understanding child-led weaning

recently, i was a guest at someone's home, and i was asked to leave the room if i had to feed my son, even though i was planning to use a blanket to cover. for some reason, it's fine for teenage girls to run around in their bikinis at this home, but a mother nursing her child with a blanket over her shoulder is told to hide out in a different room. this just shows how flip-flopped our view of breasts and breastfeeding is! it is truly sad.

it's an unfortunate fact that we live in an over-sexualized nation. the purpose and relationship of baby and boob should be simple. babies breastfeed. breasts are for feeding babies. however, it seems we've forgotten what a woman's breasts are for. in our society, for some reason this is ok:

maggie gyllenhaal in one of many photos she posed in for a lingerie line.

and this isn't:

via http://celebritybabies.people.com
maggie gyllenhaal received a lot of crap for this photo of her nursing her daughter in public.
might i point out, just about the same amount of boob is showing. 

until just breastfeeding becomes the norm, extended breastfeeding will continue to be misunderstood. i don't blame people for not accepting what they don't understand. 

weaning surveys have been shady and not very accurate, but the most reliable number i could find for the common weaning age is 2.8 years, while in some cultures women breastfeed for much shorter or longer lengths of time. [the number 4.5 has been thrown around to suggest a common age of weaning worldwide ... or something... :) but like i said, not very reliable. it is probably accurate to say most children world-wide are breastfed until they are about four years old.] the World Health Organization recommends that a child be breastfed up to two years or beyond, but in america, most babies are weaned between the ages of six months and one year. children who are given the opportunity to wean naturally normally do so between 3 and 4 years. early weaning became common in the 19th century, when women were worried breastfeeding would make them look old or poor. today, breastfeeding beyond one year of age is considered weird to many people.

it was never strange to me, but that's because i grew up around it. my own mom breastfed my sister until she was two and a half years old, and at the same time, my aunt was breastfeeding my cousin until he was nearly three and a half. it was never odd to me to see a toddler breastfeeding. it was natural.

i remember when i was around middle school-age, seeing on a television show a mother in a remote village in africa breastfeeding a child who looked to be about five years old. at the time, that wasn't even that odd to me, just different. it made sense, actually. breastmilk is the perfect, most amazing food, whether the child receiving it is five months or five years. in the midst of the conditions which she was living, where food and water are scarce, why wouldn't she be breastfeeding her child?

what i find amazing is how science supports that breastfeeding beyond the age of two to be more natural than not. the age in which most large mammals wean their young is comparable to five to seven years in a human child. some scientist say large animals are weaned when they are triple their birth weight - this is about the age of a toddler. not only are the ages comparable, but human children also lose their ability to properly suck between the ages of three and eight! 

extended breastfeeding and child-led weaning is not for everyone, and i absolutely don't think a mom is wrong for not doing so! however, while it may seem odd to us here in the western world, it's important that we understand that it's not unnatural, and may actually be best for some mamas and their children. 

and being around tons of breastfeeding mamas :)


  1. I know what you mean. I have a friend who is due in May with her 2nd baby and she tells me that she thinks it's "disgusting" that babies are breastfed. She said even pumping grosses her out and "that's not what breasts are for". Like are you fucking kidding me? I can't believe how backwards this nation is.
    Ethan has weaned himself now at 20 months. He was pretty much weaned completely at 18 months, with no encouragement from me to do so. He still occasionally asks for "nums" but it's pretty rare now, and he'll only take a little mini sip, lol.

  2. BTW I love that photo of Maggie. That's so awesome.

  3. I hate that this goes on in our culture or that you are having to deal with ANY of that sort of thing. My Mom usually lets the child wean themselves which if I remember right is about 1.5? Mainly because she is preganant and the baby's milk flavor changes because Mom's body is changing and they start weaning themselves. Nursing a child to an older age does seem wierd to me right now, but then again I have not had my own child- yet. I am planning on breastfeeding, I believe as I have come to through studying on it, etc. But above that I believe it is the best thing for the child because it is what GOD gave a women to care for her child! That to me is the greatest thing of all! :) I admit that nursing like the mother above whould make me uncomfortable (just like the other um...lady?) but I am just a REALLY private person and would never EVER do that personally. I have nothing againist her though she is brave. Being asked to leave the room with your baby??? That is REALLY messed up and would have caused me to be really hot-tempered, good GRIEF people it is a way of life or should be! I had better stop before I say something about the way they acted towards you that I'll regret later. I am just REALLY sorry you had to deal with that attitude. :(


  4. jess - that makes me so sad, that attitude towards breastfeeding in general. :( seriously, it may bring me to tears if i think about it too long.

    isn't the picture awesome?! i am totally rooting for her. i think it's so great!

    megan - same here, i wouldn't breastfeed like that in public, but not because it would make others uncomfortable, but because i would be uncomfortable. i am pretty private too, but i've become less since i had river and sometimes, breastfeeding in public can't really be the most private thing - lol!

    yes, you better believe i was hot-tempered!!! i didn't say anything to them, and still haven't, but i was very upset. let's just say i won't be returning to that house as long as i am a breastfeeding mom. >:\

  5. there are a lot of "hot-topics" in our society... how did breastfeeding become one of them? i don't even think twice when i nurse in public..sometimes though, after the fact, i have wondered if i offended anyone - and, WHY SHOULD I FEEL THIS WAY? i do feel lucky to live in a city where i'm often not the only mama in the joint who's nursing... and so, i've never been questioned about it - i've never even gotten a bad look. not sure how i would respond in your case.... but really, we shouldn't have to... keep on mothering your way, and know there are many mamas who walk in your shoes and who stand behind you!

  6. I know what you mean..I'm going to be a guest poster on Breast Feeding United's blog on Tuesday. I wrote my post for her a few days ago. I have been upset...right after having my baby my church stopped letting breastfeeding moms go to the nursery to feed. I didn't know this and knocked on the door she told me I had to feed my baby in the bathroom. I started to tear up and have been there every sun and wed nights since (whenever she is hungry) there are times it stinks and such. When she posts it I will send you the link!

  7. are you serious??! how sad that a CHURCH won't let a mother do the most natural thing in the world. you should tell them "jesus was breastfed... and most likely until he was three or four years old." yes, please let me know when you post! i would love to read it!! so sorry about that situation. perhaps the la leche legue could get involved? i don't know what legal rights a mother has to breastfeed on private grounds... good luck!!



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