I have been nursing my daughter for about 14 months now. At least once a month since she turned 6 months old, I have been told it might be time to stop. I know that I’ve made the right decision for our family to continue nursing (I would NEVER assume that it’s the right decision for every family), but it’s been hard to stomach people’s criticisms. Some of the things people have said make me laugh, and other times they make me want to sob. Let me make a list for you of some of the ridiculous reasons to stop nursing that I’ve either heard personally or had a friend tell me about.
You aren’t making enough for your baby. Maybe you should give up. When women hear this, they are usually 3-5 days postpartum, and may have not even started producing milk yet. Worry not, even if your milk hasn’t come in your baby is still receiving colostrom. If you are worried, work in tandem with both a pediatrician and a lactation consultant (while pediatricians know a lot about nutrition, some have very little education about nursing and lactation). Remember that the BEST way to make more milk is to nurse more.
Your baby has teeth? It’s time to stop. Um, no. In many cultures, baby teeth are known as milk teeth. Some babies are BORN with teeth. That doesn’t mean they don’t need the same nutrition as other babies their age!
Your baby is biting you? It’s time to stop. Or maybe it’s time to teach your kid to stop biting?
Your baby is a year old? It’s time to stop. Here are the two myths I hear most regarding this one:
1) “When your baby turns 1 your milk no longer has nutritional value.” Not true. It is true however that the milk that your body produces for a younger baby is nutritionally different than the milk you make for an older baby. But guess what, your babies nutritional needs are different as they grow!
2) “When your baby turns one, your milk can’t provide complete nutrition for them anymore, so you should stop”. It is true that at about a year of age, your child will need to start eating other foods. No one food group will be able to meet their needs. That doesn’t mean that breast milk is no longer beneficial though!
Your baby can ask to nurse? It’s time to stop. Way to encourage your kid to communicate! This logic seems totally flawed to me. We don’t stop hugging our kids when they are big enough to ask for it, right? What’s more, some babies start signing for milk as early as a few months old!
You’re pregnant again? It’s time to stop! Not necessarily. While in rare cases, nursing can cause contractions and if continued may cause early labor, it is perfectly healthy for most pregnant women to continue nursing if they are comfortable. In some cases milk production does slow or stop during pregnancy. If you truly want to continue nursing your little one through pregnancy, get support from a lactation consultant or a La Leche League group.
You’re new baby has arrived? You can’t be nursing TWO! Actually, you totally can. And if you nursed through pregnancy, you deserve to keep going after all your hard work! I’m told nursing two can be a whole different dynamic, so again, make sure to get the support you need!
So when IS it time to stop? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months of life. Babies should continue to breastfeed for a year and after that for as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby. So basically, that’s up to you, mama.