if they are young enough to ask for it…

Photo by Christy Scherrer

We’ve all heard the phrase “If they are old enough to ask for it, they are too old to nurse.” There is absolutely no logic to it, and it only goes to show the ignorance of the person spouting it.

Babies ask to nurse from the day they are born. They cry, root, and open their mouths. As parents, we interpret this communication and respond accordingly, pulling our babies to our breast to nourish them. As children grow and develop, their needs do not diminish; their communication skills increase. Use of verbal (or visual in the case of ASL) communication is no different than a hungry child crying in an attempt to get his/her needs met.

The same person who advocates withholding breastfeeding because a child can verbally communicate his/her needs would not also advocate withholding food because a person could verbally communicate that s/he was hungry. It wouldn’t make sense to tell someone that they couldn’t eat because they recognized they were hungry and told us. If a visiting adult asked for a glass of water due to thirst, our reply would not be, “I’m sorry. You asked for it, so you are definitely too old to have a glass of water.”

The illogical phrase needs to stop being bandied about. The next time you hear someone say the phrase, reply back “If they are young enough to ask for it, they are too young to wean!”

13 thoughts on “if they are young enough to ask for it…

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  1. Found you via Code Name: Mama

    Lovely post! In 8.5 years of (non-stop) nursing (5 kids), I’ve had the opportunity more than a couple times to respond to this ludicrous notion.

    My favorite response (when my wits are quick enough to remember & use it, rather than stand there stupidly with my mouth gaping!) is, “I figure that when she’s old enough to wean, then she’ll stop asking for it! In fact, I’m counting on it…otherwise how could I possibly know she’s really ready?”

    The time it takes “them” to wrap their heads around that gives me plenty of time to gather what’s left of my wits, should they decide to continue the attack…. 😉

  2. I’ve always been annoyed when I hear people say that. If they are still asking, then there is still obviously a need – what a lovely way to respond!

    When a family member realized that I was still nursing my daughter (about 2 1/2 at the time) her response was:

    “That takes a different kind of woman.”

    Not sure how she intended it, but I took that as a compliment 🙂

  3. Yeah, that argument never made sense to me. Like, if they can verbally ask for milk at ten months, then they shouldn’t be allowed to reach the one-year recommended minimum? And if they are a late talker, then they get milk longer than the rest of the babies?

    I personally couldn’t wait for my son to be able to directly tell me that he wanted milk. It was so much easier not to have to guess.

  4. Thank you for this post. I have a son who is allergic to both Dairy and Soy, he’s turning 1 on Sunday. I am absolutely certain I will be getting this phrase tossed at me when he starts to ask for it more directly. He’s already quite capable of climbing into my lap and letting me know in no uncertain terms what he wants.

    I have medical professionals telling me in no uncertain terms that I SHOULD NOT wean my son, there’s nothing out there to put him on that could even possibly meet his needs besides taking a gamble on hypoallergenic formula. But I can only imagine the flack people get when they can’t say “well his Dr told me to keep nursing” like I can.

  5. @ Amber, really anyone can use their doctor as a reason. The AAP says to nurse for as long as it works for mother/child! (and LLI, WHO, CDC, surgeon general, etc.)

    But don’t get me started on their “do as I say and not as do” attitude concerning their relationships with the formula companies.

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