When you first have a baby and breastfeed, most people are very encouraging, saying things like “what a lovely natural thing you are doing feeding your baby.”
Then as they get older, people start giving their opinion on why baby should not be breastfed. Such as “He’ll never learn to sleep through if you don’t wean him off the breast at night.” or the classic “You’ll be having to feed her through the school gates if you’re not careful!” Actually this is a load of rot! No two child is alike in their nocturnal sleep habits, as all of my children have proven, regardless of whether I ceased feeding at night or allowed them to do it naturally. I’ve not yet had to feed one through the school gates, nor have I heard of anyone else doing this!
Natural term weaning is viewed as being “a bit out there” by a number of people. Usually emitting “bitty!” jokes, or looks of horror when it becomes clear that you are still feeding past 6 months.
It is the recommendation of health organisations such as the World Health Organisation that breastfeeding should continue up to two years of age or beyond. So it isn’t helpful when faced with a health professional who takes a dim view on feeding past what is seen as the social norm of 6 months. In fact this can leave the breastfeeding mother feeling uncomfortable, or upset about not being supported in their choice.
So what is the natural weaning age? From the information I have read, it appears to be around 6 to 7 years of age, when children start losing their milk teeth, as once the adult teeth comes in, children loses the natural ability to breastfeed.
So why am I still breastfeeding my youngest child, I hear you ask. Well it’s not to provide his main source of nutrition, more a way to supplement it, and to provide him with a source of comfort. Breast milk also provide him with vitamins, and strengthens his immunity system. If he does get ill, nursing is one of the few things he takes comfort in.
When he is hurt, or upset offering him the breast instantly soothes and calms him right down. Trust me I would rather deal with a wriggly toddler twiddling my hair, poking at my moles, attempting strange nursing positions than a screaming full on melt down toddler tantrum!
Breastfeeding also has health benefits for me, it reduces the risk of various types of cancer such as breast cancer, reduces risk of rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease, protects against osteoporosis and impacts on other health factors too. Pretty impressive really when you think about it, what breastfeeding does for both baby and mother.
I’ve been told that breastfeeding will make my child clingy. Obviously they’ve not spent time with any of my children as they are all fiercely independent, and have been from a young age!
“But the teeth?! Surely that must hurt?!” is another question asked with a look of horror. Actually no it doesn’t, because the breastfed child learns how to feed without chomping down. Initially it can be uncomfortable as each new tooth comes in, but they soon learn to adjust their latch.
My breastfeeding days will come to an end at some point, but I can’t answer when yet as I simply don’t know. All I know is that both my child and I are still benefitting from it right now, and that’s what matters.