Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oh No, She Didn't! The "Time to Stop Suckling" post in Slate

As any blogger will tell you, when you can't think of anything to blog about, find a news story related to your blogging topic, and comment away. Not that I'm doing that or anything (looks around sheepishly).

But there's been some comment by The Feminist Breeder and others on their Facebook pages/blogs about a certain piece of advice given by Slate's Dear Prudence to a lady disconcerted by her sister-in-law breastfeeding her five-year-old son at the table at Grandpa's 80th birthday bash. Cue the usual bingocard lactivist outrage about how this just shows how meeeeaaaan the world is breastfeeding mothers. Lots of the usual comments on TFB's Facebook page about how the global average age of weaning is four years (oh no it isn't), except that for some reason the bidding has now gone up to five years.

To be honest, though, I think the age is less an issue than the boundaries, and the fact that a schoolboy is still using his mother's body like a drinks bar. If one is going to nurse a child at such an advanced age, I think it's time to make it a discreet, private thing. This is not achieved by whipping your boob out in front of a family gathering. I can't think of a single reason why a child that age would need to nurse rightthisverysecond at a party (why can't he just get a glass of water?); even if he needs the milk for nutritional reasons due to allergies (an odd claim since many cultures do not drink cow's milk), presumably that can wait too.

There are social implications here; the outside world is not going to be kind to this child. Sooner or later he will realize that other kids his age don't nurse and will stop asking, but the problem is that by that point he will probably already have become a target of teasing and ridicule. I don't think the mother in question is thinking of her son's welfare at all; I think she is thinking of herself and her identity as the One Crunchy Mum To Rule Them All. Getting critical comments is, I suspect, all part of the agenda (perhaps she failed to get any when feeding her son in public as a baby and is nursing--haha--a little secret disappointment?) There is a certain type of mother who thrives on feeling that her mothering choices make her a persecuted minority.

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