Breast-feeding provides lots of health benefits for babies, protecting them from diarrhea, pneumonia, and other infections as well as sudden infant death syndrome and subsequent obesity. But what's a child to do in the absence of a mother who can breast-feed? Tha Sophat found an unusual alternative. When the 20-month-old Cambodian boy's parents left their village in the Siem Reap province to find work in Thailand, the boy started suckling from a cow after seeing a calf do the same.
Moo-ve over, Mom?
Keep clicking for more of Sophat's bizarrely bovine behavior...
Tha Sophat has been living with his grandfather, Um Oeung, since his parents left the village. Um Oeung told the Associated Press that he pulled the boy away at first - but then relented after his grandson protested loudly. Since his parents left in July, Tha Sophat has suckled the cow's milk once or twice a day.
Does the cow mind the boy suckling? No, says Um Oeung - but the grandfather is worried about his grandson's health. Raw milk from cows or other animals can carry dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli, which cause potentially deadly illnesses.
Still, Um Oeung says that his grandson's "health is fine, he is strong and he doesn't have diarrhea."
Neighbors and local officials don't approve of Tha Sophat's suckling behavior. "They blame me and have told me not to allow him to suckle from the cow anymore. They say the boy will be ashamed when he grows up and that he will be naughty," Um Oeung said.
Since Saturday, the grandfather has limited the suckling to once a day.