So, I talk about breastfeeding. Kind of a lot, actually. In addition to considering a woman's right to feed her child a feminist issue, I am also currently (and formerly) a breastfeeding mother and maybe kinda/sorta a lactivist. I believe that breastfeeding provides invaluable benefits to mothers and babies, that we desperately need to address the many barriers that face women who wish to breastfeed, and that a woman has a right to nurse her baby bare-breasted wherever she has the right to be. Then I see a woman breastfeed a seven year old and all my smug, liberal posturing slumps a little bit and I'm like "Oh...OK...ummm...oh."
Denise Sumpter was recently on Sky News to discuss tandem nursing her 7-year-old and 2-year-old. And, honestly? She crushed it. Her answers were given matter-of-factly, assertively, and all her information was accurate, patient, and non-judgmental. But you know what? Come in close, so I can whisper this to you: It still freaked me out. Because her kid is 7, and that is way, way older than I am used to seeing a kid nursing. It didn't gross me out. It didn't make me shudder. But when I saw it I just kinda made this face...
Like, "Oh shit. All my principles say I have to support a breastfeeding mother... but I don't get why she is breastfeeding this child anymore. The World Health Organization says moms should breastfeed until a kid is two. Well... okay, it says 'or older', but how much older? This seems a bit much..." And then I get all panicked and uncomfortable so I smile in a similarly uncomfortable manner.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I think weirded out and supportive is okay. Yes, I am unaccustomed to seeing an older child nurse, but where do you draw the line at "older"? Medical recommendations? Social norms? I mean, fewer than a quarter of babies are breastfed exclusively through 6 months in the US, yet I nursed my own kids well beyond a year. I'm sure some people looked at me nursing my son at 17 months and thought "That is messed up". But I didn't and don't make decisions about my body or what my children do and eat based on other people's comfort levels—clearly, neither does Sumpter, and nor should she. Her nursing has nothing to do with you or me.
That said, I don't feel like I'm required to get comfortable with the idea of nursing school aged children in order to be supportive. I think of it like this: You know what else I find weird? Black olives. I have no desire to incorporate them into my diet or acquire a taste for them, yet I think they should be available in all grocery stores for the people who do like them. And if some grocery store owner started giving those olive-eating people a hard time, I'd be like "Dude, I get it, I think those things are weird as hell...but quit being a dick and just sell these people some motherlovin' olives."
The full video can be found below, and depending on your office may not be safe for work, as it does depict breasts in their natural state.
Images: Getty Images; Giphy