A recent news story by the New York Post covered a production company's plan to make breastfeeding moms the topic of a new reality television show. Collins Avenue, creators of "Dance Moms" and "American Stuffers," are basing the show on "extended" breastfeeding mothers, or mothers that breastfeed over the 12 month milestone.
This inticed many comments on how long is "best" to breastfeed. Some were perplexed. "Why do I get the feeling that this has something more to do with the mom's needs than the child's? And if it is really the child's desire, then isn't this the same as having a "security blanket"? Do you want to let a 7-yr-old have a pacifier in his mouth? I get the impression that these mothers are "exploiting" the healthy idea of breastfeeding to cover up for some other issue," says P.
Others were defensive. L responded, "Obviously you've never been a nursing mom of a toddler. It's SO not about the moms needs lol. Trust me, most every mom I know nursing toddlers or preschoolers would be thrilled if their kids weaned but they continue because they're smart enough to see that it's natural and healthy and their kids deserve it."
Many agencies, such as WHO and AAP, agree. The WHO recommends babies be breastfed for at least two years, "and beyond." While the upper limit is not defined by these agencies, many sociologists suggest the upper limit of 7 as a biological norm.
In our western culture this "limit" has been lowered drastically by the use of commercial formulas and factory dairy farms designed to "replace" what our ancestors did for thousands of years. These marketeers were so successful in creating a market for these replacements, many mothers in the 40s and 50s felt their breasts did not make what their child needed. "I bought that good formula when I could afford it," Anne remembers her mother telling her as a child. Anne is in her 60s, and her mother was having children in the 50s, during the height of the formula marketing "boon."
The trend back to what is normal is now called "extended" breastfeeding. Most children do not have their whole set of primary teeth until the age of 3, however many mom's say they feel pressured to quit breastfeeding their infants as young as 4 months. "My mother wanted me to quit," says one mom. "She didn't understand why I was so passionate about providing the best for my kids." Many of today's moms in western culture are faced with this same family backlash when they choose to let their child self wean, which generally happens between the ages of 3 and 7. Sadly, many simply quit because they do not have the support they need to continue.
This reality show may make great strides in "re-normalizing" breastfeeding. Many health officials are eager to get breastfeeding numbers up because of the multitude of scientific findings that say it decreases disease risk in both mother and baby. Creative ways such as this TV show may make a greater impact than organizational messages. It may also help keep funds in service areas rather than used for buying expensive print and television advertising.