How Long is a Piece of String?
My answer to the question How Long is Too Long is... How Long is a Piece of String?
If we assume for a moment that we are referring here to a child from whom cues for sleeping and feeding have been taken thus far, then the cue for weening can also, quite reasonably, come from them. Having said that, the older a child is, the more factors become involved in breastfeeding decisions. These could include:
- Mum returning to work
- The child moving into daycare (and eventually school)
- The birth of another child (or multiple children)
- The number of children being fed
- Pressure from a partner, family or friends
- Feelings of shame or guilt (mostly stemming from the opinions of others)
- The amount of support the woman has (both for extended feeding and in a general, practical sense)
I read an article on this site - The Pleasure of Extended Breastfeeding written be the esteemed Dr Sarah Buckley - an amazing person who is the author of the beautiful book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering (also available on this site).
The article makes fantastic reading and really reinforced for me the views I already hold about extended breastfeeding - that it is natures' intention. It is a practice we in the Western World have largely deserted, not some new-age hippie idea or proof positive of an 'overly-attached' or otherwise dubious parenting relationship.
At the end of the day, I believe a breastfeeding woman should be guided by what she feels in her heart and soul, not by what others say, and by her child's needs, not those of the general public.
That said, no woman wants to be publicly shunned or humiliated, so placing some boundaries around the where and when of breastfeeding, I feel, is perfectly reasonable for an older child. This is also developmentally appropriate, given between 2 and 5 the ground work for future self-regulation in children generally takes place (I have my Early Childhood Professional hat on now).
Go with your gut, listen to your heart, talk to your child and most of all... enjoy your breastfeeding relationship as an oh-so-special, too-quickly-gone few years in a very long life.:D