How Long Should You Do it For?
Watching older babies nurse makes some people uncomfortable. Don’t let that stop you. People have all kinds of ideas about nursing. (“When he can ask for it, it’s time to stop.”) Having teeth or being able to walk, talk, and eat solid food are not markers for weaning. None of these milestones has any clinical or nutritional relevance.
It’s all up to you and your baby. Though it’s uncommon today, there is nothing unnatural about nursing longer than the full year the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. The AAP recommends nursing as long as mother and baby desire, and the World Health Organization says “two years and beyond” is good. The world average is about four years. All the benefits of your milk—nutritional and immune related— continue as long as your baby drinks it.
The comforts of nursing are one of its sweeter benefits. So if you nurse longer than one year, be prepared. Most older babies are loathe to give up the breast. You will need a plan for easing off, slowly or you will have to stop cold for key.
Some people say that “child- led” weaning is a myth, but that’s too strong. I guess it’s true, if you mean that toddlers don’t wake up one day and announce, “Thank you for the breast milk. I’m big now and I’ve had enough.” No, they seldom do that. But many babies do participate in saying good- bye to the breast. Because there is no medical need to wean or proven superior approach, no one can tell you when or how to do it. This is the time to get inspiration and comfort from other mothers and to listen for what might suit you.