The great debate among breastfeeding women started a short while ago with a picture of a breastfeeding mother on the front cover of Time Magazine. The picture showed an almost four year old little body breastfeeding while standing on a chair. The mother, Jamie Lynn Grumet, believed in attachment parenting, which included allowing her child to breastfeed until he was ready to wean. She held no remorse for the photo or her decision to breastfeeding well beyond the normal, in the United States. The picture, and conversations that ensued, brought about an underlying question – how old is too old for breastfeeding?
How is Breastfeeding Approached across Cultures?
Breastfeeding is the healthiest option for most mothers, but there is no set time limit on how long a woman should breastfeed a child. In some poverty-stricken nations breastfeeding takes on new meaning. Children are breastfed longer because the family does not have the means to feed children the healthy foods they need. In western cultures where formula is available in every grocery store and the federal government helps support lower income families with the WIC program, breastfeeding is more of a choice than a need. Many women choose to breastfeed for six months to one year – others choose to breastfeeding until their children choose to wean.
There is no answer to the question of breastfeeding time limits. Mothers and children have been doing the breastfeeding dance for as long as women have been bearing children. Breast milk provides all the nourishment an infant needs and that nourishment continues well into the toddler years as a supplement to solid foods. Some mother’s breastfeed for five years and others for five months – find your comfort zone and allow nature and your child’s interest in breastfeeding to take it from there. Society may not believe in your choice to bottle feed or breast feed for multiple years, but society is not you or your child.