An Australian mother of five is responding to critics who blasted her last summer for breastfeeding her 7-year-old autistic son, saying she’s “only doing what is natural” for the boy.
Lisa Bridger, a 46-year-old woman from Adelaide, shared her experience of “extended feeding” with her sons — 7-year-old Chase and 4-year-old Phoenix — last summer with Kidspot, a popular parenting website visited by more than 1 million Aussies per month.
Bridger, who said she had breastfed for more than 20 years, billed herself as a knowledgeable mommy veteran and someone who knew that the practice was helping her sons, both of whom have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
“Breastfeeding has prevented him having to go on to medication because it calms him down,” Bridger told the website in June regarding Chase. “It calms and grounds him and is a fantastic way to reconnect, too.”
With the boy unable to swallow melatonin, breastfeeding became a “great tool” to limit Chase’s meltdowns, she said.
“It has been a long, long time feeding the 7-year-old,” she acknowledged. “Some kids have blankets and dummies and mine just feed.”
Once feeding up to 20 times a day, Bridger said, Chase decreased his time on her breasts to just once or twice a day, including one feeding just before bedtime. Bridger said she and her son didn’t “really discuss” the topic, saying any attempt to cut down the breastfeeding frequency was quickly shut down.
“I have mentioned stopping a couple of times and he gets upset about it,” Bridger told the site.
But in a new post published Sunday, Bridger responded to her critics who called her sick and accused her of being a pedophile, saying that the boy is “within the normal age” of 4 to 8 years of weaning a child off breast milk to other foods and fluids.
“To the adults who have commented that I am sick and need to get help, there is nothing mentally wrong with me, I am only doing what is natural,” Bridger wrote. “It’s not a sexual act, I’m not a pedophile, which is what quite a few have suggested.”
Bridger also characterized Chase as a “very independent” and self-assured child, adding that his friends and classmates do not ridicule him for nursing.
“Watching and seeing all you adults bully and abuse me, telling me what I need to do for your comfort, overriding my child’s comfort, I can see why so many children bully these days,” Bridger’s post continued.
Bridger also took aim at detractors who insinuated that breastfeeding was slowing the boy’s growth.
“Chase won’t take any form of medication including pain relief, he vomits it up if I even try,” the post continued. “He uses a cup for water, eats plenty of table foods but can be picky on textures. He uses utensils, wipes his own butt, dresses himself, can make age-appropriate food, knows how to safely cross a road on his own. Breastfeeding doesn’t prevent him [from] growing.”
At this point in his life, Bridger said, Chase breastfeeds primarily for sleep or to occasionally “reconnect after a meltdown.” Other times, he flatly refuses her breast and wants to be left alone, she said.
“No, he won’t still be breastfeeding from me in his teens, 20 or 30s,” she wrote.
And Bridger made sure to address accusations that the practice was giving her sexual pleasure, acknowledging that she’s been ready “for quite some time” to be done breastfeeding.
“Nope, wrong, I don’t need a man,” Bridger’s post continued. “It’s not a sexual act, you can’t force a baby or toddler or older child to breastfeed.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics, meanwhile, recommends that infants be given breast milk exclusively for six months after birth. Breastfeeding can continue beyond 1 year of age “if mutually desired by the mother and her infant,” according to the National Institutes of Health.
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