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of Gathering and Keeping fruit

"Although it be an easie matter, when God shall send it to gather and Keep fruit, yet are there certain things worthy your regard: You must gather your fruit when it is is ripe and not before, else it will wither and be tough and sour. All fruits generally are ripe when they begin to fall: For trees do as all other bearers do, when their young ones are Ripe, they will wain them, The dove her Pidgeons, the Coney her Rabbets, and women their children." William Lawson A NEW ORCHARD AND GARDEN London.1618.1927

from In and Out of the Garden by Sara Midda ("typos" left as written in the text)

Katherine Dettwyler, author of Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives says the minimum predicted age for a natural age of weaning in humans is 2.5 years to 7.0 years IF there were no cultural imperatives dictating weaning ages. She bases this conclusion on various studies of the natural age of weaning of large primates and compares these to various "life-history" variables (such as length of gestation, birth weight, growth rate, age at sexual maturity, age at eruption of teeth, life span, etc.) to when these same events take place in humans.

It is not possible to remove ourselves from our culture and even so called primitives are still part of a culture and so have cultural influences on weaning age, albeit often at an older age than so called moderns. Why then is it important to know a “natural age of weaning”? If we can acknowledge that it is our culture that influences our decisions on weaning age and not a universal “correct age” we can make a choice to change those decisions if science and good common sense show us a better way.

As we learn more about the value of breastfeeding various organizations have officially recommended that babies be breastfed at least a certain amount of time. First example, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least a year of breastfeeding (exclusive in the first 6 months followed by at least another 6 months of breastfeeding plus solid foods). The World Health Organization now recommends 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding followed by at least 18 months of continued breastfeeding along with appropriate solid foods.

La Leche League International supports the concept of Baby Led Weaning. This means the baby is allowed to nurse until s/he no longer desires to do so. It is very common for babies allowed to wean this way to continue to nurse to age 2, 3, and 4 and above. Older breastfeeding children are normal and continue to accrue immunological, psychological and nutritional benefits as they continue to nurse. If we know that this falls well within the natural age of weaning we can support these mothers and babies in their healthy choice.

Modern culture is not that great for babies. We would do well to allow more baby led weaning knowing that it WILL happen.... sometime during the natural age of weaning.


Dr. Dettwyler's pages online are a wonderful resource and are found at http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html or better yet, read the book Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives.


Teeth are less of an issue than one might expect. The tongue totally covers the lower teeth as it is extended while nursing and the upper teeth slope outward. Do this little experiment; suck your own thumb. Place it in your mouth, pad side up and far enough back to touch the junction between your hard and soft palate. You will notice if you imitate a baby by extending your tongue, you feel no pain on the either side from your teeth because you naturally reduce your pressure if it is too hard. If you feel the upper teeth pressing into your thumb lower your hand, in effect widening the angle of your thumb and your palate. The slope of the teeth eventually becomes parallel to your thumb. If upper teeth cause problems, baby's positioning can also be manipulated in this way, so the slope of the teeth match the slope of the breast.

Semi-intentional or intentional biting does occur occasionally. One cause can be teething. If the baby is teething other "objects" can be offered instead of the breast. Another cause is the breast is offered when what the child really wants is some attention. For example, mom is on the phone, todler fusses, mom pulls in and offers the breast, meanwhile continuing on the phone conversation. Biting happens. In any case, the thing to do IF a baby or toddler bites is to quickly and snugly hug them into the breast. Surprise and a covered nose will cause them to release immediately. Take them off the breast with a firm "no biting" and put them down but don't scare the poor little tyke to death.

A more realistic picture of a breastfeeding toddler is a happy little kid who pats the breast gently. Children love their parents; they really aren't vicious little mommyovoirs.

TardisX makes a very good point, I guess the natural age of weaning would probably be when the little nipper starts to do just that. On the cultural level, the length of time that a woman breast feeds averages (and I'm pulling these from memory so they are approximate):

Commonly in the 'primitive' cultures, solid food is introduced fairly early, while breast feeding still provides a constant source of nutrients.

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