There has been an ongoing debate among the parenting world for some time now surrounding the benefits of breastfeeding versus formula feeding, even sparking some serious debates and arguments. However, one British mother is speaking up and sharing her own controversial breastfeeding experience.
There have been numerous studies investigating the impact of breastfeeding, including not only the health benefits for both the infants and their mothers but also the potential environmental and economic benefits that come from choosing to breastfeed rather than purchasing commercially available baby formula. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development shares the findings of many of these studies, discussing the connection between breastfeeding and improved emotional health as well as a reduced risk of asthma, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
The World Health Organization also shares in the support for breastfeeding, stating “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”
The CDC reports that breastfeeding is still on the rise in the United States, their 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card revealing that approximately 27% of mothers are still breastfeeding their infants at 12 months old. However, UK mother Sharon Spink is drawing a great deal of attention since revealing her decision to breastfeed her daughter Charlotte until she chose to wean naturally at the age of 9-years-old.
“When I came to have Charlotte, I had decided on natural-term weaning. It’s nice for the child to be in control of when they want to wean, rather than forcing the issue,” Spink explained. “She naturally self-weaned earlier this year. It was a gradual process and her choice. She was feeding about once a month if she wasn’t feeling great or was feeling a bit run down and was going longer and longer without feeding.”
It’s a decision that has drawn a great deal of controversy, allowing her daughter to continue to breastfeed past the normally accepted ages. Some have even gone as far as referring to it as a case of child abuse.
Spink, however, believes that her decision to continue to feed her daughter as long as she was interested in nursing is completely natural, creating a strong bond between her and her daughter. She even credits young Charlotte’s ongoing good health as being a result of the nutrients found in breast milk. She has chosen to speak up and share her story as she believes there are more examples out there of mothers also practicing extended breastfeeding. She hopes to break the stigma associated with this decision, normalizing the for families around the globe.
“I just want to let other moms who are out there who are wondering ‘should I or should I not?’ that this is normal, and this is what children do. If they feed for as long as they want to, they will naturally wean. In a lot of countries, it’s perfectly normal to breastfeed older children and they will do it for a lot longer than we do in the West,” stated Spink, when asked why she has chosen to be public about her breastfeeding experience. She added, “I feel like my body is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. It’s what breasts are for. We have to support moms. It’s about choice.”