Breastfeeding Myth #2: You Must Wean/Start Cow's Milk at One Year

river2.jpg
river1.jpg

Nope. In fact, the World Health Organization recommends nursing until age two and beyond. Our society got pretty messed up somewhere along the way and started making mothers believe a baby should be fully weaned by her first birthday. There are so many false reasons out there, but I will try to quickly address a few I hear often.

"Nursing a toddler is weird."
The average age of weaning worldwide is somewhere around FOUR to FOUR AND A HALF years old. In the U.S. that is preschool age. Nursing is a toddler is actually the biological norm.

"If he has teeth/is old enough to ask/eats three meals a day, he is too old to nurse."
Some babies pop teeth at two months old, some not until 16 months. Some talk before their first birthday, some not until their second. Some eat like tiny savages, while others act like they are being tortured at the sight of food. None of these things have anything to do with weaning readiness. 

"Breastmilk is no longer nutritious after a year."
Okay, what? I'm not sure why so many doctors (yes, I hear this from mamas who heard it from their doctors) seem to believe cow's milk, which is actually tailor made for BABY COWS, is suddenly the perfect food for a child after her first birthday. How does breastmilk go from super nutrient dense to pointless overnight? This is so false. Breastmilk continues to provide SO MANY incredible vitamins, minerals, antibodies, etc. as long as the nursing relationship continues. If a child is allowed to nurse on demand after a year, cow's milk (or any other milk alternative) is completely unnecessary. I like this info sheet from KellyMom

"Breastmilk causes cavities, so once my baby has teeth I have to quit."
My almost four year old just weaned last week. She nursed to sleep every night for three and a half years, and has "absolutely perfect" teeth according to the dentist just last month. Bottle use and poor latch (often due to unrevised ties) have been linked to tooth decay because of milk sitting on the teeth for long periods of time, but breastfeeding itself does not cause cavities and can be happily continued even after your child has an entire mouth full of teeth.

"My baby lost interest in nursing before a year."
This is unfortunately a common misunderstanding. Babies do go through periods of less interest during intense developmental leaps, but these are called nursing strikes and are not the same thing as quitting nursing altogether. They are usually remedied by mama continuing to offer the breast often, and baby/toddler generally returns happily within a few days if not sooner. It is rare for a child to self wean before the age of two.


Have you heard any of these? They are everywhere! And without adequate support and information, many mamas end their nursing relationships earlier than intuition tells them to. It is not only okay to continue nursing your toddler, it is normal and so wonderful for both of you (did you know the longer you breastfeed, the more your risk of breast cancer decreases?)!

Boob on, mamas!

 

(Photos of my sweet friend Bree nursing her three year old, River, at 31 weeks pregnant with baby sister)