Guide to Informed Decision-Making: When to Stop Bottle- or Breast-feeding?

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Here is the sequel to The Guide – Breast or Bottle?   At some point in your child’s life, he or she will no longer nurse and/or use a bottle.  People have opinions about when that should be.  Lots and lots of opinions.  Here goes.

Nurse for as Long as Possible.

Wait, why didn’t I say nurse OR bottle-feed?   To be honest, the question of when to introduce solids and wean from a bottle tends to be “should it be 4 months, or 6 months” — which does not make for interesting or hair-pulling discussion.   The idea is that, if your baby is eating formula, he or she is already down the road to hell so when you introduce solids is kinda beside the point.   So for this one, let’s assume we’re nursing.

1.  There is no need for any nutrition that’s not found in breast milk in the first couple years.

It’s actually true.  There may be a couple of vitamins that your pediatrician can help you identify that you might supplement with, but for the most part your kid can get by on boobs for several years.  In the US, the AAP recommends nursing for one year (but is not against introducing some solids like oatmeal and mashed peas around 6 months).  World Health Organization advocates nursing for two years.  Clearly, some of this is culturally rather than medically dictated.

2.  Your baby needs the security of extended nursing in order to develop independence down the road.

First off, let’s be clear that we may well be talking about toddlers and not babies at some point.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)   I think I have perhaps mentioned this point before, but there are umpteen ways to provide security and bonding for your child.  Boobs represent exactly ONE of the many options.  A convenient option, sure, but not the only one.

3.  It’s important bonding time not just for the baby, but for mom, too.

Hear me out.  IF nursing is something that you find pleasant, nursing an older nursling (lurve that sweet word — might be reason enough to keep nursing) has some neat extra benefits.  As your child gets older, his or her ability to voice opinions, wreak destruction, and generally disrupt life increases exponentially.  At the same time, emotionally these babes are still very, very tender.  The “misbehaving” isn’t malice, it’s just part of being more than a baby but not yet a kid.   If at the end of a hard day you settle in to nurse that little creature, it acts as a reminder of this fact.   The previously red-faced, toy-car-throwing menace is angelic.

Until he bites you, of course.

4.  There is no telling what kind of toxic crap is in that Gerber bottle (and baby food is nothing but a giant, money-making industry).

Yeah, I don’t know and don’t have the energy to research all of that.  But for those that want to go knock themselves out, fine. You can nurse, or you can get a food processor, dump in a banana, and hit “blend.”

5.  It is the absolutely only thing that will get my kid to sleep.

This argument can be remarkably potent, believe me.    It isn’t actually the only thing that will get your kid to sleep, but it may well be the only strategy you have energy for.   I feel you.   Just make sure you are not sacrificing your own long-term goals for your child in favor of what’s easiest in the moment.

Babies should be experimenting with real food somewhere in the 6 month range, and off the boob/bottle well before they are talking or walking.

1.  A walking, talking toddler dragging around a bottle or pulling on mommy’s shirt looks ridiculous.

First off, childrearing is not a style contest.  Second, it looks ridiculous only until your own child is doing it.  BUT — if it just weirds you out, that is a legitimate feeling to have and you should wean when it makes sense for you.  Nothing bad will happen.  Promise.

2.  Extended bottle-feeding or nursing is a dentist’s nightmare.

I would just love it if some people in dental care would chime in here.  From what I can tell, we are not yet at a consensus point on this one.   There is, however, some important dental advice to follow if you continue to nurse or use a bottle.  An older child should not fall asleep with a bottle.  And add some water to the diet to permit rinsing those teeny teeth if you aren’t at the brushing stage yet.

3. Your child will end up with an oral fixation and will be sucking his thumb in college.

This so depends on the kid.  The more soothing strategies in your toolkit, the less likely it will be a problem.   It’s true for some that the longer you wait to wean, the harder it is.  For others, it happens easily.  Sadly there is no way to predict which bucket your child will fall into.

4.  The AAP says 12 months.   Therefore, stop after 12 months.

Here is the thing. When you are nursing your six month old, the idea of nursing a seven month old isn’t really a stretch.  You might find yourself questioning why nursing the day before Junior’s first birthday party is fine, but the very next day it is NO LONGER OKAY.   For a lot of moms, the bar just moves along with time.    On the other hand, if you have been forcing yourself to nurse for those 12 months to get the “Good Mommy” badge, then I hereby grant you permission to use the AAP to get yourself off the hook at 12 months.

5.  My baby is grabbing food off my plate.

Some kids show serious voracious interest in food, early.   I can’t see any reason not to indulge that with some healthy and fun new foodstuffs.

Conclusion

Here’s the awesome thing about this decision.  You get to make the decision one day at a time.  When it is right for you and your tot, you’ll know.

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Comments

3 Responses to “Guide to Informed Decision-Making: When to Stop Bottle- or Breast-feeding?”

  1. Love this blog!!! Especially this post. I got all kinds of strange looks when people found out I was still nursing my 20 month old :)
    Angela Braniff recently posted..Just had to share my little ladies!

    [Reply]

  2. Daisy says:

    My own mom (who supported my choices) did remark that my guy looked like a little feral animal at around that age when he would maul me. ; )

    [Reply]

  3. Andie says:

    i am very sure you are not sacrificing your own long-term goals for your child in favor of what’s easiest in the moment.keep us an update please…
    Andie recently posted..dating for christian

    [Reply]

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