Author(s): Ann Sinnott
Breastfeeding is a globally recognized imperative for the preservation of infant health, and governments around the world have introduced breastfeeding promotion measures. While initiation rates have improved, duration rates at a few weeks or months after birth still lag behind the World Health Organization's recommendation that breastfeeding - for all children, in both developed and developing worlds - should continue for at least two years. Behind the figures, there is however an inverse reality. Today, increasing numbers of women in the industrialized world challenge social convention and breastfeed their children well beyond WHO guidelines. How widespread is this surprising, many would say shocking, phenomenon? Is it Nature's way or an unhealthy practice? Do mothers prolong breastfeeding for their own pleasure? Is it, as some say, a form of sexual abuse? Do overly controlling women coerce children into continuing because they wish their children to remain dependent, or are they meeting an innate child need? Does long-term breastfeeding impact negatively on child physical and emotional health, or does it have a positive effect? Do mothers pay a price?