better than a cow

Baby Genius recently had a doctor’s appointment to check his hemoglobin levels. He has been bordering anemic for many months, so his doctor wanted to check him out. As it turns out, he’s fine; he just likes to cut it close. That’s how he is. At this appointment, we also discussed his eczema, which we suspect is still connected to a dairy protein allergy. His doctor thinks we ought to keep him off of all dairy until he is eighteen months old, at which point we’ll try it again. We agree. 

At some point in this conversation, we may have mentioned needing to stock up on goat yogurt again, and the doctor asked if we were giving him goat’s milk. I told him no, that we didn’t see a need, since he is still breastfeeding. The doctor seemed surprised. “Are you planning on stopping that anytime soon?” I told him no, that considering his dairy allergy it makes sense for him to continue breastfeeding. He was still surprised. “At his age, your supply really can’t keep up with his nutritional needs, so you do need to make sure he’s not replacing food with breastfeeding.” I had to make sure I heard this right. Did he really assume that we were somehow not feeding our son appropriately? I reassured him that we are very conscientious about our son’s diet, that he eats a wide variety of foods several times throughout the day.

But this had me reeling. This doctor was always very supportive of breastfeeding, but it seems he is not so comfortable with it after one. I didn’t ask why because I think I know why. We live in the U.S. Breastfeeding after a year is unusual. I have known people who were told that breastfeeding after one has no nutritional benefit, that breastmilk loses any nutritional value–and this by medical professionals. Yet these same medical professionals tell women they need to give their kids cow’s milk “x” times a day. What? We are so comfortable in this culture with feeding our kids another animals milk–milk that was produced ostensibly for that animal’s baby. But when it comes to giving our kids milk from our bodies, milk that was made for keeping them nourished and healthy, people get all weird about it. What is that? Why?

I know for a fact that the milk my body makes for my son still has nutritional value, that it still has health benefits beyond nutrition (probiotics, antibodies, feel-good hormones, to name a few), and that no cow or goat or sheep has milk that is made the same way.

Now, I’m not suggesting I’m going to nurse my kid until he’s five. And while I don’t have a specific date for when I plan to stop giving him his “na-na” (maybe around two?), what I do know is that to continue breastfeeding him is natural and even normal.

I’m curious though, what do you think is the best age to stop nursing? If you’re breastfeeding, when do you plan to stop? If you did breastfeed, when did you stop?


Filed under breastfeeding

15 responses to “better than a cow

  1. I obviously can’t speak as to my personal experience, as I haven’t breastfed since n was 6 weeks old. But it makes me sad to hear that. Not surprised in the least, but sad. It’s not like one is some magic mark and POOF! everything good about breastmilk is gone.

    And it’s not breastmilk alone, a lot of doctors push moms to have their kids off bottles/formula by/at one, too. (FWIW, I’m not sure n will be, unless in the next month and a half she seriously ups the amount of food she manages to get into her body, and/or the amount of effort she’s willing to put into it.)

    For me, I’d probably be breastfeeding until somewhere around 18 months – an arbitrary number, but one where when I think about *most* kids/babies I’ve known, that seems to be around where they really make the transition to eating as a child, as opposed to eating as a baby, if that makes sense. I think continuing past that is totally fine if it’s comfortable for the mom(s) and the child, that’s just what, in my head, I probably would’ve gone to.

  2. Jen

    I will be very curious to read all of the responses and I hope you get many opinions. As you know, chunk at 11 months and 2 weeks is still only on bm. That said, by January he will probably be off (during the day) because my supply isn’t keeping up with his daily needs and it is only because of our great freezer stash that he is still on it. But, I do plan on nursing him in the morning and a night for as long as I keep my supply, which I am guessing will be a few more months. I am thinking of a similar post in my head regarding cow’s milk because I am so leary of it for multiple reasons… everyone needs to do what is best for them and their child and our country needs to get off of its high horse on judgement. My goal was always to bf for a year and I will meet that goal. That is what works for us and my body. You are his mother and you set his path, and as long as both of you are happy with bf’ing, then there is your answer!

