Today I’m here to talk breast feeding. How long one breast feeds their child to be specific. Is there a certain age that is ideal to stop breast feeding your child? How long does the average mother breast feed their child? What is best for you? Let’s talk!
The American Pediatric Association defines extended nursing as breastfeeding infants beyond their first year. In the United States, only 17 percent of new moms nurse their newborn for a full year. When I read that information, I was shocked. I thought it would be much higher. The practice of extended nursing sparks heated controversy because some disagree about when it is no longer appropriate to breastfeed children. Some parenting experts argue that if you breastfeed your children too long, it will stunt their child development. The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, supports mothers who want to nurse as long as necessary and say that it causes no damage whatsoever.
Most experts can agree on one thing though- that your baby needs nutrients from breast milk until they are at least 12 months old. If you choose to stop breast feeding your child before that time, they will need to be fed bottled formula. After the 12 month mark, the choice is yours. So what is YOUR choice and why?
I think one of the most important things to consider is what is right for you and your child and to take your cues from them. Some children may be early to wean themselves. Some babies are more interested in solid food than others, and they simply start nursing less and less until it stops completely. Other children, my son included, don’t want to give up nursing, and I’m fine with that. As your child gets older, breast feeding may only take place in the morning and right before bed. That may go on for some time until your child gives it up completely.
La Leche League says: “A mother and her baby should breastfeed for as long as they wish to breastfeed.” And I couldn’t agree more. There is no set number of years you should nurse your baby. If you and your child enjoy breastfeeding, there is no reason you need to stop. Both of you will continue to benefit from breastfeeding as long as you like. Many mothers choose to wean naturally, allowing the child to outgrow the need to nurse on their own time.
One thing worth mentioning, is the importance of supporting breast feeding moms in ALL circumstances. Of course it is vital that we all support new moms as they take on the challenge of breastfeeding but it is also equally important that we support moms who are nursing their toddlers. As a mother who is still nursing my almost two year old, I have come under criticism from even my friends. They’ve told me it was weird that I am still breastfeeding my son and that I should stop. I was so surprised at this type of behavior and disappointed that people react like this. Despite negative feedback, I have also gotten an outpour of positive comments and I am so very proud of myself for still breastfeeding my son.
Breastfeeding should ALWAYS be encouraged, never looked down upon. Your attitude and comments can make a world of difference to a breastfeeding mother. The most important thing is that you do what is best for you and your child, whatever that may be!
Are you a breastfeeding mom? How long did you breastfeed your baby? We would love to hear from you!