Joan Rivers used to joke that she was upstaged at a show by a woman who was breastfeeding a child down in the front.
“Oh yeah?,” she would say to the crowd, “the kid was fourteen. Who would you watch: her and him, or me?”
And as much as we – that is, the readers of this blog – would like to think that we are all open-minded, if not downright casual about our bodies, I’m willing to be that most of us have some kind of mental parameters about the age at which children should be cut off from breastfeeding. A year, 18 months, maybe two or three? I’ve never seen anyone breastfeeding children older than an age at which they would be talking, so maybe my idea of where to “normally” stop has to do with what I’ve seen, or what I’ve heard others mention.
So I guess it’s not surprising to see the comments on the following YouTube video that features an interview with a woman who continues to breastfeed her 7 and 8 year old daughters. “Disturbing” and “So wrong” are some of the nicer opinions. You won’t need to look far to find “Sick” and “screwing up her kids” and “insane” and predictably “abusive” and “pervert” are also among the almost 10,000 comments on this video.
I have to admit that at first, i was a bit weirded out by the concept, until I began to think seriously about it. Why is one, two or three years a mental or societal/cultural cut-off point? I began to wonder if it’s because at some point children can talk about their experiences; when we consider that breasts are secondary sexual characteristics, then perhaps we’re reacting to the proximity of children to something sexual. Think about that point as you hear the woman mention that her daughters can now describe to her how pleasurable the experience is for them. And then, think about it again when you hear the daughters discuss their names for their mother’s different breasts.
So, what is it that makes so many of us weirded out by the concept? Is it a violation of the firewall between child care and sexuality?