A mother from Adelaide, Australia is fighting a public battle against internet commenters who attacked her for nursing her 7-year-old son. Linda Bridger, 46, was featured on the Australian website Kidspot last summer, sharing how she practices extended breastfeeding with her boys, 7-year-old Chase and 4-year-old Phoenix. Both of her sons have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
Bridger discussed breastfeeding and her older son's autism with the site in June: "Breastfeeding has prevented him having to go on to medication because it calms him down. It calms and grounds him and is a fantastic way to reconnect, too." She shared that they had tried melatonin supplements, but Chase struggled to swallow it, so he gets the hormone, which is linked to the regulation of circadian rhythms, from breast milk.
"I can shorten the meltdowns by feeding him. It is a great tool to help with autism,” Bridger said at the time. “It has been a long, long time feeding the 7-year-old. Some kids have blankets and dummies, and mine just feed.”
She shared that he used to nurse up to 20 times a day, but now he does just once or twice a day, including once just before bedtime.
“I have mentioned stopping a couple of times, and he gets upset about it,” Bridger told Kidspot.
Several months later, Bridger is speaking out about the feedback she received after the first article was published. In a post published Sunday, January 20, titled, "A letter to those of you who feel its OK to bully a stranger," Bridger shared, "The responses online to the story made me really sad. 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. It's not a sexual act, I’m not a pedophile, which is what quite a few have suggested. My son is very independent, self-assured, none damaged. His friends and peers don't tease as they have been educated in the fact that what he is doing is OK."
She wrote that, given how "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 elaborated on her son's overall wellness. “Chase won’t take any form of medication including pain relief, he vomits it up if I even try,” she explained. “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.”
She also addressed critics who taunted her about nursing for years to come. “No, he won’t still be breastfeeding from me in his teens, 20 or 30s,” she wrote.
To those who accused Bridger of continuing to breastfeed Chase for her own benefit, the mom shared, "You can't force a baby or toddler or older child to breastfeed, in fact I'm ready for him to wean whenever as I have been for quite some time. I need to watch what I wear, what I eat as he has a cow's milk protein allergy, I can feel very touched out sometimes, it can be uncomfortable in the warm weather, I'm careful of medications (although the majority of medications are breastfeeding safe). So no, it's not for my benefit."
It appears that Bridger has as many cheerleaders as she does critics—perhaps more. Many moms came out in support of Bridger on Kidspot's Facebook post of the letter. One shared, "I’m glad you are meeting your children’s needs. It is understandable that children with asd need extra support and comfort and if it works for you and your children then great. Unless someone else has walked in your shoes with the meltdowns, the frustration and the anxiety… then they should not comment. Haters gonna hate!" Another wrote, "Beautiful, healthy happy child. Excellent mum award!"
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months of life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.
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This article originally appeared on Parents.com