Hello there,

This blogpost is about breastfeeding. However, it is also about how breaking habits that no longer serve the purpose can unleash new energy and positive change on many levels for you and your child. Therefore, even if nursing is long behind you, try to read along and go down memory lane with me- and see if you can think of other habits you can focus on and decide to change. You probably know which ones you could begin with.

Nursing- How long and Why?
So many mothers all over the world have asked the same question: “For how long should I breastfeed my child?”

Nursing is truly important in terms of both nutrition and emotional care.  Of course, the nursing of the infant is vital, however, after 4-6 months you can slowly start introducing other kinds of nutrition. Little by little, the child will be able to break down real food in its digestive system.

When the child is around 6-9 months old, it will start to crawl, and thus begin to explore the world with increasing curiosity. It is very clearly an important phase, as it is the first time the child voluntarily and all by itself leaves its center (you) to begin a discovering of the big and wondrous world.

In my opinion, a natural age to finish breastfeeding is actually at that time; between 9-12 months. This is also a good time for both the mother and the child to start getting longer, undisturbed sleep. As long as you breastfeed, you will not be able to get a full night’s sleep, and this can become deeply exhausting and weary for you as well as the child.

Many feel that they are better and more loving mothers if they nurse the child for a long time. Moreover, many feel that they should leave it to the child to let go of the nursing period whenever the child is ready. However, it is very rare that the child will let go all by itself; as you probably know, the power of habit is difficult to break, and the child will want to continue something that feels good.

A good and sound routine can easily turn into a bad one, as the child grows older because new, vital needs start replacing the previous needs.

I know that it is difficult to see the child’s development in a broader perspective and decide to implement changes based on this, when you are emotionally overwhelmed or maybe constantly tired.

We all want to be the best mother and father for our children, and we all wish to do the right thing. However, it can help you to make active choices even though they seem tough right now if you can ask yourself this question, and really answer it honestly:

Do I continue nursing for my own need to feel emotional nearness with my child, or because I am afraid I might hurt my child’s feelings?

-Or do I nurse my child because it is a necessity for him/her?

Finishing nursing is not traumatic for your child- it is a new phase, and likely, your child will object! However, going through with it will allow new positive change, and after a period of weaning, you will get your night sleep back- and you will be able to start building a more steady sleep routine for your child as well.

Throughout the entire childhood, the grownups will need to take on the tough responsibility of making conscious decisions about a lot of things- including how to create healthy habits according to the child’s age.

This is quite essential, but it is not always easy! However, it applies to all kinds of habits your child will hang on to; we all know how bad habits tend to stick with us. Therefore, we will often as parents have to make an active choice to end it with love and kindness, but also firmly- and you will feel the benefits after the weaning period is over.

As a matter of fact- often when the period is gone, we have already forgotten all about how tough it used to be!


Now I am curious to know:

What are your experiences from working on breaking habits that no longer served the purpose?


Comment right below and share your story-we will reply to all comments and answer all questions 🙂


Love, Helle

(and Anna on the side)

Comments (7)

  • Darcy Cherry

    Helle, comparing full-term Breastfeeding to a bad habit is very misinformed. To say that Breastfeeding a child over the age of one is no longer serving it’s purpose suggests that you are unfamiliar with the powerful immune boosting and nutritional powers of breast milk. Breast milk changes as the child grows, adapting its nutritional make-up to perfectly suit the growing child’s needs. And when extended nursing happens alongside safe co-sleeping arrangements, there is minimal disruption to sleep for both mother and child. Perhaps most importantly, a child’s immune system has not fully developed until the age of two, which is why the world health organisation recommends that ALL children (not just those in developing countries) are breastfed for a MINIMUM of two years, with additional foods being introduced from around the middle of the first year.

  • Elizabeth

    I am also surprised to hear your views on breastfeeding.

  • Cay

    I am deeply saddened to read this post. Because mothers around the world look up to you and follow your parenting recommendations, I am frightened and disheartened by how dangerous such a post could be.
    The decision to wean is a highly personal one and based upon many factors including infant and maternal health. To suggest that breastfeeding is a bad habit maintained for the emotional benefit of the mother is heart breaking. When my son was breastfeeding, I developed an antibiotic resistant infection in my breast but was determined to nurse through fevers for over a month until it cleared up. I did not endure that level of pain to fulfill an emotional need for myself but because I had carefully researched and was astounded by the developmental, emotional and physical benefits of extended breastfeeding for my child. I nursed my son for 3.5 years based upon the recommendation of my local Le Leche league, our family pediatrician, the world health organization recommendation and most importantly my first hand knowledge of my son’s needs.
    Mothers brave enough to breastfeed already face so much opposition to their choice. It is our job as Waldorf educators to support and protect our breastfeeding mothers and children. Comparing breastfeeding to a bad habit is a very slippery slope to back to the bottle.

    • Helle Heckmann

      Dear Cay,

      Sorry about the delayed answer.
      Thank you for sharing and for your voice in this delicate matter.

      Breastfeeding is fantastic and wonderful and a precious time to bond with our little children.

      – And I am sure you made the best choice for you and your son. Everybody has to make their own decision on what works best for them and their families.

      We all know that this can be a great challenge; there will always be a collective norm based pressure on how to behave and how to act normal from society. Yet, mothers are as different as everybody else, and whereever they are living in the world will also influence their possibilities.

