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"Is My Child Too Old to Still be Breastfeeding?"

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/24/2006 | Kids & Teens
Are you getting strange stares when you nurse your 18 month old in public? Are friends or family commenting on the fact that your two year old is still nursed to sleep? Are you worried that your child will become overly clingy or that it will just be too hard to keep it up when you return to work?

You're not the first mother to think about this. The right time to stop nursing your child will vary depending on you, your child, local custom and physical factors. If you would like to continue breastfeeding past the first year and feel that you are facing harassment or feelings of embarrassment, consider some of these issues:

"WHO Recommends Breastfeeding for Two Years or More"

The trend in many Western societies since World War II was to trust science and technology over nature when it came to feeding your child. Many mothers of the following generations nursed for a very short time, or not at all.

Thankfully science has caught up with nature and research proves that the health benefits of breast milk go far beyond what standard formulas can do for your child.

While not all countries encourage breastfeeding past the first year, WHO (World Health Organization) states "As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond."

"Your Child WON'T Become Clingy"

Opposed to what many of your friends or family may say, research actually stands in your favor. Extended breastfeeding does not make toddlers more clingy - a typical trait of most toddlers anyhow - but will engender a healthy self-confidence.

The world is overwhelming enough for young children. Knowing they can find comfort in breastfeeding while learning new things will help them move easily from one new phase to another. Your child won't nurse forever - when the time is right to stop, for either of you, you'll know.

"Working and Breastfeeding Can Work"

Workplaces are taking recommendations seriously that provisions be made for nursing mothers. Whether that means asking for several breaks to pump milk, or to be allowed access to a private area, you may find the government backing up your request.

You may also find that as your child gets older you are both satisfied with morning and evening breastfeeding sessions. Your body should adapt to the new schedule fairly quickly. If your milk begins to dry up, or you've had low milk production, you may want to talk to your doctor about your decision.

Don't forget that extended breastfeeding may prevent the return of menstruation for a longer time, but is not a good form of birth control as it is unpredictable when your period will return. Stopping nursing for an extended period of time can be just enough to bring it back.

Whatever your decision, breastfeeding is a special time that can't be repeated with your child. While you may have to deal with comments or stares you can feel good knowing it is healthy for them physically and emotionally. You may adapt how and where you nurse, but as long as you also want to continue you should find a way to make it work.