The issues surrounding breastfeeding have, for some time, sparked many debates and discussions.
Subjects such as where to do it and at what age do you stop, have never really had a definitive answer and probably never will.
No matter what advice doctors and nurses might give families, parents will often do what feels right for them and their children.
Lisa Bridger, from Adelaide, Australia, has been breastfeeding her five children for a collective 20 years. Her two youngest children are seven and four-years-old, and are both still being breastfed.
However, the mum-of-five has another reason for still breastfeeding her two sons – they’ve both been diagnosed with autism, and being breastfed helps soothe them when they’re feeling anxious or need calming down.
Lisa told the Daily Mail about when she first realised Chase – who is now seven – might be autistic:
I started to notice he would behave a little differently from my other kids at six months. He wouldn’t want to stay strapped into the pram, didn’t like full-on cuddles… but would nurse happily.
I would often baby wear but he’d be hysterical unless I was feeding him.
Lisa continued to breastfeed Chase and his younger brother Phoenix, as it helped soothe them both, explaining:
As children it was obviously the normal every couple of hours but it’s mostly just before bed now. It’s so sweet, [Chase] just needs that security.
He often doesn’t ask in public but if he’s having a meltdown I prioritise it.
Lisa has received mixed reactions from her decision to carry on breastfeeding.
She’s had people stop to say ‘well done’ when they’ve seen her feeding Chase, although one social worker called it ‘child abuse’.
It’s been pretty good out here, really. People don’t come up to us and say anything. But online it can get really bad.
Lisa is an administrator for the online support group, Occupy Breastfeeding, where she’ll sometimes upload photos of her sons:
People will comment all kinds of things. That they should have a bottle, or a cup, that it’s abuse, that it’s bad for them, once you get past six months you should be covering.
We have other strategies in place to deal with Chase’s autism. Sometimes a cuddle is enough, breathing exercises or distractions.
The family have a dog and two cats, which help comfort the boys. They also have a trampoline, which is an effective mechanism for calming them.
Chase is home-schooled, and ‘thriving’ from it, already doing maths beyond his age range.
However, Lisa’s said she’s looking forward to getting her ‘body back’ once the boys wean themselves, adding:
Sometimes I just want them off but it’s like saying no to a hug. When they come over to me and ask so nicely, how can I say no?
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months, with ‘continued breastfeeding along with complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond’.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.