An Arizona mom and photographer sparked controversy and started a conversation on Facebook this month after she posted a picture of herself breastfeeding her 3-year-old son.
Jade Beall recently told Yahoo Parenting that she is well aware many people would view her son, Sequoia, as too old to be breastfed.
“But then I thought, why do I feel uncomfortable about something so natural and normal?” she said.
“There are many ways breastfeeding begs to be normalized,” Beall wrote in her July 16 post. “For me right now, it’s normalizing full-term/child led weaning/extended breastfeeding with my 3.5 year old.
“I still have milk, he still wants his ‘nah nahs’ as he calls it and nothing, absolutely nothing soothes him better…I have tried to wean him multiple times and I have at last surrendered to the flow of my relationship with my son."
In her post Beall acknowledged that she no longer feeds her son in public because doing so makes her feel as though she is “committing a criminal act.”
Since posting the photo and its caption, the whole post has been shared over 1,700 times and racked up more than 9,700 likes. It has also drawn more than 2,000 comments, most of which are supportive.
“Our little guy is 2.5 and the grief I get is never ending!” wrote Facebook user Kora Greer. “And I feel the same about nursing in public-so sad. Lovely photograph and thanks for the encouragement today, friend!”
“I love to see how you are supporting him in this position! Very inspiring. Way to normalize this,” user Jill Benson Gustafson wrote in part.
But not everyone seemed to agree.
“Eye roll,” said user Anichka Vladimirovna. “After 2, there's no nutritional value in breastfeeding and it most certainly created dependency. I eye roll because moms who do this so badly want acceptance for an emotionally stunting behavior.
“I will also freely add that breastfeeding past a medically necessary point is actually more selfish and more about the mother than the child. It means the mother needs psychological help and has problems letting go. Get help and stop collecting other mothers with a similar mental problem to give you support to continue the illness.”
A user posting under the name Hudson echoed those sentiments.
“I support a mother's right to breastfeed in public, but honestly, i think there's a twisted psychological need being filled here--and it doesn't belong to your child,” Hudson wrote.
According to the Yahoo Parenting article, the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, recommends mothers breastfeed children until 6 months of age. Beyond that, breastfeeding can continue “as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.”
The Mayo Clinic website, citing the same information from the AAP, says, “Extended breast-feeding is recommended as long as you and your baby wish to continue.”
Benefits of doing so include balanced nutrition, boosted immunity, improved health, reduced risk of certain illnesses, and improved health, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The website goes on to point out that, while mothers who practice extended breastfeeding may receive negative reactions, the practice is not that uncommon worldwide.
“Worldwide, babies are weaned on average between ages 2 and 4,” the information page reads. “In some cultures, breast-feeding continues until children are age 6 or 7.”
Beall told Yahoo Parenting that she wasn’t trying to force her beliefs on anyone; rather, she wanted those who choose to continue breastfeeding to know they're not alone.
“I have no agenda about breastfeeding; this is just what I do,” she said. “I hope to help other women who also breastfeed to not feel awkward or abnormal doing it.”
Photo Credit: Facebook: Jade Beall