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“Bachelor” alum Bekah Martinez is defending her decision to continue breastfeeding her 18-month-old daughter.
On Thursday, weeks after welcoming her second child, Martinez shared photos of herself breastfeeding both of her children, daughter Ruth and son Franklin.
“Just doin’ my mom thing,” the 25-year-old captioned the set of photos.
While many of her more than 600,000 followers applauded Martinez for normalizing tandem breastfeeding, many claimed her daughter was “too old” to be breastfed.
“Isn't she a little too big for you to be breastfeeding her...” one follower wrote.
“She’s too old and is going to have psychological issues when she’s older,” another added.
The criticism prompted a response from Martinez, who took to Instagram stories to share her feelings.
“There is NOTHING psychologically damaging about nursing through and even past the toddler years,” Martinez wrote. “We’ve got it sooooo backwards now as a society.”
Although many women face pressure to follow the “breast is best” thinking, there are many mothers who are able to and who choose to breastfeed their children well past their second birthday.
The World Health Organization recommends new mothers exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months to “achieve optimal growth, development and health.” After the first six months, feedings are offset by introducing solid, nutritious foods, although many mothers may choose to breastfeed “beyond” two years.
According to the Mayo Clinic, breastfeeding beyond 12 months has numerous health benefits for the mother as well as the child. Studies have shown a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
As for the psychological impact, there is little research to support that extended breastfeeding leads to issues in child development. In an interview with TODAY, Dr. Joan Meek, a clinical professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine, said the opposite could be true.
“Studies actually show that breastfeeding in general is associated with greater independence and psychological adjustment in children,” Meek said.
Despite the criticism, Martinez’s post has earned praise from fellow moms who have also chosen to breastfeed into their child’s toddler years.
“Your babies are beautiful and happy. Years ago, I breastfeed all four of my children until they were about two years old, as did many of my friends,” one woman told Martinez. “My daughter only stopped nursing her son at 12 months because she needed to resume medication that she couldn’t take while breastfeeding.”
“Breastfeeding one baby can be difficult enough at times and you’ve got two on the go! My son is 13 months and I breastfeed and am hoping to continue til he’s at least 2 (but hopefully longer) thank you for sharing this, it helps normalize breastfeeding and tandem feeding,” a follower wrote.
The takeaway? Let mothers do what they feel is right and health for both themselves and their children - and leave the judgement out of the comments section.
“Don’t listen to the mommy-shamers!” another added. “Keep doing you boo, you’re so amazing and don’t let anyone tell you different!”