An edited version of the cover of the May 21 issue of Time, which features a 26-year-old woman breast-feeding her 3-year-old son.
ATLANTA -- If the goal was to get people talking, the latest TIME Magazine cover certainly does that. The picture of a 26-year-old mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son has reignited a debate over the practice: how old is too old?
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding children until at least two years of age. The organization reports on average, children worldwide breastfeed until age four.
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Sharon Birdseye is a licensed consultant with Lactation Consultants of Atlanta, a support organization for breastfeeding mothers. She said the picture doesn't accurately depict extended breastfeeding; it is a nurturing and cuddling environment like with a baby, she says, not mother and child standing as shown in the picture.
She is an advocate for extended breastfeeding.
"Children that have extended breastfeeding are healthier with fewer incidences of ear infections, diarrhea infections and fewer allergies," she said.
She believes the practice is more widely accepted in other countries because in the US, breasts have become known as a sexual object.
"So when we see an older child nurse, because of that opinion, it's very much criticized," she said.