It was forwarded to one of my email lists, apparently directly from the lady who wrote it.
Here is the whole forward:
Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2005 10:44 PM
Subject: [DCUM-List] "I Still Nurse My 5-Year-Old"
I waited to let you know that I have an essay in this month's Parents
Magazine. Called "I Still Nurse My 5-Year-Old," I am amazed that they
printed it. It was an interesting process because they came to me to ask
me to write it. It was quite a struggle, though, because they had very
different notions of what I would write and many, many times, I was sure
they were either going to kill the story or find another writer. Anyway,
after months and months of back and forth, we finished the piece and it is
in the June issue.
You can read it at:
If you get inspired, write the editors and let them know what you think.
You can send letters from:
Dia L. Michels
Platypus Media -- Books for Families, Teachers and Parenting Professionals
627 A Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Toll-free: 1-877-PLATYPS (1-877-872-8977)
*NOTE: The content of this message is private and cannot be quoted without
explicit permission of the author.
dc-urban-moms-list mailing list (DCUM List)
DCUM Website: http://www.dcurbanmom.com/
The Nanny and Babysitter Forum: http://dcurbanmom.com/nannies
And here's the article itself:
“I Still Nurse My 5-Year-Old”
By Dia Michels
Parents Magazine, June 2005, Pages 127-130
It’s a typical evening at home: My 11-year-old son is in the family room, glued the computer. My husband is puttering around in the kitchen, and I’m in the living room watching television with my 15-year-old daughter.
A few minutes later, my youngest child climbs up onto sofa and into my lap. “I want mumsies,” Mira says. In response, I lift my shirt and unfasten my bra. She latches onto my breast happily.
It’s a cozy scene, but it’s also quite extraordinary by most people’s standards. You see, Mira is 5 years old. I know that a lot of people think it’s totally nuts that I’m still nursing her. But in my mind, the really crazy moms are the ones who withhold their beneficial breastmilk from a little one who needs—and wants—to suckle.
* * *
I have been breastfeeding almost continually for the past 15 years. Like all nursing moms, I started immediately after each of my babies was born. But unlike the vast majority of breastfeeding moms—83 percent, to be exact—who quit before their baby’s first birthday, I kept offering my milk to my kids, and they kept taking it. It wasn’t that I started out with a plan to nurse our kids into their school years, it was just that we saw no reason to stop doing something that was so good for them and I so thoroughly enjoyed.
Nursing came very easily to me. From the start, I found that having my own clean, warm, ample food supply at all times was quite convenient. When my children were infants, I breastfed them on demand—a dozen times over a 24-hour period. But as they got older, they nursed less and less. As toddlers, I fed them three or four times a day. By the time they were 4 and 5, once at bedtime was usually sufficient—and so far Mira is following the same pattern.
I believe my breast milk has given my children vital nutrients and helped to boost their immune systems. More important, it has comforted them in a way that nothing else could. When Mira is sad, frightened, hurt, or unsettled in any way, nothing is more soothing to her than being cradled in my breast.
A lot of people assume that nursing an older child is difficult, but I’ve never found it even the slightest bit inconvenient. Because I have a well-established milk supply, my breasts always have milk, whether I nurse once a day or once a week. I don’t pump, my breasts don’t swell or leak, and there’s no discomfort whatsoever. In fact, nursing is quite beneficial for me too. Some studies show that the more you breastfeed, the lower your risk for certain types of cancer.
The only downside has been dealing with people’s attitudes. Even my closest friends make it clear that they disapprove. "How long are you going to let Mira nurse like that?" I’m asked repeatedly, always with a tinge of disgust.
Everyone has a reason why I should wean my daughter. I’ve been accused of nursing her for my own sexual gratification. I’ve heard that she’ll grow up to be too dependent or even mentally unstable. All I can say is that I am convinced I’m doing the best thing for my daughter—just as I’ve done for her brother and sister. Even my husband, who knew very little about nursing when he became a parent, is totally supportive, as he’s watched what nursing has done for—and what it means to—our children.
I guess you could call me a breastfeeding zealot. When my children were younger and nursing often, I didn’t think anything of feeding them in public. In a culture that has completely sexualized female breasts, a lot of people found it disturbing. When she was younger, I was asked not to nurse my daughter at her preschool, because a teacher said it "it could be upsetting to the children." I was chastised for breastfeeding at our pool club because "no food is allowed in the swimming area." Countless times, I was asked to use the bathroom at museums, grocery stores, and restaurants. I always refused, insisting that it was not appropriate for anyone and pointing out that no one ever complains about a baby sucking on a bottle in public.
As far as I’m concerned, breastfeeding has been the right thing to do for me and my family. My children are amazingly healthy and rarely get sick. They are thriving emotionally as well. All three of them are self-possessed, purposeful and serenely focused. There is almost no sibling rivalry among my kids. As a family, we’re extremely close and I think that is a direct result of breastfeeding.
* * *
I don’t have a built-in schedule for weaning Mira. But, at 5½, she’s starting to wean herself—which is just as it should be. She still likes to breastfeed from time to time, usually at night when we’re cuddling on the sofa or in bed. But I know that pretty soon she will lose interest altogether, just as she has lost interest in a favorite doll or a blanket. When that day comes, I will celebrate that she has moved on to another stage of life and is ready to explore the world at a different level.
For me, breastfeeding has been a beautiful, peaceful and powerful experience—and I think it’s the most important thing any mother can do for her kids.
Dia Michels lives with her husband and three children in