The Natural Age of Weaning

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When I first became pregnant, I assumed I would breastfeed for at least 12 months. Most people I knew had breastfeed about that long (or less), I had been breastfeed for 14 months alongside my twin. I grew up with stories of how we would ‘drive by feed’, as my mum would be feeding one of us, and the other would come along for the other side. So feeding a walking toddler was an image that seemed normal. But I thought you HAD to wean at some point.

So as my journey into breastfeeding approached 12 months, and the intensity of “when are you going to stop that?” came coupled with “there is no value beyond one, your milk turns to water”. But it became very apparent ending breastfeeding was not something me, or my baby, wanted to do. To end breastfeeding would have been a very stressful thing to do. So it was at this point I sought more information.

I found the Australian Breastfeeding Association article on feeding beyond one very reassuring. One key piece of information as that it is actually recommended by WHO that breastfeeding continues to two years old. Brilliant! I just bought myself another year.

So I thought.

At about the 18 mth mark, the next challenge was breastfeeding whilst pregnant, again, ABA provided the reassuring evidence that said it is okay to carry on and that you can tandem feed an older child alongside a newborn. So we did.

My first born had her last breastfeed soon after her 4th birthday. It was the right time for both of us.

Another key piece of information that I ‘discovered ‘ in my quest, was the natural age of weaning by Kathy Detwyller. She states that the natural age of weaning is between 2 and 7, and for some children, beyond 7.

Breastfeeding beyond 7!

Surely this is the stuff of myth?

To get to the bottom of this, I asked my friend Amy for answers. An experienced Mother, she has been breastfeeding for 17 years. Read the full interview here, where you will find insights into how someone comes to feeding beyond preschool, and into the primary years.

It turns out it is absolutely not a myth, and a very normal and beautiful experience for those involved. Breastfeeding is a one day at a time journey. We do not know at the outset how long we will breastfeed for. Usually mothers have a short term goal, that just gets extended as they go, until it feels right or necessary to cease. It is this tendency that means some women find themselves breastfeeding a child.

For many mothers, breastfeeding is a great tool. It aids sleep, eases discomfort and soothes through pain or illness. The breastfeeding child does not come to the breast with the frequency or intensity of a baby. Many mothers who have experienced child-led weaning can not pinpoint the last breastfeed, because you don’t know it is the last one at the time.

There are only two people who get a say in breastfeeding: The mother and her offspring.

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