An Australian mother has come under fire for sharing pictures where she is breastfeeding her son.
Katherine Clarke can be seen breastfeeding her 4-year-old child, Ryder, in images she uploaded onto social media pages for her company, Our Eco Babies, the Daily Mail reports.
Some have criticized her for breastfeeding a child who they deem too old, with others even calling her a pervert.
"I pity the people who say it's perverted," Clarke said. "I do find it a little bit heartbreaking that some comments online are from women, but they obviously have some guilt or shame around breastfeeding and I hope that changes."
Clarke says she never intended to continue to breastfeed Ryder at age 4.
"I didn't have a particular goal in mind as to when I would stop breastfeeding," she said. "At first, I did think: 'is this okay?' but that's the way we are conditioned to think. I think little people know their own minds really well. I will let Ryder make that choice."
She explains her 4-year-old sees her 19-month-old son breastfeed and so he asks for it sometimes, too.
"I find it interesting asking him about wanting to be breastfed - does he want milk, water or hot chocolate for example? But Ryder just wants that connection and nourishment. I'm confident he'll stop when he wants to; it's a natural progression," she said.
While many condemn her for doing so, experts actually say there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding a child who is no longer a baby, Parenting reports.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recommends mothers breastfeed until three years of age," said Dr. William Sears. "Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers should breastfeed ‘at least until one year of age and then as long as baby and mother mutually want to.’”
Australian lactation consultant and baby expert, Pinky McKay, agrees with Sears' sentiments.
"However long you breastfeed, breast milk helps to protect your baby against nasty bugs," McKay said. "It is a living fluid containing healthy bacteria, antibodies, white blood cells, antimicrobials and cell wall protectors and proteins that offer protection against bacteria and viruses."
"The right age to stop breastfeeding is whenever that mother and child decide – each mother knows her child best," she added.