I'm about to mount my favourite hobby horse again. The other day I was shocked to read an article in the American magazine Mothering about what mothers should do if they are accused of child abuse for extended breastfeeding of their children.
Apparently, this follows a increasing number of cases where social service agencies have accused mothers of nursing too long and attempted to take the children away. The article had to resort to advice like: "....assume that you are a suspect in a crime, and act accordinglyas in keeping silent and hiring a solicitor]."
I am interested in what the social service defines as "too long". What is the correct length of time to breastfeed? Most of today's "experts" the doctors, the social services don't seem to have a clue, settling on six months because that most frequently jibes with a mother's work leave.
For the past year I've been grappling with just this issue. I won't tell you how old she is, in case I get arrested, but I only recently weaned my daughter, largely because we had been passing a candida albicans infection back and forth for the past six months and it appeared impossible to otherwise cure us.
How long is long enough? To answer this question, another mother and I were reduced to studying the habits of other mammals; orangutans, , she tells me, the closest to humans, go on for four years. The Mothering article says that the world average for breastfeeding is 4.2 years.
Anyone who doubts that children operate not dissimilarly to youthful orangutans should count the number of children in any given kindergarten who still suck their thumbs.
That we have come to the point of labelling biological processes a crime has particular relevance to the enormous explosion of breast cancer in the West.
Medicine has investigated ever more fantastic means to prevent breast cancer except the one that has been proven to work. In the now defunct American newsletter, The Doctor's People, Marian Tompson, the American co-founder of the US La Leche League, quotes numerous studies in the American Journal of Epidemiology confirming that women who nursed less than one month are at increased risk for breast cancer. The longer any woman breastfeeds no matter what her age the more the risk decreases.
The way to stop breast cancer is to end this extrordinary alienation from our biology, to stop looking everywhere but to our own natural processes for the answer.