PARENTS

Breastfeeding A Six-Year-Old At The Same Time As His Baby Brother?

10/04/2011 18:54 | Updated 22 May 2015

The sight of a mother cradling a newborn baby to her breast is as natural as they come. Seeing a six-year-old jostling for his position at her second nipple simply isn't.

Yet this is what mum Amanda Hurst does every morning. Instead of pouring a bowl of cornflakes and a glass of juice for her older son, then nursing her baby, she latches both of them on to feed on her milk.

I won't lie, this picture shocks me and I suspect I am not alone. While the issue of encouraging more mothers to breastfeed, and to keep it up for more than the first few weeks with their baby is one thing, feeding a child old enough to go to school from your breast is quite another.

I have both a seven-year-old and a five-year-old son and the idea of them breastfeeding is ludicrous. These are boys who eat roast chicken and lamb stew, who have school dinners every day. They don't need, (or indeed want) their mother's milk any more, and that's only natural.

My oldest son, Jacob, was two when I had his brother Max. I had stopped breastfeeding him months ago, but when the baby arrived he showed natural curiosity as to how he was feeding.

Rather than latch him back on again, as Hurst appears to have done, I expressed a little milk into a cup and let him try it. It came out in a disgusted spit, but I had assuaged his feelings about being left out of this precious ritual I had with his brother.

I can't imagine how hard it would have been to tandem feed my two oldest sons, but even that wouldn't have been as strange as what Hurst is doing. Her son is far from a baby, in fact if he is anything like my sons he is growing up and developing his independence by the second, which is why I wonder if her decision to continue breastfeeding him reflects a subconscious desire to stop her baby from growing up.

There are times when I look at my boys and long to stop all the clocks and prevent them from getting any older. When I wish they were still the chubby babies that they seemed to be just moments ago, but that is not my job as their mother. Much as it may occasionally pain me to see my children growing up, it is my role in their life to allow them to do it, and not to hold them back by inappropriately babying them.

Of course I can only guess at what Hurst's motivation is, as she is doing something most mothers wouldn't even contemplate. But I do fear for her son. My boys can't keep a secret to save their lives, and often trot into school with tales from home. Their teachers regularly greet me with a grin and repeat back the story of some domestic incident that my boy has regaled them with.

However, I do wonder how their friends would react if my son were to tell them all about how mummy still breastfeeds him. By the age of six children are becoming increasingly aware of what others think of them, and by continuing to feed her son in this way Hurst is opening her son up to teasing and mockery from his classmates who, quite reasonably, wouldn't understand his unusual feeding habit.

I appreciate that Hurst may find it hard to say no to her son if he wants to breastfeed because his brother is. Introducing a new baby to the family is a tricky time and the last thing you want to do is to make your existing child feel jealous or resentful about the new arrival.

But sometimes as a parent you have to know when to say no, and I think this is one of those times. Just because a six-year-old is envious of the way his baby brother feeds is not a reason to give in and feed him the same way.

To compound her naiveity Hurst says she doesn't think her sons' friends will find out, despite the fact that she has published pictures of him breastfeeding in a tabloid newspaper. Clearly this is a woman who has no clue as to the consequences of her actions, which is a real shame for her son who, despite her best intentions, is probably going to be the victim of her unfortunate choices.

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