IT IS the most natural function between a mother and her child.
And in Kirklees, the number of breastfeeding mums is at a record high, with 70% taking it up when their babies are first born.
But when celebrity Nell McAndrew announced she was still breastfeeding two-and-a-half-year-old son Devon this week the news was still met with gasps.
The model and TV presenter decided to go public to highlight the negative criticism she has received – often from other mothers.
And it would seem the busy mum is fed-up with having to justify her reasons for wanting to continue the close bond she has developed with her toddler son.
Nell – who is married to Huddersfield property developer Paul Hardcastle – said: “I get negative comments all the time, but that’s their problem. “Breast-feeding is the most natural thing in the world – and it’s so good for my son that I don’t see any reason to stop.
“Now if people ask why I’m still breast-feeding I say, ‘Well why not?’ Instead of having to think up an explanation to satisfy them, I think they should give me some actual proof of why it’s a bad thing. They never can.”
She has pledged to carry on feeding Devon for as long as he wants.
The World Health Organisation recommends women breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months and continue to supplement their baby's diet with breast milk until at least the age of two.
But despite well-publicised research highlighting the benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and child – including boosting a baby’s immune system and protecting them against infections and allergies – the sight of a toddler at their mother’s breast still remains taboo for some.
Stephanie Saward, breastfeeding counsellor for the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) in Huddersfield, said: “It is something people are not used to seeing very often.
“In some cultures it is the norm to carry on and to be seen doing it. Here, people are just made to feel uncomfortable by it.
“People get spooked by children asking their mothers for milk, but they probably wouldn’t even notice if it was in a bottle.
“It is about personal choice.”
She said busy Western lifestyles had placed demands on women that didn’t exist 50 years ago.
“There are so many demands on mums,” she said. “They used to have two weeks in hospital to recover and then have the support of very close family members around.
“Now a lot of people don’t live near their families so don’t have that support. There’s a lot of pressure on women to get back to normal and get back to work. It is so difficult to juggle. These all put barriers up for women to go on breastfeeding for as long as is natural.”
But she stressed any length of time spent breastfeeding was beneficial to mums and babies and pointed out that nursing wasn’t the only way for parents to bond.
She said: “Any length of time – even if a baby only gets fed the colostrum in the early days – is great.
“Women should praise themselves for any length of time they do.”
In Kirklees, the number of women breastfeeding from birth has risen from 56% in 2005 to 70% this year.
The NCT operates a national breastfeeding helpline to support new parents by calling 0300 3300771.
It also jointly runs the Baby Cafe at Woodhouse Children’s Centre, Chestnut Street, Sheepridge, on Mondays from 1pm to 3pm to offer advice to breastfeeding mothers.