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A Yorkshire mum has spoken about the 'close bond' she has developed with her daughter, who has recently stopped breastfeeding at the age of nine.
After almost a decade, mum-of-four Sharon Spink said she will miss it but in the end it was her daughter's decision to stop feeding from her two months ago.
And despite critics accusing her of child abuse and even calling her 'a paedophile', the 50-year-old says it has brought her daugher 'comfort and security', adding that there are many mums out there doing it - and it was ultimately the child's decision.
Sharon, from Sherburn-in-Elmet, North Yorkshire, said: "It's nice for the child to be in control of when they want to wean, rather than forcing the issue.
"She was feeding about once a month if she wasn't feeling great or was feeling a bit run down, and was going longer and longer without feeding.
"She told me she would stop when she was 10, which will be in April next year, but it seems to have come to a natural end earlier - although I would have allowed her to continue for as long as wants to.
"If she would have stopped suddenly I think I would have missed it, but it's just nice that it's come to a natural end."
The actor mum said she was determined to breastfeed her youngest after failing to do so with her other three children; Kim, 30, Sarah, 28, and Isabel, 12, and says it has brought them closer together.
Sharon said: "I just hope when she's older she'll remember that feeling of comfort and security it gave her rather than it being about feeding.
"We have such a close bond and I'm convinced it's because of breastfeeding her for so long.
"I haven't had any pangs since she stopped and she still comes for a cuddle."
The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to six months and Sharon, who is now a qualified breast feeding counsellor, said up until the age of four, Charlotte would still jump into her bed for a night feed without her even realising.
Sharon said: "She stopped feeding in public when she was about four or five. Charlotte doesn't talk about it at school. It's not something that would come up in conversation with schoolmates."
In the past she says she has taken a lot of criticism for breastfeeding, even being called a child abuser but says her family support her.
"Obviously there have been the negatives - usually from typical keyboard warriors who post their opinion," Sharon says.
"I have been called every name under the sun. I've been told it's child abuse, I've been called a paedophile and told it's wrong and that I'm a freak."
But the former jewellery maker says she now wants to help others feel confident about breastfeeding.
She said: "I just want to let other mums out there who are wondering 'should I or should I not?' that this is normal and this is what children do.
"If they feed for as long as they want to they will naturally wean.
"In a lot of countries it's perfectly normal to breastfeed older children and they will do it for a lot longer than we do in the west."
Sharon now feels 'empowered' by what her body has achieved.
She said: "It feels empowering doing something like this.
"All four of my children were born by C-section and I felt like my body had failed. I hated feeling like that but it was true.
"I've grown up and learned so much more now. I look back and I've got four healthy children who, had they not been born by C-section, would not be here today.
"I tried to breastfeed three children and failed and that made me more determined.
"I feel like my body is doing what it's supposed to be doing. It's what breasts are for. We have to support mums. It's about choice."
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