  3. I don’t know if you’ve read this article, but it was in my inbox this morning and timely for this post 🙂

    I think the biggest factors for continuing a breastfeeding relationship are a) your child and b) you. If your child still wants to BF and learns to respect you as they get older (for example, doesn’t pull your shirt up demanding milk), there’s no imminent reason to stop. And iIf you want to keep going and still enjoy the BF relationship, there’s no reason to stop.

    I think it gets uncomfortable when toddlers can’t soothe themselves without the boob or they get aggressive about demanding it when it’s not always a good time for you. I have seen a 2 year old get upset and then run to his mother, pulling her shirt up to BF and I can’t say I enjoyed seeing that at all. It’s different to me when the initiation is cooperative…in the sweet moments of morning or evening, both nourishing and bonding.

    Our goal was to have him on breastmilk for at least 6 months, and if all went well, perhaps continue to one year. He became terrible at nursing though, and began rejecting the boob around 5 months. So it was exclusive pumping for a while, and then the switch to formula. In our case, mom wanted to continue and baby didn’t, so we accepted it and moved on.

  4. A.

    First, I’ve been meaning to say how great you’re doing with nursing. Big kudos to you for your dedication.

    You’re totally right about the U.S.’s “one-year” A-OK limit with breastfeeding, but I don’t see any reason for that to be a firm cutoff. Like Strawberry said, it’s really about what’s best for you and BG. You two will figure it out, and until then, he’s a darn lucky kid for having all of that extra health power, and connection with you.

  5. Kim

    You are so right on with this post. I exclusively nursed my daughter and was SO proud of that fact (my son wouldn’t latch plus I work full time so it was quite a thing for me). I found it so funny that all of the US seems to get in your face yelling, “YOU MUST NURSE UNTIL THEY ARE ONE! FORMULA IS THE DEVIL!!” and then somehow the day after they turn one you are just supposed to shut it off? People kept asking me, “Just how long are you planning to nurse her…” as if she was five. It was so strange.

    So to answer your question, my daughter nursed until she was 17 months old (she’s 19 months now). I left it up to her. If she asked, we nursed. If she didn’t ask, we didn’t. I kept doing it before bedtime until she stopped asking at all the other times. And the night I decided to not nurse her to sleep she didn’t even ask. She just smiled and went to sleep. It was peaceful and wonderful right up to the very end and I am so glad I did it. Stick with your guns and nurse your baby until both he and you feel like it’s time to be done. Ignore the rest of the people with the “helpful” comments. (Not your commenters here btw, just to clarify…I mean the people in your life who think you are strange to continue nursing your son past a year…)

  6. c storm

    Still nursing at almost eleven months and hoping to get to eighteen but my kiddo has begun walking everywhere, all the time, and, like her biggest sister before her, seems too intent on walking to nurse anymore. I still get in the night time nursings, but once she’s out of bed she just won’t lie still. It makes me sad…early walking is just not such a good thing, though everyone seems to get so excited about it.

  7. Amanda

    My goal has always been 2 years. Give our take I guess around 6 months.
    My first we nursed until 21 months, at which point she was becoming too aggressive with me (and I had worked on it all summer with her, since I have summers off as a High School teacher).

    I am currently nursing my 19 month old (and I am 11 weeks pregnant) and I know my milk supply is decreasing but I know she still needs it emotionally. I know that I am not weaning today. Tomorrow is a different day and really too far away to worry about for me.

  8. poppycat

    Couldn’t agree more. While I probably won’t make it that far, I think that the idea that breastmilk looses its value is absurd. And yes, cows milk is for baby cows, your milk is for your baby – come on people, it’s a no brainer!

