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?