Breastfeeding Beyond A Year

The facts:

  • The World Health Organization recommends nursing for a minimum of two years.
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund also recommends a minimum of two years.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for at least a year and for as long after that as is “mutually desirable”.
  • The estimated median age of weaning throughout the world is between three to five YEARS.

Why Breastfeed Beyond a Year?

  • At one year of age, a baby’s immune system is functioning only at 60 percent of the adult levels. A child’s immune system is not fully functioning at adult levels until six years of age. Nursing toddlers grow better and have better resistance to infection.  Some of the antibodies in breast milk actually increase after the first year.
  • Better skin.
  • There is no easier way to comfort a sick child.
  • There is no better way to get nutrition into a picky eating or sick toddler
  • Nursing may help improve the dental arch
  • Comfort nursing can be a fundamental part and advantage of nursing a toddler;  a true temper tantrum tamer!
  • Connection and closeness with your child!

The Myths Surrounding Extended Nursing:

  • “If a child can ask to nurse, there is something wrong with doing so.”
  • “Once a child no longer needs mother’s milk solely for nutritional purposes, there is no sense in breastfeeding.” Or “Your child would eat more solid food if you would just wean him.”
  • “After a certain point, the nursing relationship is more for the mother than the child.” (This is especially said regarding 4, 5 year olds who still nurse)
  • “Extended nursing will spoil a child.”
  • “A toddler who is still nursing is too dependent on his or her mother.”
  • “If you weaned your child, your child would not be (insert behavior here)”
  • “Comfort nursing encourages the toddler to turn to food for comfort”

All myths; if you need help in refuting these myths please, please contact your local chapter of La Leche League:

Handling Pressure to Wean:

Weaning deserves thought and respect as an important rite of passage in a child’s life.

Please see the other weaning posts on this blog:

Happy mothering,


15 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Beyond A Year

  1. Wow!!It is like you were at my family Christmas party this weekend and heard the critisisim I was recieving for still nursing my 22 month old. I don’t know how many times I heard my sister or sil tel me, “If he is asking for it he is too old”. Reading this today was a good reminder why I do what feels right for us. Thank you!!

  2. I have really enjoyed reading your blog(after finding it recently) and your reflections on parenting. It is a great reminder for me to slow down and work on creating a calm space in our home.
    I especially love this post because in addition to the many roles I play, I am a pretty big believer in CLW and the benefits of extended breastfeeding. I have a 12 yo who self weaned at 5.5 and a 3.5 yo who is still going strong….the wonderful thing that I can witness now in my 12 yo is that she is a beautiful, calm and confident young woman who everyone adores.

  3. Yes!!! I’m still nursing my 2.5 year old with no immediate plans to wean. This is my 3rd baby and sadly it’s not been any easier this time around in terms of receiving outside support.
    Thankfully my husband gets all the reasons why nursing is so important, my other children get it, but I sure wish the rest of our family and friends were on board.
    Thank you for such an important post.

  4. I nursed my son till he was 4 and 1/2 y. Now my daughter, 14 months old, is nursing, and it looks like she will do till the same age, we’ll see. Nursing is beautiful; useful for them and for us, mothers; ecologic, easy-to-prepare a great food… The worst of nursing are the not-always-good comments of family and people and the lack of support from society.

    (Sorry for my english)

    1kiss. A great great blog, Carrie.


  5. Dear Carrie,
    here in Italy anthroposophic pediatricians are totally against extended breastfeeding as well as early years “teachers” or “experts” as Donna Simmons would say. Waldorf medical but partlly also pedagogician movement is quite critical versus La leche league.
    I too was influenced by my pediatrician and stopped breastfeeding at 10 months. Now I would only listen to myself but I can assure they make a hard pressure since I trust her as a doctor. And Waldorf Kteachers make feel some mothers guilty and responsible for every “problem” their children might have because thei brestfed on demand and extended it.
    There is the same controversy in America?


