"I will feed wherever I choose!" Denise Sumpter says. (Twitter)
One mom in the U.K. is getting a lot of attention this week for her decision to breastfeed her 6-year-old daughter.
“I’ll feed Belle as long as she asks,” Denise Sumpter, who is also mom to an 18-month-old son, Beau, tells the Mirror. “I don’t know how long that will be. It will be the same with Beau. I don’t think there’s anything weird about it.”
The Mirror says Belle is the oldest child in the U.K. who is still breastfeeding. The paper also claims that she hardly ever gets sick and is gifted at playing the violin, singing, dancing, and school work — which Sumpter credits to “mama’s milk.”
"I have two healthy, bright, confident children who I truly believe have benefitted from breast milk, and continue to do so," says Sumpter, a PhD student. "There are things I get out of it – like calm, happy children. But I can say with certainty I’ve done this entirely for the benefit of my kids."
There is no shortage of studies about the health benefits of breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it can help prevent SIDs. It’s been linked to higher IQ scores, lower incidences of childhood obesity, and may decrease the risk of cancer. (Meanwhile another study found little difference between siblings who were breastfed and formula-fed.)
"The Big Bang Theory" actress Mayim Bialik nursing her 3-year-old on the NYC subway. (Kveller.com)
While the Mayo Clinic defines nursing beyond the first year of a baby’s life as “extended breastfeeding,” the World Health Organization recommends nursing for two years. The AAP suggests breastfeeding for a year “and for as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby.”
Sumpter knows Belle will eventually wean.
“When Belle finishes I’ll be sad but it’s a natural progression,” she says. “Her milk teeth are going and I get the impression she won’t be feeding for much longer. But she can take her time.”
The story has been splashed across British media all week, and is also being debated across the comment sections of sites in America.
Writes one mom, Alicia Dickens, on Facebook: “More power to her. To say that breast milk isn’t healthy or no longer has any value after a certain age is ludicrous. Nothing changes except that baby gets bigger, turning into a child. If it was good for an infant, it is good for an older child as well.”
Another woman, Debora Fonseca, points out: “Can you imagine the teasing this child will get from her friends? Or the bullies at school?” And a third, Christine Gates, says, “If she wants her child to benefit from the nutrition put it in a cup. If she wants bonding cuddle up and read her a book.”
Breastfeeding is a hot-button topic among many moms — from the decision on how long to feed, to where to nurse (women have been told to cover up everywhere from Kmart to a Beverly Hills Anthropologie), and the emotional ramifications when nursing is unsuccessful.
A Time magazine cover featuring a mom breastfeeding her 3-year-old and touting the benefits of attachment parenting asked: “Are you mom enough?” and sparked plenty of conversations. “The Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik breastfed her 4-year-old until he weaned himself. Another mom lamented how she’s still breastfeeding her 5-year-old because she doesn’t know how to stop.
But in the end, the decision of when to wean (or whether to breastfeed at all) is really up to the mother.
"The choice to stop is a personal one," lactation consultant Jan Barger tells BabyCenter.com. “If you feel the time is right to wean, then it is. Only you can decide what to do in your particular situation.”