Kittens are weaned at around 4-5 weeks old.
By the time a pup is 7 or 8 weeks old, she should be completely weaned
I breast fed both my children until they were six months old. It was cheap, it was easy and best of all it was a wonderful way to bond. Once upon a time we would take our babies to the Health Care Centre to have them weighed and measured. The nurses there told us that breast milk protects against infections in the first few months, it contains a perfect proportion of nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, fat and calcium and last but not least breast milk is easily digestible.
For me it was mostly about the symbiotic relationship I had with my boy. Imagine a dishevelled me holding my beautiful child to my bosom. It’s 2 in the morning. Simon and Garfunkel on the record player are singing The Sounds of Silence and I’m humming and gently rocking to and fro to keep my darling relaxed. He’s sleeping and suckling at the same time. I find myself dozing off in the middle of it all; the first few sleep deprived months are like that.
It’s hard to explain to those of you who haven’t experienced it but although I would have done anything for just one good night’s sleep the breast feeding experience was worth the sleepless nights and the cracked nipples and the leaking breasts. In the end, though, six months was all I could manage. Some friends lasted up to a year; they wanted to extend those special moments just that bit longer. I put my children on to solids and the bottle and put myself through the drying out process. Ouch. For years my now shrunken milk ducts contracted even more in empathy whenever I saw a breast feeding woman.
But it seems to me that however they justify it some mothers just can’t let those good feeling go. What brought my nostalgic trip out of the past was an image I saw of a Time Magazine photo on the front cover. It was entitled ‘Are you mom enough’? A three year old on a stepladder reaches up and feeds on his mother’s breast. We’re not likely to know how he will feel about it once he reaches puberty. That’s around the time when children realise their parents are fallible, then heaven help you. They feel betrayed because for years you’ve been pretending to know everything when in fact(as they see it) you know nothing. Your only chance to pass through that phase relatively unscathed is if you’ve been kind to them when they were young and vulnerable. I don’t envy that mother.
Some experts will justify what’s called ‘attachment parenting’. We are meant to believe that toddlers who breast feed are more content and have sunnier dispositions and here’s the clincher – some researchers say that children who are breast fed for longer are less likely to be obese, but some of their colleagues say there’s not enough proof of that.
It’s like any other issue; choose an expert who has the same opinion as you do to prove to yourself you’re doing the right thing. It suits some nursing mothers to believe that the longer the attachment the more beneficial it will be to a child’s emotional health and well-being but nobody has said yet how long is long enough. Some mothers are breastfeeding 8 year old children. At eight a child’s logic kicks in. He would be asking why he’s still at it if his peers are not. And those nursing mums had better have the answer.
Whatever the physical benefits, if any, I think in the long run it’s not worth how it might affect the child psychologically. If parenting is (as I’ve always believed) gently guiding children through their various phases, encouraging them at every step to be independent of you and letting go, then surely attachment parenting will do more bad than good in the long run.