Still breastfeeding a four-year-old?!


by Tolu Orekoya

It’s part of a movement called “attachment parenting”, where mothers don’t wean their children until much later in life, featured in TIME magazine.


And the whole debate that this Time Magazine cover has sparked is causing a firestorm on the internet.

Attached parenting it

Dr. William Sears, is the father of “attached parenting” citing studies that show if crying babies are neglected, they could suffer permanent brain damage, leading to a lower IQ, behavioral problems and more.

The science behind it is a bit suspect though, as the TIME article notes:

Antisocial behavior, poor school performance and a tenfold increase in the risk of ADHD are also the dangers babies face if their parents don’t respond immediately to their cries, according to Sears, and he cites a number of studies — particularly one from Pediatrics and one from Infancy, both conducted in 2002, and one from Archives in Disease in Childhood from 2004 — to buttress that claim. But all three of those studies dealt with babies suffering from colic or, worse, a condition known simply as persistent crying, which goes on even longer than the 12 weeks colic usually lasts. In those cases, it’s the very inconsolability of the crying — despite parental soothing, feeding, rocking, singing, pacing, changing and pleading — that defines the condition. Indeed, the studies go out of their way to absolve the parents of any blame for this.

“Our findings provide evidence that the quality of maternal behavior appears to be unrelated to this effect,” noted one of the 2002 studies. The 2004 study similarly found no differences in the home environments of prolonged criers and other kids. Instead, the researchers argue that the crying is just a symptom of an underlying condition — perhaps neurological — that also causes later cognitive or behavioral issues. Just as your fever is not responsible for your cold, so too is the crying not behind the developmental problems.

Most troubling is the way Sears seems to conflate the circumstances of severely abused or neglected babies with those whose parents merely let them cry occasionally. Psychologist Alicia Lieberman of the University of California, San Francisco, whose 1995 study Sears cites, takes particular exception to that. The paper’s content, she said in an e-mail to TIME, “is not relevant to the argument he makes because my work involves babies and young children whose parents are in the pathological range of neglect and maltreatment … not children with normative, ‘good-enough’ parenting.”

Psychologist Joan Kaufman of Yale University, whose 2001 paper was also cited by Sears, echoes that. “Our paper,” she wrote via e-mail, “is not referring to routine, brief stressful experiences, but to abuse and neglect. It is a mis-citation of our work to support a non-scientifically justified idea.”

Why would you breastfeed your grown well past the age where you can nurture them well with a proper diet? Some go as far as seven years before weaning. Wow.

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Comments (3)

  1. Oh, there's nothing new about attachment parenting. It's the way people were raising their kids before all the experts came along told them not to.

  2. Yes, Ynaija, it is good to copy and paste articles from other sources and put on your website. It's also good to do a little bit of research of your own. If you had, you might have discovered some of the what Dr. Sears actually says is common sense parenting, a lot of which we even do in Nigeria here anyway. He doesn't actually ask any parent to keep breastfeeding their child until a certain age.

    He advocates co-sleeping, which just means having your baby in your bed for several months after he is born. Which millions of Nigerians do. And someone says if your baby cries, pick me up. Is that such an insane, mental idea? Yes, it's probably cheaper to copy and paste, but at least once, someone here should actually deign to do more than that.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail