What’s disturbing to me, is that mothers may feel sadness, grief and even loss because they ‘feel‘ they have to wean at some arbitrary ‘magical weaning age‘, maybe 12 months, or 18 months, or whatever it is. They talk about their own motherly tears and sadness. And, they say how the child grieves because they have to say ‘bye bye‘ to boobies. They talk about how cruel it is that their baby is growing up and that they are “too big for that now“… And, they say how even though it’s sad, they just need to be tough and do it! It actually makes me feel like crying… Whoever came up with this idea that a child needs to wean at X, Y or Z age, actually, has no idea what they are talking about! Like, NO IDEA AT ALL!
I mean, I understand it completely… the idea comes from everyone. Well meaning relatives, friends, the neighbors, and sadly, even some uninformed doctors and nurses.
If you truly want to wean, for whatever reason, that’s one thing. If you’re over it and you can’t stand it, yes, by all means, wean away. Or, if your child is disinterested in breastfeeding, then, of course! But, if you’re only weaning because you ‘think‘ you have to wean… Stop. Consider a few things first.
- The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding until at least 2 years of age or longer, as long as both the mother and child are happy doing so. So, if anyone tells you to wean earlier, just say, “Haven’t you heard what WHO says?“
- Breastmilk still maintains awesome, impossible to beat or replicate, nutritional value, no matter how old your child is.
- Breastfeeding can make life EASIER! Toddlers can be fussy eaters and frankly, sometimes you might be too tired to bother making food that will only get rejected. Breastmilk is always on tap.
- Older babies and toddlers still get that loving connection from breastfeeding. All young children NEED a certain amount of physical contact a day, and breastfeeding helps to fulfill that time needed for touch and connection. ESPECIALLY if you are working!
- If a toddler starts biting you, it is NOT a sign that they are ready to wean! There could be several reasons for biting, new teeth, not hungry, accumulation of stress, etc. but not because they are ready to wean.
- A baby does not know they have just turned 12 months old (or whatever that magic weaning age is). Taking away their very first form of nurture and nutrition can be extremely upsetting to them. They don’t want to be a ‘big boy‘ or a ‘big girl‘, they just want to BE.
- Babies over 12 months old are ‘not just playing around‘ if they are still interested in breastfeeding. To them, those boobs are attached to mummy, and those boobs contain yummy, nutritious food. And, you have to remember, even a two year old is still very much a baby!
The bottom line is that you need to listen to your emotions and your heart. If you’re happy breastfeeding and your child is, then keep going! There is no age when breastfeeding becomes gross. There is no age when your child becomes “too big for that now“, they will not be going to their first job with a boob in their mouth. There is no reason to compare when little Johnny weaned as opposed to your child… because every child is different.
The very loose natural weaning age is anywhere between 2 and 7 years old! There is no universal weaning age. If well meaning friends, family and doctors raise their eyebrows and ask you, “Are you still feeding them?” Just politely say something like “Yes, didn’t you know that breastfed babies and toddlers tend to have higher IQs” or, “Yes, didn’t you know that the longer I breastfeed, the lower my chances or getting ovarian cancer are, how cool is that!”
Whatever you do or say, let the decision to wean come from your heart or or your child’s or both.