When it comes to extended breastfeeding, the world is divided in two camps. On one side, you have those that believe that natural age weaning is the way nature bonds us to our baby’s. On the other side, you have those who believe in following society and the status quo, in which once natural practices have no place anymore. But why can’t both sides just go hand in hand? Let me show you what extended breastfeeding actually is and why natural age weaning has become a rare sight.
What is extended breastfeeding?
Extended breastfeeding is not an official term with an all-in-one answer. It literally means: breastfeeding for an extended period of time. But what is an extended period of time? When you use a dictionary to look up the word extended, it means lasting longer than is usual or expected. This is a very vague definition. What we find usual is not always usual for you. And what you find usual might not be usual for us.
There are many views and opinions about what is extended breastfeeding. In general, it refers to nursing a baby beyond 1 year old, which seems to be society’s view on the subject.
Nursing for at least 2 years
Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months and continued breastfeeding up to 2 years and beyond. But our society decided years ago that nursing beyond a year, or even 6 months, is extended breastfeeding and not to be expected.
Natural age weaning
What is natural weaning? When we look to the natural aspect of breastfeeding, far away from societal ideas and people’s opinions, we can see that nature is very clear in the matter. A safely bonded child has a natural clock that helps them to stop breastfeeding on their own, when it’s time. Nature even made it easier on the child by changing the forming of their mouth, so they loose the skill to drink at mom’s breast. This change is called losing milk teeth. It’s that simple: at a certain time the child loses its milk teeth. They change into adult teeth, giving the mouth an other, bigger form that is not suitable to drinking milk anymore. Nature actually makes the child stop drinking on its own.
Natural weaning is following this natural path and let the child self-wean. The natural weaning age is between 4 and 7 years. Or somewhere around that. This makes that breastfeeding a child of 7 years old is perfectly normal.
Our journey with extended breastfeeding and natural weaning
It’s not a secret that we have let our children self-wean in their own times. We are pro-choice when it comes to the worldwide discussion, but for our own children, we decided that breastfeeding the way nature intended was our path to go. My personal moto: until 4 years, it’s my choice. After that, it’s up to them.
Why do I follow this rule? Because I truly believe that when a child wants to stop nursing before 4 years old, there’s a another reason laying underneath. This can be anything: illness, pain, discomfort, a stressed mom, too much distraction, mom getting her period, and more… Before 4 years old they don’t have the ability to really choose yet.
Our kids are all nursed between 4 and 8 years.
The reason why society is against extended breastfeeding
Lots of moms that are still nursing their child past 2 years old come into contact with people that think extended breastfeeding is weird and not good for the child. Keeping into consideration that nature intended us to nurse each child for 4-7 years, that point of view is based on false information. But what false information started this idea about extended breastfeeding?
Around the same time that this false information about nursing crept into families, another event happened: a substitute for breastmilk found its way towards new moms. This substitute was much easier than breastfeeding: moms were promised more time for themselves, there would be less pain involved in feeding a newborn and it was much cleaner than the unholy act of using breasts for something. Lots of advertisement went into formula products and false experts had to ensure that people believed all the myths.
Today, we’re still fighting against the false information spread throughout our society. Even when multiple scientific studies have proven differently by now.
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