A mum who breastfeeds her five-year-old daughter in public has defended her right to parent as she pleases.
In an interview with The Sun – accompanied by photographs of her daughter suckling her breast - Sharon Spink says she will let her youngest child feed until she is seven, if that's what she wants.
Sharon, 44, said: "I'm not doing anything wrong. A mother should be free to do what she thinks is right for her child, whether that is formula feeding from birth or breastfeeding indefinitely."
Sharon, who lives in Sherburn-in-Elmet, North Yorkshire, with husband Paul, 41, has four children: daughters Isobel, eight, and Charlotte, five, at home, and her eldest children from a previous relationship, Kevin, 26, and Sarah, 24, who live away.
She began practising 'extended breastfeeding' with Charlotte because Isobel began losing weight aged four months and Sharon began to supplement feeds with formula.
She said: "It made me realise I wanted to breastfeed my next baby for much longer. I liked the thought of building a close bond."
Now Sharon breastfeeds Charlotte up to three times a day. The majority of feeds take place at home although Sharon said she will happily do it anywhere.
She said: "I've breastfed in the hairdresser's, supermarket and church before.
"I've even breastfed Charlotte in front of her school friends.
"Children don't judge. It tends to be adults who do that. But thankfully their parents are all very supportive."
And despite critics claiming that breastfeeding beyond a certain age can make children needy, Sharon claims Charlotte is fiercely independent.
She told the newspaper: "Charlotte is full of life. She is a lot healthier than other children her age and gets over colds quickly because of the boost to her immune system."
Sharon said breastfeeding Charlotte in public has attracted negative reactions.
She said: "It's a very sensitive issue that everyone seems to have an opinion on.
"People will often stare or shake their heads when I feed Charlotte in public. Sometimes they'll turn their backs or move seats, and actually criticise me as a mother.
"I've heard people say it's weird and it's child abuse verging on paedophilic. It hurts but I'm confident in what I'm doing.
"I recently fell out with a close friend who said that my only reason for breastfeeding this long was to keep Charlotte a baby.
"Even my eldest daughter, Sarah, disagrees with what I do but everyone is entitled to their opinion."
Hhusband Paul backs Sharon's decision - although he sometimes feels Charlotte is a little too big to be breastfed.
He said: "There have been quite a few times when I have felt embarrassed about Charlotte being breastfed in public.
"But I completely support Sharon and am proud of how she stands up for her beliefs."
Sharon said it will be a sad day when Charlotte eventually decides to wean herself.
But she added: "I will be happy knowing it has been Charlotte's choice, no one else's."
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