    • I am still hearing mothers who tell me their medical doctor told them human milk has no value after a year…:(
      Steiner himself was nursed for an extended period, and I am not sure why anthroposophy took up this movement to stop breastfeeding at a prescribed age..Some of the really good anthroposophical baby books really turn off attached mothers;I usually send Waldorf baby mammas to Donna’s site…:)
      I am unsure of what is circulating in the anthro communities in America since the Atlanta anthro community seems small and crunchy. Most children at our local Waldorf school appear to be still nursing at 3 or 4 or even 5…
      Carrie 🙂

  6. My twin daughters turned 3 last week and nursing has helped them through a recent sickness. I tandem nursed with their older sister until she was 4.

    I think people must be too boggled that I’m nursing 3 year old twins to say anything negative. 🙂 I have always kept my personal energy strong and very positive (aka aura, bubble of peace, glow) and I truly believe is the reason I never receive criticism.


  7. Carrie, Joan Salter and Helle Heckmann are two of the proponents of earlier weaning. They also advocate having children learn to self-soothe from an early age. Neither of these practices felt right to me as a mother or a Waldorf teacher. Steiner himself talks extensively about the mother’s milk being the first educator of the child.


    • Yes, I have read both…You can see the reviews of Nokken on this site…This blog intersects AP and Waldorf 🙂

  8. Thank you for this discussion. It makes sense that Steiner, brilliant as he was, was swimming in his own time and culture–just as we all are. His ideas were far-reaching and truths to be sure, but some of them will be set in the time he lived.

    The self-soothing discussion is interesting too. We are such an independent-focused culture, and not-so-ironically a culture of perennial adolescents.

    We learn to self-soothe by being soothed well. We learn to be truly independent and autonomous by having our vulnerabilities met and honored. By pushing independence in our children we hurt them; they will come to it in their own time and once they are there, it will be theirs.

    I highly recommend Robert Bly’s Sibling Society and the book, two authors (one a psychologist and one a Western M.D.), Hold Onto Your Kids. My daughter’s nursery school teacher, a Waldorf teacher, told us about them. Very inspiring and aligned with the sentiment of this conversation and your blog Carrie.

    Thank you all,


  9. Ack! What about those of us who followed Rahima Baldwin’s interpretation of Steiner’s view (in Your are Your Child’s First Teacher) that there is a natural developmental window when a child learns to walk – and moving out into the world – where weaning is an easy natural event. She also talks about the power of heredity in milk (related to chemical changes in breastmilk that correspond to our emotional patterns – yes, a powerful first teacher), which really struck me, and that by releasing our children from the breast we are letting them be free (from the clutches of our lineage). Something about this rang true for me as a new mother. It was not easy, but it felt like the right thing to do. Reading this, I feel like crawling into bed and weeping over weaning both my children near one when they started walking…. What did I do??? What horrible mother!!!…. or maybe it’s about feeling alienated in a community I was so carefully, as a tender new mother, trusting. Mother guilt is so rampant. Let’s remember that children are resilient and that even those of us who nurse for extended periods are not perfect. We all wound our children. Let’s focus on healing, not judging ourselves or others.

    • Absolutely, Krista! We all make the best decisions we can make at that time! No guilt, because that serves nothing. That post was not made to make someone who did not extend nurse guilty, only to provide information to those who choose to do so.
      Thank you for being here and reading, many blessings and joy to you!

    • PS> Krista, I love Rahima’s book, but I obviously dont like the nursing part. Yet that view of nursing is often common in anthroposophically related books. If you head over to Christopherus Homeschooling Resources, The Waldorf Baby part, I think Donna Simmons writes more about nursing and some other attachment behaviors and how these fit or don’t into traditional Waldorf views. She is pro attachment, nursing, family bed, although she talks about a natural window of weaning during toddlerhood,
      so her articles are interesting

      Hope that helps!

  10. I love your positive and scientifically sound view on full-term nursing, Carrie. I have been so disappointed to see some other unsupportive opinions out there.

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