It’s a real tragedy that women in many societies are completely removed from one of the most natural, ancient and normal ways of mothering our growing children.
I posted this picture of myself breastfeeding my two year old. As my followers on Facebook and blog are people (mostly women) who support breastfeeding to natural term, the overwhelming majority of the comments were not only supportive but many of them were understanding and in the same position as myself, breastfeeding a “huge” toddler.
Unfortunately since we don’t see it often enough, or for many of us we never actually see it; breastfeeding to natural term (past babyhood) is often criticised or seen as weird and not “necessary.”
The ‘ol “just give them a cup” argument… Here are two comments I recieved:
Meg breastfeeding her son.
“I’m all for breast is best for babies and nurse in public etc. But when your child is walking around capable of a normal diet is it really necessary? Possibly give them a cup.”
“This is wrong on so many levels! Once the kid can eat a healthy diet with his own teeth- the boob should be shut down!”
In response, here are my 9 reasons that my child is not “too old” to breastfeed:
Cups and his ability to eat and drink things besides my milk has nothing to do with weaning. Natural weaning happens gradually (not abruptly) over a period of time, ideally when the child is ready…not when they start drinking from a cup or eating foods. Also, a “normal diet” for a baby and toddler actually includes breastmilk.
Dr. Dettwyler, an anthropologist who has done extensive research into the natural age of weaning suggests that the “natural” duration of breastfeeding among human, speaking biologically/physiologically, would be somewhere between 2.5 years and 7.0 years . Normality is culturally defined. Normal is not normal unless we (as a society) see it as such. Unfortunately most of us do not see this during our day to day life and feel as though breastfeeding is not a normal part of a toddler’s diet.
However, breastfeeding my toddler is one of the most normal things I do each day. In many cultures and communities around the world breastfeeding into toddlerhood and childhood is not only normal but expected. If you compare breastfeeding rates around the world (where the data has been collected), 50% of mothers are “still” breastfeeding their child at 23 months old .
The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding exclusively (so no other liquids or solids foods) until my baby is six months old and then to continue breastfeeding until they are two years of age or older. I repeat: until two years of age OR OLDER. Take note that there is no mention of the introduction of cups and foods as a starting point for weaning.
Meg with her son at work.
Breastfeeding is not just about nutrition, food and drink. It always interests me when I see someone comment on “the cup” argument because the implication is that the only reason to breastfeed is because my child is thirsty. Or hungry. I bet the people who make these comments have never seen a toddler drink a glass of water, eat a hamburger and then happily jump up onto their mother’s lap and breastfeed for fifteen minutes while they fall asleep for their nap.