If They Are Young Enough to Ask for It

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!”

Photo Credit: Christy Scherrer

This article has been edited from a previously published version at Living Peacefully with Children.

About The Author: Mandy

My NPN Posts

Mandy O'Brien is an unschooling mom of five. She's an avid reader and self-proclaimed research fanatic. An active advocate of human rights, Mandy works to provide community programs through volunteer work. She is a co-author of the book Homemade Cleaners, where simple living and green cleaning meet science. She shares a glimpse into her life at Living Peacefully with Children, where she writes about various natural parenting subjects and is working to help parents identify with and normalize attachment parenting through Attachment Parents Get Real.

2 Responses to If They Are Young Enough to Ask for It

  1. Melissa  

    Well said! That phrase definitely saddens me every time I hear it – your recommended response is perfect.

  2. Dagmar  

    Thanks for this post. I’m breastfeeding a 4-year-old and have kind of taken on the cause of being the extended breastfeeding poster child 🙂

    I blog about the benefits of extended breastfeeding a lot.


    Dagmar’s momsense