Not something you hear every day

Overheard during a discussion (at our API meeting yesterday) about tandem nursing and deciding whether or not to wean an older child while pregnant.

B (who tandem nurses her 6-week-old and 2 1/2-yr-old sons) said: “I thought seriously about weaning him (the older boy), but he’s such an emotional nurser. I think it would be really hard on him.”

E (a newcomer to the group who weaned her older daughter at age 3 yrs, 2 months while pregnant with baby #2) said: “Oooh, but he’s still so young.”

Being a supporter of extended nursing, I’m not sure why this struck me, but it did. Maybe because I’ve been going back and forth about whether I want to wean Ava before baby boy is born. (At this point, I’ve decided neither of us are ready for it.) And maybe because it’s not a response you would get from MOST people. Of course, in retrospect, if someone is going to be supportive of extended nursing, it would certainly an AP member, but it was very refreshing to hear, nonetheless. :)

Read more about it: A Natural Age of Weaning
by Katherine Dettwyler, PhD

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9 thoughts on “Not something you hear every day

  1. How old is old enough, though? When I hear of some mothers nursing til the kid is 5 years old, that to me is abuse and is bound to cause psychological issues for the child down the road that he or she may not even be aware of…
    Is Ava showing signs of readiness to wean?

  2. I must admit…I was pretty shocked when I read this. I like to think of myself as pretty open-minded about natural styles of parenting but I find this a little disturbing myself. What is the point of nursing when the child is already on solid foods? Is it healthy for your body to undergo that kind of stress? Shouldn’t you wean so that the child will become independent? I am one of four breastfed children and we were all weaned shortly after 1 year old. I guess I just really don’t understand the logic behind this.

  3. Amy – I think that it should be a case by case basis. When the child is ready to wean, they will wean. I am certainly not advocating forcing a child to nurse if they don’t want to (though I’m not sure how one would do that anyway). Ava only nurses (generally) 3 times a day, but is she ready to drop those and go cold turkey at this point? No, so we continue. I can’t see how nursing (which is such a loving, tender act) a 5 year old would be considered abuse, but that’s just my opinion. I know some children (a boy and a girl) who nursed until they were about 3 1/2 (they are 6 and 7 now) and they have fond memories of their nursing relationship with their mom. I think it’s unfortunate that our culture is not NEARLY as accepting of extended nursing as they are elsewhere in the world.

    Pryncess – There are a lot of benefits to nursing after a child is on solid foods. Here’s some info that I think will help answer your question taken from the article “What If I Want To Wean My Baby?” by Diane Wiessinger:
    “IF YOUR CHILD WEANS WHEN SHE IS READY, you can feel confident that you have met your baby’s physical and emotional needs in a very normal, healthy way. In cultures where there is no pressure to wean, children tend to nurse for at least two years. The World Health Organization and UNICEF strongly encourage breastfeeding through toddlerhood: “Breastmilk is an important source of energy and protein, and helps to protect against disease during the child’s second year of life.” Our biology seems geared to a weaning age of between 2 1/2 and 7 years, and it just makes sense to build our children’s bones from the milk that was designed for them. Your milk provides antibodies and other protective substances for as long as you continue nursing, and families of nursing toddlers often find that their medical bills are lower than their neighbors’ for years to come. Research indicates that the longer a child nurses, the higher his intelligence. Mothers who nurse longterm have a still lower risk of developing breast cancer. Children who were nursed longterm tend to be very secure, and are less likely to suck their thumbs or carry a blanket. Nursing can help ease both of you through the tears, tantrums, and tumbles that come with early childhood, and helps ensure that any illnesses are milder and easier to deal with. It’s an all-purpose mothering tool you won’t want to be without! Don’t worry that your child will nurse forever. All children stop on their own, no matter what you do, and there are more nursing toddlers around than you might guess.”
    You can read more from the article here: http://www.wiessinger.baka.com/bfing/breastvbottle/wean.html

    As far as your question about my body undergoing stress…if I felt like I (or my unborn baby) was unhealthy because of continued breastfeeding, I would find a way to wean. I’ve seen two different OB practices with this pregnancy, as well as a midwife, and none of them had any problems with me nursing while pregnant. It just wasn’t a concern to them.
    To address your question “Shouldn’t you wean so that the child will become independent?” – You’d have to meet Ava to appreciate why I laughed when I read this. :) Ava is one of the most independent kids I know. She wants to do so many things by herself, she has no problem playing by herself or other children, she’s very smart, polite and well-adjusted and has a wonderful imagination. I think that by giving her what she needs (nursing) rather than keeping it from her, teaches her trust in me and to be secure in herself.

    I know that extended nursing is not for EVERYONE, and I applaud all of the moms who nurse for any length of time, but I feel it is the right choice for us. I just wish that the comment I heard at the API meeting was more of the norm and not seen as something as “shocking” or a sign of “abuse.”

  4. By the way, I just wanted to add that I appreciate you both asking honest questions rather than criticizing, even if it’s something you disagree with. :) So thank you.

  5. I wish I could have nursed Jacob longer. He weaned himself at 11 1/2 months!!! I cried everytime I tried to nurse and he refused!! I went back to work full time around that time period so I think that was the problem. I was not home for him very ofter. Next baby will be nursed longer though :) Good job on your extended nursing :)

  6. Yes, I like to be respectful and ask questions without ever sounding criticizing or harsh. Thank you for acknowledging that. People are so scared of being offeding somebody all the time that it seems like no dialog can happen! I do think it helps that you’ve known me awhile though too. :)

    I don’t think that extended nursing is a sign of abuse at all, but I am concerned after a child is past about 3 1/2 years old. The article you cited said that the average weaning age is 2 or 2 1/2.

    Now I’m not a psychologist or doctor, but I think that after that natural weaning age, it would seem that nursing a much older child is due more to emotional overattachment than nutritional need. I could be entirely wrong though! I wish Aidan would have nursed longer without biting. But 10 months is pretty good…

  7. Christina – I didn’t know you were planning on having another. That’s exciting! :)

    Amy – Yes, I feel like I know you pretty well and that you are honestly asking and not criticizing. I think we both respect each other well in that regard. :)
    That article (“A Natural Age of Weaning”) actually said: “The MINIMUM predicted age for a natural age of weaning in humans is 2.5 years, with a MAXIMUM of 7.0 years.” So I think anywhere between 2.5 and 7 should be considered quite normal. Of course I am not hoping that Ava will nurse until she’s 5 (or 7), but I do hope to support her desire to nurse as long as the relationship is mutually satisfying.

  8. i tandem nursed my kids, my son was 23 months old when my daughter was born. they tandem nursed for about 6 months, when my son decided he was done, and that was that! he weaned at about 2 yrs, 4 or 5 months. my daughter weaned back in feb, at about 2 years, 6 months. i would have gladly nursed them longer if they needed it.

    tandem nursing was such a joy to me (although, i never did master nursing both at the same time).. it helped my son still feel included/loved while he was getting used to having a sibling. of course, there were times when i felt like i was in a non-stop nurse-athon!

    as long as you eat healthy food and enough calories, you, your child and your unborn baby will be fine :)

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