Today, my colleague John Cave Osborne discovered a British story about a woman who nursed her newborn and her six-year-old at the same time. That sounds freaky to a lot of people, but to me it just sounded familiar.
I nursed my first child until her fifth birthday. When I finally called it quits, it wasn’t because she was too old to breastfeed. It was because I got tired of being awakened to a fist fight across my chest each morning between her and her two-year-old sister over who got my left breast. That must be the one with the chocolate milk in it.
To breastfeeding advocates and some attachment parents, this kind of long-term breastfeeding is a normal part of family life. To most of my colleagues here at Babble (and I imagine most of our readers), it’s pretty weird.
Don’t worry, though, I haven’t scarred my daughter for life. In her excellent book, Breastfeeding Older Children, which she based on hundreds of interviews and extensive research, Anne Sinnott reports how kids who are breastfed long past infancy turn out. To briefly sum up her hundreds of pages of work: They’re fine.
Better than fine, in fact. Kids who breastfeed into early childhood have strong attachments to their parents and a high degree of resilience and self-confidence. Otherwise, they’re basically normal kids: They go to school, have hobbies, and grow up to be kids who might not even remember having nursed for several years.
In my circle of friends, child-led weaning is the norm. It’s not unusual to see a preschooler at a mother’s breast or to hear moms exchanging tips on how to handle the rough and tumble antics of nursing toddlers. And as odd as it seems to a mainstream audience, nursing kids anywhere from 2-6 years has been the norm for most of human history. Even today, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding children for at least two years. Weaning babies at six months to a year is the radical act, not breastfeeding them until they’re ready to give it up.
How long did you breastfeed your babies? Would you do it longer if you had another child?
Photo: Sierra Black