A six-year-old girl is still being breastfed by her mother.
Belle, the daughter of Denise Sumpter, 44, is the oldest known child in the United Kingdom who is still breastfed, reports the Mirror.
The breastfeeding takes place when Belle is tired, ill, or just wants bonding time with her mother.
Denise says she will continue to breastfeed Belle until her daughter decides it is time to stop.
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“I’ll feed Belle as long as she asks,” Denise said. “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.”
Beau is Belle’s 18-month-old brother, whom she occasionally breastfeeds with at the same time.
“I feed both children on demand – whenever they want it,” Denise said.
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Denise points to Belle’s strong immune system, stating she has rarely been ill, and the fact that she is a head taller than most of her classmates as the result of her “mama’s milk.”
Belle being a talented violinist, singer, and dancer who is in the top of her class in most subjects is also believed by Denise to be due to her continued breastfeeding.
“I have two healthy, bright, confident children who I truly believe have benefitted from breast milk, and continue to do so,” Denise said.
Denise, a PhD student of ancient science, has the support of her partner Jules Deering, 47, a technical director at a university drama department.
“Breastfeeding hasn’t impacted my sex life in any way,” Denise said. “It hasn’t ruined my breasts.”
In fact, Denise believes it helps her keep her figure and herself in good health.
“I’m protected from various cancers and can eat what I want without gaining weight,” Denise said.
Denise realizes others do not respond well to her decision to continue breastfeeding Belle well-passed a “normal” age.
“I used to get the odd comment from relatives who’d say ‘here we go with the milk thing again’. But I think because people know I’m confident in my decision they let me get on with it,” Denise said.
For Denise, it is all for the benefit of her children.
“Mums who feed for longer are often accused of being selfish. 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,” Denise said. “When Belle finishes I’ll be sad but it’s a natural progression. Her milk teeth are going and I get the impression she won’t be feeding for much longer. But she can take her time.”
Denise no longer breastfeeds Belle in public.
“I will sometimes tell Belle no. She hasn’t asked to be fed publicly since she was about four or five,” Denise said. “Luckily, I haven’t had many negative responses.”
Denise did not plan on breastfeeding her daughter for so long, but changed her mind after she discovered baby-led weaning, a popular practice in the UK and U.S.
“It became clear that the norms in this country aren’t necessarily correct on what is best for children,” Denise said.
From a Baby-led weaning UK website, the practice is described as “letting your child feed themselves from the very start of weaning.” At around 6 months old, the child is given regular food and the option to eat what they like. No baby food, or mashed up fruits and vegetables, just real food as an adult would eat.
Denise tries to share her story and success with long-term breastfeeding with other mothers.
“I try to help parents with the information I have as it saves lives, empowers women and makes children happy,” Denise said.
“When mums are told to cover up while breastfeeding in Claridge’s or ignorant politicians like UKIP leader Nigel Farage tell nursing mums to ‘sit in the corner’, it only does harm," Denise said. "What we need is more openness and more truth so mums can make informed decisions.
“There are so many myths about breastfeeding it’s unreal.”
One such myth she brings up is that breast milk does not benefit children after a certain age.
“People argue that after a certain age breast milk has no nutritional benefits but that’s nonsense – there is not a single food source that suddenly stops being nutritious,” Denise said. “My children have hardly been ill. Beau came down with something the other day and because I nursed him through it he was better in 24 hours. I’ve had similar with Belle. If they’re upset it calms them. It helps them sleep.”
Denise stands behind her belief that breastfeeding Belle for this long has proven to be a great decision.
“If you’d asked me five years ago I never would have thought I’d still be breastfeeding Belle. However, it turned out to be one of the best things I could have done for my family,” Denise said.