When James Vincent's wife, Vicky, decided to breastfeed their third child, he was nothing but supportive. Their older children had the benefit of their mother's milk and he wanted the same for their youngest.
But when Vicky was still feeding Beanie nearly three years later, James, 34, admits it had become a problem. "I found it difficult," he says. "It can inhibit your closeness to your wife.
"I was fully supportive of Vicky's decision, but it was hard not to feel left out. As a father, you don't have that closeness with your children for the first few years because the breastfeeding bond is so strong and exclusive."
As such, James, who works in sales for an electrical company, admits he felt Vicky's body was "off limits" to him until she finally stopped breastfeeding Beanie a year ago, just before he turned three.
Like many fathers, he felt edged out by the extended period of feeding - known as extreme nursing that's become fashionable among middle-class mothers.
His eldest daughter, Maisie, 10, had been breastfed for only a week because of health problems, while his son Beau was happy to wean himself at a year. But Beanie, now four, showed no signs of wanting to stop, so his wife carried on.
As Vicky believed in feeding anywhere and on demand, Beanie developed a habit of requesting "Can I have some boob?" whenever he wanted some milk.
"I had to make a decision not to let it get to me," says James, from Helston, Cornwall. "Vicky is uninhibited, but a lot of people still react with disgust at the sight of a woman breastfeeding an older child."
Vicky, who works as a Breastfeeding mentor, admits she never discussed James' misgivings. "It was very much mine and Beanie's decision to carry on breastfeeding," she says.
"I found it all-consuming. As you breastfeed, the hormone oxytocin, which induces happiness, is released. Sometimes James felt pushed out by my closeness to Beanie, especially when he was lying between us breastfeeding in bed."
But Vicky concedes that while protracted breastfeeding may have cemented the close bond she has with her son, it has clearly failed to foster intimacy between her and James.
"Some women tell me their husbands hate it," she says. "I think men view their wives' breasts as somehow theirs and say extended breastfeeding can get in the way of physical intimacy."
Mothers who suckle their children beyond the age of two have always provoked controversy, and public debate about late breastfeeding was reignited recently by a graphic image on the cover of Time magazine.
The photo depicted an attractive 26-year-old mother, Jamie Lynne Grumet, and her son, who was almost four at the time, standing on a stool to feed from her breast.
It sparked worldwide controversy. Those in favour of extreme Breastfeeding applauded the mum for championing the cause so uncompromisingly; those against condemned her for exposing her young son to ridicule or even long-term psychological damage.
But while the impact of long-term breastfeeding on mother and child are furiously debated, what of the impact on the husbands of the women who insist breast - no matter what the age of the child - is best?
Alexandra Dooley was still feeding her four-year-old son Joseph when he started nursery school. Though her daughter Erin stopped breastfeeding of her own accord at 15 months, she was a keen advocate of extreme nursing and was happy to continue as long as her son wanted to.
But it sparked rows with her partner, Paul, who confessed to feeling "uncomfortable" about it.
"We argued because Paul wanted us to bottle-feed so he could spend as much time with the children as I did," says Alexandra, 36, a nurse from Warrington, Cheshire.
Two months ago, another family member expressed her repulsion and alarm at the practice, which brought things to a head.
"She said Joseph would end up breastfeeding into adulthood like the David Williams character in Little Britain," says Alexandra, referring to the grotesque comic parody in which Walliams plays a grown man who still publicly demands what he calls 'bitty' from his obliging mother.
"That was the thing that most upset me. It made me feel sick about what I was doing. But to make me feel like that when I'm the mother and it's my choice - I thought that was wrong."
Fathers are often loath to admit that their real concerns about breastfeeding are less altruistic, as Francine Kaye, couples counsellor and author of Divorce Doctor, points out.
Exclusive and bonding act
"Breastfeeding is the most exclusive and bonding act," she said. Men often feel pushed out; not just because their erotic role has been usurped by a nurturing one, but also because dads cannot participate in breastfeeding.
"It's often the case that women's love for their babies is so all-consuming they do not realise how much they are neglecting their intimate lives with their husbands.
"And when breastfeeding no longer serves a nutritional purpose - when a child is three and eating solids - I think it's outrageous to continue.
"You have to ask yourself: 'Is it the child's or actually the mother's needs that are being served here?'
"Unless the husband is totally supportive, you begin to wonder if his wife is avoiding confronting something about her relationship with him.
"There's a point when she has to resume intimacy with her husband, so I sympathise totally with men who feel that by the time a child is old enough to help itself to milk, their partner's breasts should have resumed their sexual function."
See Part II next week.
- Adapted from Daily Mail