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When to Stop Breast-Feeding Should Be a Personal Choice

February 12, 2001

I am very concerned about the mother whose child was taken away from her because he was still being breast-fed at age 5 ("Breast-Feeding Beyond Babyhood," Feb. 5). There was some developmental reason that he needed that extended closeness with his mother, and we are really not in a position to second-guess nature.

If the courts are going to have the right to meddle in our lives in this way, why not go after those parents who neglect their children by putting them in front of the television all day, or those parents who choose to bottle-feed at a young age when there is no reason they could not give the children the superior breast milk?

--ELIN BARTON

Tujunga

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Given the preponderance of scientific evidence proving the benefits of breast milk and the breast-feeding experience to children, we as a society should be actively encouraging and supporting a woman's choice to prolong breast-feeding rather than vilifying her as a "pervert" or "sexual abuser." People need to get their minds out of the gutter. We forget that women have breasts for the primary purpose of providing nourishment for our offspring. Breast-feeding is an act of love and nurturance, not of sexual titillation or gratification. Shame on anyone who thinks otherwise.

--RENEE GIL DE MONTES

Montebello

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In an otherwise wonderful article on the benefits of nursing into toddlerhood, I was struck by the comment "shoulder the burden of nursing." Why must articles (and the reporters who write them) always make breast-feeding out to be so hard and difficult? Nursing a child is one of the most pleasurable, nurturing, relaxing and joyful things I have ever done. I would not trade a single minute of my nursing "career" for all the money in the world.

--ROBYN ROCHE PAULL

San Diego

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I completely agree that research is needed on "the ill effects of early weaning as it is practiced in the United States." It amazes me that human parents are so nonchalant about feeding another species' milk to their babies, especially as more information becomes available about how the brain develops and the nutrients, only available in breast milk, that are necessary to that development.

I've wondered if a species that does not nurse its babies can truly be considered "mammals."

--SUSAN E. McTIGUE

Manhattan Beach

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It is hard enough to be a good parent without the added pressure of a "societal norm" dictated by those without breast-feeding experience. If breast-feeding is considered a burden, are hugs and kisses chores?

--ADELINE JUSTESON

San Clemente

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Thank you for the article. I breast-fed all three of my children, my youngest, who is now 18, until she was 2 1/2. With the exception of my husband, I endured many negative comments from family and friends. I think my children benefited by the breast-feeding; they always seemed to be a lot healthier than other kids their age.

--LORENE PEREZ

Long Beach

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Mothers who are truly nursing children over 2 for the nutritional benefits could easily pump enough breast milk to give their children in a cup once a day. Thus, both the nutritional needs of the child and the cultural needs of society are met. If pumping is unacceptable to the mothers in question, then perhaps they are breast-feeding for reasons other than nutrition, and that should be acknowledged and be a part of the discussion.

While I won't argue with the nutritional benefits, I can certainly question the impact of breast-feeding upon the developmental issues surrounding a child's growing understanding of human relationships and their place in the world.

--ALEXIS DOLAN

Los Angeles

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My grandfather had some very sage advice for women wondering how long to breast-feed. His comment was: "When the kid is old enough to talk about it, it's time to stop."

--JANINE KLEERUP

Beverly Hills

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