      When you share your story on our blog, I can only say, that I am happy that you found your solution, and that you were able to endure such pain and at the same time make a conscious decision the way that you did.

      When it comes to what I have met and heard, and the children I have observed, I would like to share my experience with you.

      I meet so many mothers who are completely exhausted, and are in such a lack of sleep that they are close to a melt down.This is not good for anybody.

      I also meet many mothers who feel judged if they cannot (or will not) breastfeed for years.

      Everybody wants to be a good mother, and seeing so many mothers suffer from feeling like really bad mothers because they are unable to endure the way you were, sometimes seems almost meaningless – because I believe that the most important and the vital nutrition is given within the first year.

      Yes, the breastmilk is still beneficial after the first year, but in Denmark the Health Department advices mothers to breastfeed until the age of 12 months, even with the awareness of WHO’s recommendations. A child’s health also depends on the level of local polution and whether the additional food given to the child is whole/ healthy.

      The little child’s physical body undergoes a rapid development; every new day brings forth new skills. Every development has a departure of something and a welcoming of something else. Walking away from your mother as a child is a new step out in the world – slowly, the child is starting a process of separating itself from its mother as an individual.

      To me, it is actually nature’s way to create a natural opening to finish breastfeeding as the child’s need for emotional and physical independence grows.

      There can be good reason not to finish as well, yet the choice should be the mother’s own. Finishing breastfeeding can be a very difficult thing for every mother. You feel, that you are somehow leaving your baby, and also, this time will never come back. It is even heartbreaking, because you say goodbye to something beautiful – but the thing to remember is that you are also welcoming something new.

      I fully support mothers’ right to breastfeed, but I also want to grant them the freedom to stop when they feel a natural time- that all of sudden, time is up. You are free to choose when your time is up as well.

      Thank you participating in this discussion.

      All the best,
      Helle Heckmann

  • Helle Heckmann

    Darcy Cherry and Elizabeth, thank you for your comments.

    I know that this is a very sensitive and perhaps even controversial subject. However, I also enjoy a good debate. To me, this is also a matter of perspective. My intention is to share the idea of the child being allowed a very important process towards independence – Something which can often be disturbed because of issues like this: that we continue doing something because it’s difficult to end it. Actually, it was meant as an encouragement!

    However, I don’t wish to tell you or any other what to choose. It is always the parent (in this case the mother) who will make her own choices. Yet, as said, breastfeeding can be seen from more than one perspective.

    The discussion of the beneficial effects of nursing after the first year is debatable as anything else. I am aware of WHO’s recommendations and I too have read that milk adjusts as the child grow. In Denmark and Scandinavia however, the trained Health Visitors redommend full time breastfeeding for the first 4-6 months, and additional nutrition here after and up until the age of 12 months. Nursing after the first year is considered long-term nursing and is actually quite rare and discussed here; and perhaps this is also the reason for parts of our disagreement: there are cultural differences!

    It is true that some children will benefit from long term nursing as well, but many families I have worked with have benefited from finishing nursing around 12 months. I am speaking from many years of experience, yet also from the position that nursing is of course vital. Still, my position remains the same: that nursing as everything else has a natural time cycle – and I see it ending sooner than perhaps you do.

    I am not a an advocate for pressuring mothers to do anything that isn’t healthy for themselves or their child.
    There are different options in life and different reasons to why we choose as we do – and to me it is -as everything else – a choice one has to make for herself.

    The fact that we have this disagreement is fine by me – and I am happy that both of you shared your points of view.

    All the best,

  • Natalie

    Dear Helle,

    I really enjoyed reading your article.

    When I heard you speak on your recent trip to Australia, I was also a little taken aback that you recommended breasfeeding end around 12 months.

    I myself breastfed both my girls – my eldest until around 18 months and my youngest until around 22 months. I weaned both girls because I was exhausted, more emotionally than physically due to the constant attachment. As we slept in the same room I really had no time to just be me – to reflect on the day, read a little or just enjoy a cup of tea – whatever I needed to recharge. Weaning my girls was without a doubt the hardest things I’ve had to do. I now feel passionate that as mothers and women we really must nurture ourselves in order to be truly present and available to nurture our family.

    If I may ask for your advice – I weaned both girls onto a bottle (goats/ cows milk) which has left me with the problem of now trying to remove their evening milk. I feel I shall be able to remove it rather easily with my youngest (now almost 3) however my eldest just turned 5 and is very attached. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

    Warm wishes, Natalie

    • Helle Heckmann

      Dear Natalie,

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad you found a way to strengthen yourself – and not enough sleep is a vicious circle for both mother and children.

      Unfortunately your girls has substituted nursing with another habit that they would have finish somehow too- and sorry to say, but there is no easy way!

      They are not old enough to have a consciousness and a memory about this, so it is certainly not neclect to take the bottle away. It will probably be painful but also needed. You know your girls the best so you would have to find your own way. I would recommend that you do it fast, because there is no painless way. – Send the bottles to Santa Claus; he needs them for his reindeers – or find an imaginary story to mark the transition with imagination – and then the bottle is gone. The girls will have maybe 1-2 difficult weeks, but then it is over, and they won’t suffer – they have you. You will help them a lot to change their habits.

      Thank you for being such a thoughtful mother.
      Greetings, helle