There are those that believe in “full term” or “child led” breastfeeding, and there are those that believe that a child must be weaned at a certain age. What each mother does is up to her, her child, and the child’s family. If child led weaning is for you, kudos. If you wean at an earlier age I’m a firm believer that no one is entitled to question your personal choice. (Although if you disseminate myths as solid facts, please stop damaging other people’s breastfeeding relationships. No one should ever judge you for your choices, but fear of judgement does not justify propagation of damaging and incorrect information.)
Certain words come up in discussions about weaning age irritate me, though, and I’ve basically taken this stance about the whole idea that it is somehow a “debate of right and wrong”:
Those who believe full term breastfeeding is normal quote studies and information and generally mention the same age ranges for when different milestones occur that naturally lead to weaning.
Those who believe that breastfeeding past a certain age tend to cite social influence, arbitrary milestones (“able to ask for it”… In what way? My babies ask for it from the moment they’re born by rooting around.. And linguistic milestones have nothing to do with a child’s nutritional or physical needs.) They also tend to choose different ages. 6 weeks, 6 months, 9 months, 10 months, one year, two years.
Those that believe that breastfeeding somehow becomes “wrong” at a certain point are largely in conflict with each other about the exact details or point where it becomes “wrong”. (Other than the full-term breastfeeding advocates who say “when mom or child is ready to stop it’s time to stop.”) This makes it REALLY hard for me to swallow that there is somehow a “must” age for weaning. Especially since the experts on the matter (WHO, AAP) all agree that there is nothing detrimental to nursing past those arbitrary ages and that there are many benefits to be had.
So my challenge is always this: If you feel that breastfeeding past a certain age is wrong, please provide studies and evidence. Otherwise please tone down the words that you are using to describe another person’s parenting. Words like “sick” and “gross” are full of judgement that you quite simply do NOT have the evidence to support. Your discomfort with the idea is due to social conditioning and not what is or is not healthy for the child. If there was a problem with it, there would be studies that clearly show problems and the major health organizations of the world would be speaking out against it. At best there are a few rogue pediatricians who have succumbed to substituting their own personal bias for an informed opinion.
I do not believe that a mother, fully armed with all of the many studies and information SUPPORTING child led weaning should be allowed to guilt trip a mother who has weaned her child earlier. And just as no one should be allowed to use a plethora of evidence to guilt-trip the mother who wishes to wean earlier, NO ONE should be allowed to use strong negative words like “sick” or “perverted” to back an opinion that not a shred of evidence exists to support.
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