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Mother explains decision to breastfeed her four-year-old son

‘It’s a way of connecting,’ mother says

Olivia Hebert
Los Angeles
Monday 18 September 2023 15:59 BST

Related: Woman asked to leave Texas public pool after breastfeeding son

A mother has said she still breastfeeds her four-year-old son and has no plans to stop any time soon.

Allison Yarrow, the journalist and author behind Birth Control: The Insidious Power of Men Over Motherhood, reportedly told People that she hasn’t stopped breastfeeding because she believes it makes her son dependent on her and vice versa.

“We haven’t stopped breastfeeding because breastfeeding works for us,” Yarrow explained to the outlet. “It’s something we do once or twice a day. Sometimes it happens more than that if he’s hurt or sick, but it is a way that we connect and communicate with each other.”

Within the first hour of birth, babies should initiate breastfeeding and be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Health officials advise that babies should only be breastfed on demand from six months to “up to two years of age or beyond.” In June 2022, The American Academy of Pediatrics agreed with their recommendation, adding that they supported continued breastfeeding only as long as it was “mutually desired for two years or beyond.”

Yarrow advocates for continued breastfeeding, citing multiple benefits: “The research shows that breastfeeding can reduce breast and ovarian cancers. The hormone oxytocin is released when you breastfeed, so it actually feels good.”

While breastfeeding is also associated with small neurodevelopmental outcomes in children, according to the Mayo Clinic, is also “associated with a reduction in acute infections as well as chronic adult conditions like obesity, cancer, heart disease and allergies.”

“It’s a way of connecting,” Yarrow continued. “And I don’t think I would still be doing it if I didn’t enjoy it. I wouldn’t be just sacrificing myself at this stage. My four-year-old has other food, right? He’s not coming to me for food.”

“We still breastfeed because it’s a way to connect with each other. We feel good. It’s intimacy. It’s looking into each other’s eyes. It’s cuddling. It’s having a physical connection. And that strengthens our connection in general,” Yarrow added.

Yarrow’s decision to continue breastfeeding well past the age of two is considered taboo to most Americans, but she explained to the outlet that she believes this mentality is more indicative of misogyny in American culture.

“Our culture really doesn’t support women doing things with their bodies that they want to be doing, so that certainly extends into breastfeeding,” Yarrow noted. “There’s really poor research about extended breastfeeding. There isn’t a lot of it.”

She continued: “And women and people who give birth are really hampered in their quest to breastfeed after their babies are born. We know that the majority of people who give birth want to breastfeed, but most don’t even meet their own breastfeeding goals because accessing lactation support is incredibly difficult.”

Yarrow elaborated that poor healthcare and support forces a lot of women to head back into the workplace earlier than they might like. “Often it’s not covered by insurance or Medicaid, and people have to pay out-of-pocket and find somebody to support them in this way when they’re already very vulnerable recovering from childbirth and caring for a newborn,” she said.

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