As a mom of 5, of which 4 have passed the 4 years of nursing, I have come across tons of myths about extended breastfeeding that people truly believe to be true. These are the ones that I hear regularly or that we get as comments on our extended breastfeeding YouTube videos: I nursed my 8yo and I’m still nursing my 6,5 year old.
1. There is no nutritional value in breastmilk after a year
This is one of the more obvious myths about extended breastfeeding that formula companies have spread. Breastmilk has no nutritional value, that’s why their products are better. Do I really have to explain this one? We can all see the nonsense in this one, right? Always follow the money trail when it comes to false information.
Luckily, lots of scientific research has proven what we knew all along: breastmilk adapts to the child and will always offer exactly what the child needs. No matter how old the child is.
2. An older child doesn’t need breastmilk
Completely true. An older child can indeed eat other things besides breastmilk and doesn’t need the milk per se when it’s about nutrition. With older child, I mean 4 years and older, of course.
The thing is that nursing is much more than nutrition alone. And the percentage nutrition vs. comfort lowers over time. For older toddlers and children, nursing is more comfort and emptying the overwhelm of the day with nature’s way of doing so.
Can we state that an older child doesn’t need breastmilk? No. Nature intended nursing to be a complete package that supports physical ánd emotional needs. When a 7yo still feels the need to nurse, they mostly still need the emotional connection. Therefore, this statement gets banned to the realm of myths about extended breastfeeding.
3. When a child gets to choose, they will never stop
Wrong. Speaking of myths about extended breastfeeding. No mammal is meant to nurse forever. Every mammal has its own time for their children to stop drinking milk. As do we. When a child gets to choose when to stop nursing, they will mostly stop around 4-7 years. Some kids earlier, some kids later. But all of them stop by themselves. Both their mental, emotional and physical development will make sure of that.
4. Their teeth are proof that they need other food than milk
Yes! They are! But not in the way you think. It’s not the first teeth that show the end of the nursing period, they are merely there so the child can learn how to eat other food as well. It’s the second set of teeth that show us that it’s time to change completely from milk to solids.
So yes, teeth are actually a great way of nature to stop drinking on the breast. Getting those 2nd set of teeth will make the mouth larger, to fit all those new teeth in. The form of the mouth will change because of this, no longer supporting the drinking movement. Nature is beautiful, isn’t it?
5. Kids need normal milk to get all of their nutrients
You know that cow’s milk is basically breastmilk from a cow for a calf, right? The breastmilk of each mammal is based upon the child it is feeding. This goes very easily: the spit of the child goes into the nipple, your body measures what the child needs and produces the perfect amount of nutrients for the child.
The milk of a cow contains nutrients to let a small calf grow into a full blown cow. Not exactly what a 4yo child needs, right? This is probably the most absurd one out of all myths about extended breastfeeding.
6. Children that nurse for this long, have problems eating solid foods
You know what. I’m not completely going to debunk this myth. But then again… I never believed in force feeding my children, and always trusted that when they were ready, their instinct would kick in and have them eat.
Our experience with this:
– My 2 oldest daughters ate without a problem. They still do. They love eating! We started giving them solids at 6 months old and they always went along with it.
– Our 3rd daughter was something else. She had no interest in eating solid foods until she was 15 months old. That gave us a lot of worries, until I read different scientific studies that children can actually survive on breastmilk alone for the first 4 years of their lives. It’s not ideal of course and I would not suggest that to anyone, but nutrition wise… there are no problems. This gave a little bit more breathing room. We kept offering her nutritional foods, put monkey platters on the table so she could grab it if she wanted, and I nursed her in the rhythm that she chose. Guess what? It worked out just fine. She was healthy and her body told her exactly what to do.
– Our 1st son/4th child was exactly the same as his older sister, starting to eat around 15 months too.
– Our 2nd son/5th child was completely different. When he was 5 months old, he threw himself out of my arms, onto the table, to steal the food from one of his sisters who was sitting there. He ignored our 6+ months “rule” and decided to hunt for solid food on his own.
Different children, different experiences.
7. Nursing for that long creates dependent children
This one is one of the biggest myths about extended breastfeeding. Because strangely enough, the opposite can be seen around the world. And there’s actually lots of logic behind that. Every child needs to learn how to deal with our world. That’s a heavy burden to carry. The world is a big place, with lots of people that each bring their own energy. A child will always need some time to adapt to this.
Now imagine that you can make steps into the world, knowing that when you’re not feeling great, you can always crawl back in nature’s safety net. Wouldn’t you be able to make bigger steps, just because you have that safety net? It’s illogical to think that extended breastfeeding will keep a child from becoming independent.
Oh, and don’t forget: there are still 11 years between 7 and 18 years old. That’s probably more than enough time to learn how to be independent, when a child needs some extra time.
8. Only people who have an easy nursing start, do this extended breastfeeding thing
No. That has literally nothing to do with it.
I didn’t have an easy breastfeeding start. Nor did breastfeeding go easily for me later on. Yet, at this moment, I have been nursing for 15,5 years non-stop. Why? Because I choose my kids above me. For me, it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s hard to do. It’s my job and I just do it.
This is actually a very triggering comment for people who put blood, sweat and tears into their (extended) breastfeeding efforts.
9. Moms only do this for themselves
This comment/myth is one we get all the time and is one of my personal triggers. As I believe that a trigger is truth that your ego doesn’t want to or can’t see (yet), I always follow my triggers to see what I can learn from them. So I have put a lot of thought in this one.
Yes. Moms who truly don’t want to do this, will not be breastfeeding for 4+ years. So there’s some truth in this statement. Moms do this for themselves too.
Do we only do this for ourselves? No. We mostly do this because we truly believe that this is best for our children. We do this because this is our job and the way nature intended us to care for our children.
But yes, sure… I also do this for myself. This time in their lives will never come back. I don’t mind it to keep them a little bit longer with me. That doesn’t mean that I will keep them small for the rest of their lives. It just means that for those few first years, I like having them with me.
10. This is child abuse!
This is the worst one of all myths about extended breastfeeding. Bullies know exactly where to hit you so it hurts. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have years of research backing you up and they only thought about it for a second, some people like to hit you with the hard words.
Child abuse: physical maltreatment or sexual molestation of a child. That’s what the dictionary says. Hurtful isn’t it?
I don’t even have a decent answer for this one. We all know that breastfeeding can never be child abuse. Yet this gets used against extended breastfeeding a lot. Why? Do they feel threatened? Do they think their own choices are in jeopardy because of you nursing your child? We will never know.
It comforts me to know that my children had more than enough love from me, so they would never have to feel the need to treat other people like that.