Is toddler breastfeeding extreme and weird?

A new reality show called Extreme Parenting will portray extended breastfeeding as one of America’s weirdest parenting rituals.

Photo by various brennemans via Flickr.

When I blogged last fall about breastfeeding my then-18-month-old daughter, I was called a lot of things: Lazy, disgusting, inspiring, authentic. At no time did “weird” and “extreme” come up, yet that’s what the producers of a new US reality show call mothers who breastfeed their children past 12 months. Set to air this fall, Extreme Parenting is “peeling back the curtain to look at choices other people make that will have a huge impact on their children or their lives”, says producer Jeff Collins. Collins also produces Bridezillas and Dance Moms.
Weird? Extreme? In my life as a stay-at-home mom, breastfeeding my now 2 ½ year old (yes, we are still breastfeeding), is the most normal thing that I do in a day. That’s right, I strongly believe that breastfeeding a child at any age is normal. Whether it’s in the hospital and you’re struggling to get your noodle-necked newborn to properly latch or on the cover of a magazine with your pre-schooler — breastfeeding is just about the most normal thing a mother can choose to do. (And if you can’t or choose not to breastfeed, guess what? That’s normal too).
While I’m sure that the producer will find families who are willing to participate in the show, my biggest fear is that Extreme Parenting will scare off families who want to give extended breastfeeding a chance. Absolutely, it’s not for everyone, and there are some days where I wish that Gillian would kiss “milky” goodbye and leave “the girls” alone. It’s not always fun and it’s certainly not as glamorous as TIME Magazine would have you believe. (Even if this show was about promoting extended breastfeeding in a positive manner, I’d be too embarrassed to audition because “the girls” are totally ravaged and there’s no way this muffin top will ever fit into a pair of skinny jeans).

Sadly, what I picture are segments of nipple twiddling and tantrums and leaking breasts, not how peaceful and lovely toddler breastfeeding can be when practiced with a positive attitude and rules about manners. While so many great things can come out of extended breastfeeding (nutritional benefits for baby, reduced cancer risks for mom, greater sense of security and independence for toddlers), I see absolutely no positive outcome for a show that focuses on how “weird” a handful of TV ratings-obsessed producers perceive extended breastfeeding to be. 

Photo by various brennemans via Flickr

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