I shared this post previously with the Modern Mama Community. It got lots of attention so I wanted to share it with you too.
When leading my workshop for 9 – 18 month olds, I’m often asked this question. Sometimes moms are planning to return to work after being on maternity leave and are wondering how to make the transition. Other times, moms are receiving pressure from friends and family members to wean their babies (often these folks express their unsolicited opinion in an un-delicate ways).
The answer that I share with parents is actually quite simple (and perhaps surprising):
From a nutrition point of view there is no age that you need to stop breastfeeding.
The recommendations from the World Health Organization that both Health Canada/ Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial health ministries have adopted is:
“Breastfeed until 2 years or beyond.”
When you first start your little one on solid foods (baby food), breastmilk will meet the majority of your child’s nutrition needs. Gradually over time, other foods and beverages will play a larger and larger role in meeting your child’s nutrition needs.
I’ve been asked this question too so I want to be really direct here – even after your toddler is eating meals and snacks with lots of finger foods, breastmilk still provides more than just water. They’re still receiving a variety of healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and immune support. And of course there’s also the comfort and snuggle factor when breastfeeding.
From a nutrition point of view there are no hard and fast rules around when to stop breastfeeding. Some little ones wean themselves – at a wide range of ages. Some Moms stop breastfeeding because they’re returning to work. Some Moms stop because they feel “done”. No matter what age you stop breastfeeding, unfortunately, you’ll likely receive judgment from people about your decision. It’s another example of how we need to stop the “mommy wars”, put away the judgment and instead celebrate that there are a multitude of “right” ways to parent.
The bottom line: Breastfeed as long as you feel comfortable doing so - you are supporting your child’s nutrition needs.