Breast Feeding: How Old Is Too Old? Mom Talk
When do children become too old for breast milk?
A good friend of ours told the story of how she had to wean her then 2-year-old son off their evening nursing routine. She was deeply saddened, but felt it was time.
When we first had Liam, I thought that two years old seemed extensive. I never expected to nurse him a full 18 months. (A very healthy child, his first antibiotic wasn't until he was 25 months!)
The head-turning Time Magazine cover of a mom nursing her 3-year-old son also has tongues wagging. How old is too old for a child to breast feed?
My husband says if the boy can walk, talk, and shave, he's too old. Other friends say they've witnessed drive-by-nursings — when kids run over and pull up their moms' shirts to latch on for a quick drink in between game playing. That's not my speed.
For many families, breast feeding an older child is usually part of the bedtime routine. The kids eats normally throughout the day. Then at night, or before a nap, there is a special moment when mom and child bond.
After the first three months of nursing Liam, an overbearing family member tried to brow beat me into quitting. She accused me of keeping my son on a liquid diet, claiming nursing wasn't good for either of us. She was relentless. As a new (and still hormonal) mom, I was in tears. Not to mention, she was totally wrong, in addition to being hurtful.
According to the countless doctors and nurses we met, research is showing that breast milk is exactly what a child needs — the more the better. It reduces cases of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and countless other ailments. Our pediatrician constantly remarks how our children will sail through minor illnesses because they've been breastfed.
Plus, I've read that instances of women's cancer are lessened in those who have breastfed their babies.
The list of benefits keeps going on and on and on. The more breast milk children receive, the healthier they are.
But the question remains: How old is too old? The answer is: As long as each individual mother and her child feel is necessary. UNICEF and the World Health Organization encourage nursing until at least two years old.
Like many children, Liam naturally decided when he was done nursing.
I applaud Jamie Lynne Grumet for being brave enough to be on a national magazine cover. She said she wanted more people to see breastfeeding so it would become more common. Good for her.
No, I'm not a fan of drive-by-nursings. However, if our children will be healthier on countless fronts, I am willing to feel bovine for a little longer. And maybe, just maybe, Grumet's bravery will give hurtful people like my family member just a little less ammunition.
Mothers, we need to make our own choices for our own children. No one knows your kid like you do.
So thanks, Time Magazine. Your cover is — like the song (sort of) goes — a thing that makes us go "moo."