"My husband is convinced our son will be gay," Gisella admitted a little bashfully one day. When asked why, she said: "I'm still nursing him; he's 18 months old." Now she didn't say 18 years old. But to her Roman husband, it was tantamount to keeping her adolescent son in bed and regularly pressing her breasts to his lips.
I'm not going to delve into the merits of a theory claiming homosexuals are created by their mothers, nor weigh in on the fears that many men have of a gay son. I am just startled by how breastfeeding "that long" represents to many people a warped type of motherhood.
In Italy, it's perfectly acceptable to breastfeed for just a few months or not at all. Mention that your child drinks human milk beyond 6 months and you're viewed as something of a freak.
"You're psychotic, you must see a psychotherapist," were the words with which the wife of a well-known Italian journalist labeled me when I said I was still nursing our 18 month old. The violence of those words froze all conversation at the summer dinner party she was hosting.
She who had a daytime nanny AND a night-time nanny had given up breastfeeding after one month because it was too tiring. She insisted that breast milk was over-rated. Children would grow and be perfectly healthy without it.
Had neither Gisella's husband, nor this elegant lady, heard that the World Health Organization recommends nursing for at least two years?
Perhaps nobody had told them that human milk is the ideal complementary food for children, even once they begin eating other food?
Breast milk contains valuable protein, fat and most vitamins. It boosts the immune system and its disease-blasting properties are just what are needed when toddlers start socializing more. Illnesses at nurseries come and go as often as public transportation strikes in this country.
In rich countries, nursing a child into toddlerhood requires a mother's time and dedication. It may not be the norm, but it's far from abnormal.
Children have everything to gain from the warmth and comfort of milk straight from mummy, without having to suck on a sterilized bottle.
Your son might still turn out to be Boy George. But by George it won't be because of breast overdose.
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