I tandem nurse my 3 1/2 yr old son and 16 mo. old son. I thought I'd nurse to 2 years with my first son, but now it appears my own plans are changing to include my son's needs
I also wondered if it was "normal" for a little person to continue to nurse into the preschool years and beyond. I asked this question in a previous post, and I liked one person's response that breastfeeding past the age of 2, even until 4-6, is considered *normal* in other countries outside the US and by calling it "extended" breastfeeding here it is like saying it is not normal. Interesting. It was proposed to re-name the practice of nursing until the child loses interest "full-term" nursing. Anyone have the reference for that? I loved that idea, anyhow.
And for the record, to attend LLL meetings or be considered "meeting your child's needs", it is not a pre-requisite to nurse until your child attends middle school The age which your child fully weans at is a personal decision made between you and him. Take what you feel works for you, and don't worry about the rest.
Child-led weaning appeals to me b/c it follows a normal pattern of growth...there is no "abrupt" change in a pattern that has been evolving naturally. (ie: baby nursing fine, then at 12 months...zip! Time to wean!)
"Human milk is the preferred feeding for all infants, including premature and sick newborns. It is recommended that breastfeeding continue for at least the first 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired." (American Academy of Pediatrics, Feb. 2005)
There are so many benefits for mom and baby to breastfeed for many years. One of them is the opportunity for learning and growth for all members of the family!
Child-led weaning doesn't necessarily means "hands-off" weaning. I believe there are other posts, in tandem nursing forums, I think, that address that idea. If you think about it, when a 5 month old baby bites, mom doesn't just "let" it happen; she pulls him in close or firmly says "no" or tries somehow to get the message across that biting mom is NOT okay. This concept can be extended to child-led weaning, ony for many other behaviors.
I really strongly feel that it is important to know it's OKAY to give direction within a nursing relationship, especially as one of the LLL concepts is: From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings. When our children are babies, their wants and needs are the same. But as they grow, their wants are not always their needs. The tricky part, as parents, is distinguishing between their wants and their needs and helping them to meet their needs. THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, a book published by LLLI, is an excellent resource for more information regarding loving guidance and how it relates to child-led weaning. Your local LLL group library will have a copy to buy or borrow.
It is perfectly acceptable to set limits for your child in relation to nursing. This helps the child to learn to respect you, as a person, and understand more about personal boundaries. This is a vital lesson for every person to learn and it can begin early on, with love and respect. It can help them to know it's okay to be in charge of their body and say "no" when something feels uncomfortable to them.
To some mothers, setting limits mean nursing during day light hours. To others, it means nursing for 10 minutes rather than for 1 hour. The limits are not just for "teaching" sake, as many mothers find them necessary for "sanity's" sake, as well. I may love to nurse my older children, but even I feel overwhelmed, touched out and frustrated at times! And that is perfectly normal, too. Some mothers find it helpful to make time for themselves, having dad take over kid-duty to take a bath, read a book, take a walk, or meet up with a friend. When we are nourished ourselves, we are better able to nourish all the little ones in our care!
Best wishes on your mothering journey!
LLL of Green Valley/Henderson, NV