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!”
Photo Credit: Christy Scherrer
This article has been edited from a previously published version at Living Peacefully with Children.