herald

Monday 25 September 2017

Nature's cruel and not always right

Would you breastfeed your teenage son? Or daughter for that matter? Well, what if they wanted to do it? It really should be their choice, shouldn't it? What if they wanted to do it right through school and then through college? I mean, you could always wait for them outside lecture halls in case they were thirsty.

This might seem completely laughable and utter nonsense, but there was a guest on Ireland AM last week who has written a book about breastfeeding an older child. She was trying to convince viewers that mothers should breastfeed as long as the child wants to breastfeed. So what if the child wants to be breastfed forever?

Normally, the TV is on in the background as I get ready for the day and baby Gary feeds himself from his bottle, but for once I stopped in my tracks. I was stunned by what was coming out of this woman's mouth. Was she for real?

Apparently, she was serious. This woman, Ann Sinnot, who breastfed her own daughter until the age of six-and-a-half, claimed that the child should decide when the breastfeeding process should end. Imagine that. Children should choose. Hang on, my son Gary hates having his nappy changed, so should I never change it because he doesn't want me to? Please.

My son also has 10 sharp little teeth at age 15 months. I remember him once biting my finger and that hurt. Can you imagine if he had the chance to clamp his teeth on to something else? I wince thinking about it.

My child is happy and well-balanced. Breastfeeding worked for neither of us. In fact, Gary ended up in intensive care because it didn't work and he lost so much weight during the first two weeks of his life.

I am fed up hearing about breast being best. It's not necessarily. It's a different experience for every mother.

The other argument I always hear is that breastfeeding is natural. Maybe so, but is nature always the best way? Surely if everyone behaved exactly the way nature intended we would still be naked apes walking on all fours and having lots of unprotected sex with people we fancied and fighting those we didn't.

Thankfully, civilisation means that we are not animalistic. We live appropriately. There is nothing remotely natural about surgery, for example. But if I had opted to give birth the 'natural' way instead of sensibly agreeing to an emergency Caesarean, myself and baby would now be dead. That's nature for you.

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