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Extended Breastfeeding Documentary on UK TV Tonight

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Ran across an article in the Peterborough Today that talks about a documentary on extended breastfeeding that will be running tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm. The documentary, titled "Extraordinary Breastfeeding" explores several families that have chosen to breastfeed for extended periods of time, including an interview with a mother that still gives her nine-year old breastmilk as a "treat." (It doesn't say if the nine year old nurses, or drinks expressed milk.)

The documentary will also apparently cover issues like nursing in public and even breastfeeding an adopted child.

(edited: Jax has a review)

The Peterborough Today article was pretty fairly written, with commentary from mother's on both sides of the issue:

"I intend to breastfeed her exclusively for up to six months, and continue giving her breast milk for up to a year."

But the 29-year-old, who lives in Station Road, Whittlesey, is not shocked by the idea of women breastfeeding for longer.

"I think the advantages have been scientifically proven," she said.

"The only thing holding these people back is society. I have a biology degree, which means I tend to look at statistics. It reduces the risk of obesity in early life and later life, and reduces the risk of cancers.


New mum Samantha Hyam has been breastfeeding her son David since he was born 16 weeks ago. But she has no plans to carry on past his first birthday.

"I will definitely be feeding him for the first six months, and would like to continue until he goes onto cow's milk at a year. Beyond that, I don't see a need because he will be getting all the nutrition he needs from other food and drink."

She added: "It gets a bit ridiculous if they are beyond two or three years old. They should have been weaned before then.

The BBC Radio web site also has news of the upcoming documentary along with a section that allows readers to share their thoughts on extended breastfeeding. The responses thus far seem to swing in favor (or at least acceptance of) extended breastfeeding, though even the pro-breastfeeding moms tend to question the idea of nursing a 9 year old. A few of the comments from the BBC site...

From personal experience I think that a lot of people find breastfeeding a very uncomfortable thing to witness at any age, but I think probably 3 is the oldest it should continue. A friend had terrible trouble getting her son off her breast. The attachment is so strong. She did eventually manage to get him to stop but it was a difficult process. I wonder whether those who continue to feed are really just pandering to their children and wanting to baby them for longer. I think there is something very wrong in allowing it to go on beyond, say, 5 years.

It has been proven that a child's immune system doesn't fully mature until about the age of 6 or 7.. so it is still beneficial to breastfeed until this age. The problem with this culture is that the majority of people are like a hormone ridden teenager with a porn mag.... Breasts were NOT put there for pleasure.. they are there to feed and nurture children. We are too focused on them as sexual objects, hence why we have such an embarrassing rate of breastfeeding. People really do need to be more educated on the subject instead of making claims that it is disgusting or psychologically damaging, without actually being able to back any of it up with facts!!

As a mother who couldn't breastfeed as long as she wanted, I applaud women who are able to and choose to do so. Personally, the I find idea of breastfeeding a child with teeth slightly scary. However, a mother should be allowed to decide for herself when it is appropriate to stop, without negative pressure from prudish joe public. I think a lot of women don't get the support they need to be able to breastfeed longer. Breastfeeding should be the obvious choice to make, but in reality it is a concerted effort one has to make in the face of factors such as public disapproval, pressures of returning to work and generally hectic lifestyles.

Overall, it seemed that most of the BBC readers felt that breastfeeding up to age two was perfectly acceptable, which really shows great strides in the acceptance of the WHO guidelines on breastfeeding. It was disappointing to see that many of the readers felt that anything past six months was "wrong" or "disgusting" because breastfeeding is for "babies."

Are there really people that no longer consider a six month old to be a baby? Aren't you a baby until you're a toddler, which means when you start to walk?

I'll be very interested to hear the response of any of my British readers on the documentary. I won't be able to see it, but I have dropped Jax a line to see if she can catch it and share some insight.


  1. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:46 PM |  

    It is very good to see such strong support for extended breastfeeding. As for people not thinking that 6mo-olds are babies, there are some religious nuts who believe that you should rule the household with a stick, and start hitting babies that young if they start acting out of line - it's truly dreadful but people seriously believe this stuff!

    Our son is about 27 months old and he's still breastfed. For the past few months he has been slowly weaning himself, a bit at a time, to where he's almost eating as much as us at times (we tend to do small portions though). I can easily see him still bfeeding at 3, but again I suspect he'll have mostly weaned himself by then. If not, I don't think it'll scar him for life or anything, as they say each child is different and will handle it differently.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 3:19 PM |  

    Watched it, cringed slightly, blogged it.

    Was pretty much what you'd expect from the title, not balanced. There was a bitty reference though :)

  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:58 AM |  

    I liked it! Was expecting a freak show, and of course they did choose "extreme" stories to tell (otherwise it would have been "Ordinary Breastfeeding Stories"!) - *but* I did think the stories were told sensitively and honestly and that the families did not come across as freaks and weirdoes. OK, so there will still be lookers-and-pointers saying "oo-er, that's just wrong" and in their camp it will not do anything to promote breastfeeding in general. Nevertheless, on the whole, I thought it surprisingly positive :-)

  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:58 PM |  

    Foolishly, I googled the term Extraordinary Breastfeeding (the title of the episode) and apart from the momentary thrill of discovering my blog on page one of google ;) I also discovered lots of very depressing discussion forums. It would appear that the programme did little to further the cause of extended breastfeeding :(

    Lots of enlightened discussion about it on my blog though. And also as a result, I found a uk breastfeeding resource site and have now started a dialogue with the site owner to get some more info on there about the latest proposed legislation :)

  5. Anonymous Anonymous | 3:13 AM |  

    I am just writing to say that I have found your site interesting and supportive. I have 4 children. Each was breast fed until just after the next one was born. About 3 years apart. Number 4 is going well though at 4 years old and my hope is to continue until 6 or 7 or even longer is she is ok with it.

  6. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:54 PM |  

    Well, I think that it is a very special bond between mother and child. I too have breastfed my daughter who is now 7, she doesn't show signs of wanting to stop, I will continue until she chooses to stop. I have seen the comments that other people post about it being "disturbing" but it doesn't affect me at all. Other people's views about this are very close minded. It is nothing sexual, it's just that simple.

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