Sharon Spink breastfeeds her 5-year-old, and in public too — but despite the internet going into a rage, it really isn't a big deal after all.
Photo credit: malerapaso/ iStock/360/ Getty Images

Breastfeeding is controversial. Breastfeeding in public is controversial. Breastfeeding an older child is controversial. Combine all of the above? You're guaranteed to become one of the most controversial breast feeders in modern history — especially if you willingly go to the media to talk about it. But should Sharon Spink, a British mom who happily talks about breastfeeding, shut up already and wean her 5-year-old daughter? Nope.

Extended breastfeeding for this mom

Spink granted U.K.'s The Sun an exclusive interview about the fact that she not only continues to nurse her daughter, who just turned 5, on demand, but she also nurses her in public if the need arises. In addition to her interview with The Sun, she has been on numerous television shows defending her choice to nurse her little girl.

Her girl just turned 5, and Spink says that she still requests to nurse, especially during some moments that are more prone to asking for milk than others, such as when she's hurt or upset, or before bedtime. Even moms who wean younger children recognize that these nursing sessions are often the last to go, and Spink explains that while many moms do nurse older children, many choose to do so behind closed doors. While her openness is unusual in the U.K. (as it would be here in the U.S.), I think she's brave and amazing for coming forward to share her story.

Common complaints

I try not to read comments on internet articles, but like I was unable to walk past the vomit in the hallway when I was in elementary school, sometimes my eyes are unwillingly drawn to the trollfest that is also known as an internet article comment section. And the comments on articles about breastfeeding often devolve into some of the most ridiculously offensive tripe I've ever had the displeasure of reading.

Some feel that nursing for "this long" is done solely for the mother's benefit, the sign of an unwholesome attachment to the girl, or in the worst comments of all, she is compared to a sexual abuser. Others feel that the girl will suffer psychological problems and definitely needs to start saving for a shrink now, because she'll surely need the services of one when she grows older. Other comments indicate how weird, disgusting, gross, wrong and bizarre they think this gal is.

While it is uncommon in Western society, nursing for years is the norm in countries around the world.

There is no evidence that nursing a child, even to and through the preschool years, is psychologically detrimental. While it is uncommon in Western society, nursing for years is the norm in countries around the world. For example, a few months ago I read the most amazing essay on Peaceful Parenting about raising a child in Mongolia, where full-term and public breastfeeding is not only normal, but expected. Spink is not alone, however, even though it's harder to find moms who practice full-term breastfeeding in Western culture.

Nursing an older child

No, an older child doesn't need breast milk to live, but it never becomes nutritionally void. And the act of breastfeeding itself brings comfort, as Spink professed in her interview. It seems odd to some because they've never brought an infant into the world and nursed it for five years straight. It's an experience that many haven't had, so they use their own lack of personal knowledge to judge her, and that's wrong. How many kids do you know nursed that long? And of them, how many are "totally messed up?"

It's a topic that is super-hot even among so-called breastfeeding supporters, many of whom say they are all for breastfeeding, but "this or that" can't happen or it's just not within their capability to support them. In fact, Jessica of The Leaky Boob did a little interview with a 12-year-old girl who had nursed until 4, and it created a huge stink on her breastfeeding support page. Why? Seriously, why?

How we raise our kids is our choice, and in the absence of harm or abuse, our choice alone.

Think about this for a second. The fact that a woman continues to nurse her daughter at this particular age is so noteworthy that people cannot stop talking about it and her appearance in the papers and on TV is a must. She is judged, demonized, called horrible names and probably has had threats by this point, just because she nurses her kid longer than you might. Let's face it — it's her choice, and her daughter's choice, and while expressing our opinions is perfectly valid, calling her a pedophile or a sicko is not just wrong, it's dangerous.

Like I said before, I think Spink is brave for coming forward — especially in our modern society that still views nursing infants in public as some sort of crazy exhibitionist activity, and frowns even further when moms choose to nurse after a child walks and talks. My hope is that other moms who nurse older children feel comforted and that they are not alone, even though she is receiving tons of awful backlash. How we raise our kids is our choice, and in the absence of harm or abuse, our choice alone. And breastfeeding a 5-year-old kid is not abuse. Period.

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