "boundaries".

She added: "It's mostly something we now do at home, and I am very open about still breastfeeding...with my family and friends, with my neighbors and his preschool teachers.

"People are aware of it because I find that it's really important to normalize this and to make it known that it's absolutely up to mothers and their kids what they want to do in general, but certainly around something like breastfeeding."

And while her son has continued to breastfeed to four and beyond, Yarrow revealed that she stopped with her other kids before they were two.

She has, however, noticed differences between the kids she breastfed for shorter as opposed to her son, but is unsure whether it's a direct link to breastfeeding or not.

"My son who I breastfeed is a very cuddly, physical guy. He's [got] very intense feelings, but I don't know if...it's kind of like a chicken or egg thing. I don't know if he's sort of more cuddly at this stage than his siblings because of that breastfeeding or if we are breastfeeding longer because he internally just has this need to physically connect that's more pronounced than it was with my other kids at their age," she admitted.

Yarrow also revealed that she has no plans to stop breastfeeding her son, having considered ending it when he goes to kindergarten but felt like that was a "socially imposed deadline" over anything else.

She added: "This is a relationship. Like any other relationship, there are two participants in this relationship. And so any decisions that we make around this intimacy that we share will be a decision that we make together."

Featured image credit: Getty Images