Mom who breastfeeds sons aged 3 and 5 ignites controversy

Mom who breastfeeds sons aged 3 and 5 ignites controversy

Building a strong maternal bond with your children is one thing, but how much is too far?

Jamie Lynne Grumet, 26, recently ignited a controversy after she appeared on a TIME magazine cover picturing her breastfeeding her three-year-old son.

Aram, her son, stands on a stool with his mouth latched onto the breast of the slim mother of two, while red text in the background blazes "Are you mom enough?".

The concept of attachment parenting is based in the idea that a child forms strong emotional bonds with caregivers during childhood, and this has lifelong consequences.

Mothers are taught to increase their sensitivity to an infant's needs and signals, and be emotionally available for the child at every turn.

For most practitioners, it means having natural childbirth, home birth, stay-at-home parenting, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, homeschooling, natural health, and the support of organic and local foods.

However, while stay-at-home parenting or co-sleeping stirs up little heated discussion, the idea of mothers breastfeeding their grown toddlers has gotten people questioning whether these moms are just out of their minds.

In the TIME piece on the extremes mothers go in attachment parenting, Grumet says she was breastfed by her own mother until the age of six.

She said she was able to recall memories of being latched onto her mother's breast, describing the sensation as very warm and "like embracing your mother, like a hug."

"You feel comforted, nurtured and really, really loved. I had so much self-confidence as a child, and I know it's from that," she told TIME magazine.

Biologically natural

Biologically natural

Now, she breastfeeds both Aram, aged three, and her five-year-old adopted son Samuel. Samuel, who was adopted from Ethiopia in November 2010, began breastfeeding from Grumet almost immediately. He now latches onto her breast about once a month, she said.

Grumet said it was really important for her to give him that comfort after all the trauma he faced.

""When I asked him if he would also like to breastfeed, he smiled and jumped right on my lap. Our first experience breastfeeding you could tell his was an old pro. It was clear it was something he missed dearly. Something from home I was able to give him," she said.

Later, when Samuel's English improved, he stopped doing it as much because the 'connection' had already been established.

Like many mothers supportive of attachment parenting, she says it is nothing new, and is an extension of our natural ancestral instincts.

"Chimpanzees are our unrefuted closest living primate relatives, sharing 98 per cent of the same DNA sequence as a human. Chimpanzees breastfeed their young from to the age of four to six years," she said.

"Humans should take into account these numbers for what is a biologically normal time to wean," explaining that according to calculations, the average time of weaning for a human being would be 4.5 years.

Not a 'dirty of secret act'

Not a 'dirty of secret act'

The avid blogger used to keep a blog (the blog has been since taken down) where she wrote of how much Aram, who will turn four next month, enjoys being breastfed.

In one post, she uploaded a photograph of Aram in the Playboy mansion, with a comment that she had breastfed him in the mansion.

"I actually felt it was the most appropriate place on earth to do it," she wrote, without giving an explanation as to why this is so.

Grumet is no ignoramus about the comments flying about of the inappropriateness of the unorthodox parenting technique.

She said that she doesn't deny that there are people who've threatened her about calling social services or that it's child molestation. In response, she said she thinks she can't reason with these people.

She said that it is "biologically normal", and that she believes that the more people see it, the more they will come to accept it.

The Los Angeles mother said there is no war between conventional parenting and attachment parenting, and that they are not 'opposing teams' and should instead encourage each other.

She wrote on her blog: 'I love how my mother never made breastfeeding a dirty or secret act.'

TIME photographer Martin Schoeller also shot three other families on the same day.

One of them, Dionna Ford, who breast feeds her 4-year-old and 5-month-old sons, said she was inspired to do so by a breastfeeding documentary called "Extraordinary Breastfeeding".

The documentary shows a rare insight into the rationales driving mothers who breastfeed.

'Detractors are making uneducated claims'

'Detractors are making uneducated claims'

The mother in the documentary, Veronica Robinson, breastfed her eldest daughter Bethany till she was five, and still breastfeeds her younger daughter Eliza, who is eight years old.

She explained that she believes that children should decide for themselves when they want to stop breastfeeding. Eliza is still breastfed when she asks, and she still has a lot of attachment to breast feeding, although she does not need it.

However, this is not the first time the issue has made media spotlight.

Actress Mayim Bialik made headlines when she wrote about how she breastfeeds her three-year-old.

The book, titled "Beyond The Sling", is a heart-felt call of support for attachment parenting.

Dr Bialik, who has a PhD in neuroscience, said she placed her children in a sling across her body every day of the first months to keep them close to her body.

In the sling, they were kept in a horizontal position rather than upright, as they believed it to be their natural shape.

She expressed anger at people who criticise her for her methods without any personal experience, saying that they are basically "making very uneducated analyses of these issues."

"Find me a child that was breastfed past two that said they wished they hadn't been," she dared detractors.

Some experts say extended breast feeding can improve the intelligence of children.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that mothers exclusively breast feed their babies for the first six months of their lives, and continue to do so until at least two years of age.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

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