  9. maeby

    This was a timely post as we’ve just weaned, at nearly 3 years. And my heart is breaking a little because it wasn’t really his decision. (Long story short, I had a medical procedure that required that I not nurse for about 24 hours & since we HAD been talking with E about giving up the “nawny,” we kind of felt that this would be a way to jumpstart the process.) But after 2 days of the occasional request, he’s pretty much moved on. I, on the other hand, have been kind of teary mess off & on since. ANYWAY, the point of this you totally nailed the mass American perception of breast feeding as being “icky” after 1 year. My brother & sis-in-law would routinely say “if he can ask for a specific side, he’s too old” (which, for the record, E definitely had preferences that he made all too clear). And I had to work REALLY hard not to feel shamed by comments like this (or ones far more blatant like “EWWWW” from a coworker). Getting the hairy eyeball from your kids DOCTOR must pack a bit of a whallop, but it’s fantastic that you have such a levelheaded, intelligent, committed approach to the whole issue.

    Whew. It’s been a while since I commented on a blog, I guess 🙂

  10. Sarah at notes from 2 moms

    Lj nursed till she was 22 months. One day she just stopped. About a week later she asked to nurse. I didn’t know what to say, she quickly said “nummies are all gone now. ” I wanted to get to one year and then I just let it go. During that time she ate well but refused all milk. No soy, dairy, goat, coconut, almond. The week after she stopped nursing she started asking for milk. Now she drinks any and all kinds she can. I do remember immense pressure when she turned 1 to stop nursing. I’m so glad we didn’t.

  11. This post cracked me up. You are better than a cow and a goat and the whole dam barnyard full on animals. We are truly fallen heros. Society loves us nursing babies and then wants us to stop and not become of “those people who let their babies nurse too long.” Feeding BG sounds like a great idea. I honestly wouldn’t be fretting about cow’s milk right now if I wasn’t pumping at work.

    I don’t have an age in mind when I am planning to stop nursing her. I am sure we will figure it out. She is still a nursey baby and so it will be for a while longer. She is a year now.

  12. I would have liked to continue until N was 2 or 3 (only once or twice a day), but due to medical needs, I had to stop at 14 months (two weeks ago). I was so worried about how she would be easily soothed, and she wasn’t drinking cow’s milk at all — I was fine with her not drinking it except for what was I going to do at her usual nursing times??? — and as it turned out, she took cow’s milk readily for the first time on the last day I nursed her, and she has been a champ since then.

    I think it’s interesting what Strawberry said about learning other ways to soothe — I hadn’t really been thinking of that, only that she and I both so much loved the nursing relationship. We now (in just the few weeks) have more varied snuggly ways, and though it’s from a bottle now, the milk-times are still quiet intimate.

  13. My baby girl is going on 17 months and still nursing. It really helps her go night night and always comes in handy when she has a tooth coming in. Not to mention she has only been sick once (minor ear ache from teeth)… Also I’m 13 weeks pregnant.. I plan on BF till the baby is born and possible pick back up after my milk comes back in.. But she also hates cow and goat milk, I’ve even tried fresh goat milk from our goats. But luckily she will eat some cheese and yogurt melts.. But just keep bf as long as your cool with it! I think the world average is 4..

  14. How absurd that people would think that breastmilk suddenly loses nutritional value and that it’s better to switch to what cows feed THEIR babies. It doesn’t even make sense!

    Don’t let ANYONE pressure you to stop nursing. I would absolutely listen to your gut and follow BG’s cues. I nursed Lach until 16 months. I only weaned him because I was pregnant and 1) my milk decreased, 2) nursing became painful and 3) i didn’t want to nurse a toddler and a newborn at the same time. I felt like Lachlan was ready at that time to let it go and weaned very gently…he did great and didn’t seem to miss it, as I replaced nursing to sleep with rocking to sleep. He was more-so nursing at night anyway.

    My plan with Cael is to follow his cues. I’d like to nurse till about 18 months ideally….if he wants to go until 24 months, totally fine by me. I don’t see myself going much past that age though….but I’ll wait and see how I feel then and how Cael is doing IF he is still BFing 🙂

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