In America, most babies (approximately 77%) wean – that is, stop breastfeeding – by one year of age, according to the CDC.
However, that doesn’t mean YOUR baby will or has to follow this same timeline. The book Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives surmised that the human biological age for weaning from breastfeeding is between two and one-half and seven years.
Does this mean that’s when you should wean your baby, too?
Truly, only you and your baby know the answer to this question.
Here are some reasons why other mothers and babies make this decision, according to authors Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett of Breastfeeding Made Simple.
You’re ready. Perhaps you’ve met your own breastfeeding goals or you’re simply ready to be done breastfeeding.
Your baby is ready. All babies will eventually self-wean. “Natural” weaning – that is, weaning without the mother doing anything to stop breastfeeding – can happen as early as twelve months.
There is a confirmed medical issue, for instance, chemotherapy or radioactive therapy. If a medical practitioner tells you to stop breastfeeding because of a procedure or medicine you need, it is always a good idea to ask about alternatives AND to ask for a second opinion.
Here are some common myths about when you must stop breastfeeding.
Pregnancy. Some people choose to breastfeed through pregnancy and there is no evidence it is harmful.
Your baby has teeth. Breastfeeding comfortably with a teething baby is totally possible.
Because you’re ill or in the hospital. Depending on the nature of your illness, breastfeeding may provide you and your baby both with comfort and antibodies.
Because one medical professional tells you to. There is a wide variety of lactation knowledge in the medical field. Your care provider may have no experience or training in breastfeeding. Ask about alternative treatments/medicines and/or seek out a second opinion.
You’re returning to work. Many, many women around the world work away from their baby and continue breastfeeding. If you aren’t able to express milk at work, you and your baby will still benefit from breastfeeding once you’re reunited.
To get baby to sleep more/better. Research has found starting solids doesn’t help babies sleep longer or better.