A BREASTFEEDING counsellor has defended the mum featured on the cover of Time magazine breastfeeding her three-year-old son.
Renee Kam, a feeding counsellor at the Australian Breastfeeding Association, said while the photo was designed to be controversial, in many parts of the world breastfeeding a three-year-old is considered normal.
“In Australia, less than 10 per cent of mothers are still breastfeeding by the age of two... People don’t see it here, so they are shocked by it,” Ms Kam said.
“People say it is for the mothers gratification but in fact it is just the opposite. You can actively wean a child, but you can’t force a child to breastfeed.”
Ms Kam said some critics claimed sustained breastfeeding would cause a child to be clingy or dependent, but she said in her experience as an ABA counsellor she found these children to be confident and sociable.
And she said the health benefits were well-known, for the child and the mother.
“The longer the breastfeeding, the less trips to the doctor. There is scientific evidence showing children who are breastfed long-term have enhanced cognitive development, reduced incidence of obesity and improved bone mineralisation.
Ms Kam said mothers had a decreased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
“Women who breastfeed for two years or longer have half the risk of breast cancer compared to women who breastfeed for six months.”
The Los Angeles mum Jamie Lynne Grumet, 26, who features breastfeeding her three-year-old son on Time's cover, has spoken about how she also applies the same attachment parenting method to her adopted five-year-old son Samuel.
Ms Grumet was breastfed by her own mother until the age of six.
In a larger feature story about the controversial parenting technique, she tells the magazine that she is able to recall memories of being latched onto her mother's breast.
She said: "It's really warm. It's 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."
Ms Grumet also breastfed Samuel, who was adopted from Ethiopia in November of 2010.
Samuel was breastfed by his new mother instantly. He is latched to her breast "maybe once a month".
Ms Grumet said: "Being able to give him that (comfort) with the trauma that he faced was really, really important to me. I didn't realise how much it would help my attachment to him.
"When his English improved, because the connection was there, he didn't do it as much."
The mother has written on her blog about how much Aram, who will turn four next month, enjoys to be breastfed.
In one post, a photograph of Aram in the Playboy mansion has been uploaded.
The picture is captioned with the text: "I've breastfed Aram at the Playboy mansion. I actually felt it was the most appropriate place on earth to do it."
There is no explanation to explain why she believes this.
Ms Grumet is completely aware of how unorthodox the parenting technique, which was originally coined by US pediatrician Dr William Sears, can be perceived.
But she strongly believes her methods are "biologically normal".
"There are people who tell me they're going to call social services on me or that it's child molestation, she said.
"I really don't think I can reason with those people."
She believes that the more people see it, the more it will become "normal in our culture".
"There seems to be a war going on between conventional parenting and attachment parenting," she said.
"That's what I want to avoid. I want everyone to be encouraging. We're not opposing teams.
"We all need to be encouraging to each other and I don't think we're doing a very good job at that."
The technique also involves parents co-sleeping with their children and wearing them in a sling to ensure they remain physically close to the body.
Ms Grumet believes Dr Sears is "great" and a "gentle spirit".
"I've read all his books.I find what he's saying to be non-judgemental and relevant to what's happening today and what we're finding out about some of the issues that are popping up with out children's health," she said.
"I feel like he really is doing this because he knows this is best. And the way he does it is graceful and educational rather than condeming."
She added that her mother was also a fan of attachment parenting for its health reasons.
"She wasn't a hippie," she said.
"Everyone thinks she must have been because we lived in northern California. My dad did go to Berkeley, but he was a nutritional scientist. He got his master's there and his PhD. My parents were really into nutrition."
Ms Grumet wrote on her blog: "I love how my mother never made breastfeeding a dirty or secret act."
Ms Grumet is angered by others who judge her for breastfeeding her children for an extended amount of time.
She wrote on her blog: "When critics are making very uneducated analyses of these issues (with absolutely no persona experience), it actually hurts the mothers trying to care for their children.
"Find me a child that was breastfed past two that said they wished they hadn't been."
She continued: "Motherhood is hard enough then to hear constantly how you are caring for your child is "weird" or makes people "uncomfortable" is almost too much to handle."
Source: Herald Sun - http://goo.gl/U6tBW