Yup, you read that right. The WHO recommends incorporating solid foods at 6 months of age while continuing to breastfeed until three years of age. Although Liam is only 13 months old, I am adamant on doing what feels right for him – I refuse to wean him in an unnatural way if he isn’t ready to stop nursing. Of course, it’s an accomplishment to nurse at all, even if it’s just a few months postpartum. I am more than aware that a lot of moms don’t have the luxury to stay home with their babies, and I am in no way saying that if you don’t let your child self wean you are doing it wrong. This is just something that fortunately works for our family.
I’ve heard way too many misinformed comments over the past few months (and it hasn’t always been easy to keep my mouth shut!) Things such as “you should stop nursing when he’s old enough to ask for it” or, “as soon as he has teeth, you need to stop”, or even, “He’s just too big now. Only babies breastfeed.” I think that as a whole, in Mommy World, it’s important to live and let live: do what works for you and let other moms figure out what works for them. For my part, I am thrilled that I am still able to provide my son with so many essential nutrients.
KG Dewey, author of Nutrition, Growth, and Complementary Feeding of the Breastfed Infant, writes that during the second year, 448 mL of breastmilk provides a toddler with:
I mean, really… why stop breastfeeding now that my milk is becoming superhuman? I am lucky enough to be able to provide my son with these nutrients. Please tell me how it makes sense to wean him now?
Last time I checked, nature works in pretty amazing ways. Just the way my body produces the perfect amount of milk to satisfy my baby (and no one else’s), it also continues to produce it for a good reason: my baby needs it! As long as my body cooperates and produces nutritious, organic, custom-made milk for my son, you can be sure that I won’t be depriving him of it.
First, I want to be clear that I am in no way judging or shaming moms for feeding cow’s milk to their children. Our pediatrician (that we love) emphasizes that cow’s milk is second best to breastmilk in terms of nutritional value after the first year. I am therefore open to feeding my son cow’s milk if I am unable to feed him in person (I am so done with pumping!), but only once my frozen breastmilk stash has been used up.
However, it is important to note that just like human milk is made for baby humans, goat milk is made for baby goats, and cow milk is made for baby cows… that weigh approximately 85 lbs at birth. Although all three are babies, they cannot be compared in terms of dietary and nutritional needs.
Finally, breastfeeding my son is a lot more than just giving him a bottle of milk. It is a gift all women have (if they want it badly enough), and provides our children with comfort, warmth, and protection. We are able to heal them from minor pain and relieve their symptoms, protect them from diseases, and give them a healthy head start in life, possibly preventing allergies, asthma, obesity, a lowered risk of heart disease, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, as well as many childhood cancers (askdrsears.com).
I am aware that there is a stigma around breastfeeding “big babies” and the judgment passed on moms who breastfeed their toddlers in public. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that there is no shame in doing the right thing for your child, even if some may not understand that. Besides, people will always find a reason to judge or criticize what you are doing, no matter what it is.
Forget breastfeeding in dressing rooms or bathroom stalls (never!), and if it’s 95 degrees out, forget the heavy nursing cover too… Remember that breastfeeding is a gift we have, and it’s a natural, beautiful thing we do for our children.