Nursing Volume Two


Hello there, blog-reader!

Nursing can be a truly controversial subject!

We learned that after publishing our last newsletter. For a touch up read it right here.

Some were offended by my recommendations on the duration of the nursing period; I wrote, that I generally recommend a nursing period of 9-12 months. Some were also provoked that I compared long-term nursing periods to “bad habits”! As my position may be easily misunderstood, I want to elaborate a little on my take on nursing in this newsletter.

However, before I do so, I wish to say that I deeply respect that this decision – like everything else when it comes to making choices in life- is a very personal choice, and is also individually based. The difficulty in addressing general topics is that the unique conditions for each individual, is not in focus. So, as in any other situation where a choice has to be made: deep down you know what is best for you and your family- and all ‘expert advice’ should always be filtered through your own wisdom, your heart and your fine-tuned intuition about the well-being of your own children.

Nursing is Beautiful.

Nursing is a natural and wondrous thing. Furthermore, I see it as a part of the incredible development that the child undergoes in the first year. So many things happen at such a speed and with such intensity, and in an amazing sequence. The first year brings forth so many huge developmental steps and they all lead to new skills for the child to master.

Each developmental step the child takes is also a step into evolving into a unique and independent individual; a standalone individual, who is able to connect to the surrounding world on its own.

The grown ups’ great task is to pay close attention to this physical, mental and psychological development, finding ways to encourage it, and not to hold it back.

Expanding the Circle of Safety
You are your child’s physical and emotional center. If you have a small child, you will see that the child will slowly explore the periphery, and eventually it will expand this circle of safety.

When a small child feels insecure, it will seek solace in its center; you. If something unexpected happens, like dropping a toy on the floor, sometimes it is enough for a small child just to look back at you. Often the child will seek your eyes to make sure, that everything is still all right. This is why your reaction is so important! When the child feels re-assured, it can proceed in exploring the world again.

Now, to how I see this process deeply connected to the nursing period.

On a biological level, nursing is a necessity for the first six months for the child to get vital nutrition, allowing the infant to grow and thereby survive. However, the child begins consuming other kinds of nutrition at the age of six months, some a little sooner. As the child’s need for independence grows, I feel that letting go of the breast as well becomes part of that process. Letting go of the breast connects to the gradually entrance into the outer world.

Letting go of the intimate and deep connection that is established and confirmed when nursing, is naturally difficult for most mothers. Anxiety often arises as the child moves further away, and we feel a deep instinct to protect our children from harm and from the cruelty if the world.

This topic was also explored here.

Therefore, it is also a question about putting trust in your child’s ability to ‘survive’.  It is about allowing the small child to explore the periphery, yet all the while remaining a strong center for your child. As a Small Child Educator, I have experienced how it is almost impossible to comfort a two year old who is still being nursed if the mother is not there to offer her breast. Therefore to me, finishing nursing around 12 months is also about allowing a psychological transition-phase to happen, and therefore not about disregarding the importance of natural nursing.

I certainly believe that breastfeeding must be supported in all societies. It is the best option for both the mother and the child, if the mother is able to breastfeed. As well as the nutritional benefits, breastfeeding supports the unique and remarkable relationship between mother and child.

I wish to underscore that there is not only one right solution. There are many aspects to be considered, and I have presented one perspective here that mainly focuses on the child’s psychological development. However, as a mother, you will use your own intuition and wisdom about your child’s deeper needs to make the right choice for you.

Some mothers think creatively, and keep the breastmilk in the cooler. This way, they can add it into the little child’s food; this obviously means, that the child can still benefit from the milk, without feeling dependent of the breast for too long.

As always, feel free to comment right below.

We will answer all who participates.  🙂


– and Anna on the side.

Comments (6)

  • Candice

    My 16 month old still nurses at night if he wakes, first thing in the morning and after dinner before bed. He never nurses for comfort and quite the opposite he isn’t interested at all in the breast if he is at all distressed, he just wants a cuddle. I don’t believe that nursing my child will have any impact on anyone being able to comfort him, or stop him from keenly exploring the world around him. I found it interesting you thought differently.

    • Helle Heckmann

      hi Candice. Thank you for writing. Can I ask you why you keep on and for how long you will continue? What would happen if you stopped?

  • Elizabeth

    Just curious, do you see a favorable psychological transition in the child if they still use a pacifier after the first year? Or a security blanket? I’ve seen parents ok letting their babies depend on such till the age of 4 and beyond. In your eyes would these objects be hindering their psychological development?

    • Helle Heckmann

      Well I will get in trouble now because i think both pacifier and bottle is not needed after 1 year. The reason is what I have been writing before, the benefits of physical development and finding other ways for comfort. At the same time there can be many reason that you keep on…. there is not one way and each one of us has to find a way to live with our children. Diffrent opinions can be good to hear about…..
      Sucking and drinking is very connected to the sense of touch and also in the beginning oral development. To have a security blanket has another sense attach it is also touch but mainly smell. it is not something you put into you it is outside you and therefor has an other function.
      I know of children who has been separated for periode from their mothers and this to have her night blouse has been a great comfort and so on.
      it is so difficult to say something to this, I would need to know each case to support the child and family. Thank you for asking.
      Greeting helle

  • Darcy Cherry

    My son came to a very natural finish to his nursing life a week before his third birthday. He was a very attached child, and always liked me to be right next to him as he explored his environment. He often, but not always, nursed for comfort, however he could always be comforted by other caregivers (his father, grandparents, and close friends). My daughter is 20 months old and still nurses, but has never wanted the breast for comfort, unless she’s been in pain from teething or earache (both of which can be physically aided by the suckling action of breastfeeding). She can easily go a whole day without nursing, and is easily comforted by others. And unlike my son, she has always been adventurous and independent in her explorations.

    Based on these two examples, it’s obviously not essential for EVERY child to be weaned in order to become independant, but for those who are more attached my question is this: if the child doesn’t need to be cared for by others, why wean? For my son, being able to suckle at the breast gave him great security and confidence to venture away from me, and my feeling is that he benefitted greatly from this investment. He is now a very confident, and friendly 5 year old, and I think he progressed according t his own rhythm. I understand that most parents in Denmark (and other places) return to work after the
    first year, and thus there is a situational and cultural demand for the child to be mostly in childcare. But isn’t the ideal scenario for the child to be at home for the first three years?

    And finally, whilst I appreciate that not everyone enjoys nursing (or is able/willing to nurse) older babies or toddlers, weaning before a child is ready seems at odds with Steiner’s other ideas of slowing down and not rushing a child’s development. If we can allow children of five, six, and seven the freedom to play and learn from each other, surely we can allow our babies the first three years to be with one main caregiver and seek comfort how they see fit?

    • Helle Heckmann

      Dear Darcy
      thank you for your comment. i think you answered your question yourself very well, in many ways. And for sure Waldorf pedagogy supports an upbringing where the awareness of the need of the individuel child within the social fellowship has a big emphasis on taking care of the 4 lower senses:
      sense of touch, sense of life sense, of movement and sense of balance. There are many things to take into account when we talk about what to consider. As you say yourself and have experienced, children are so individual. Maybe if you have a third child, even a new way for this child would show. The importance, as you show, is that we see the difference/individuality and allow our children to be different, within a limit that we set through our care and upbringing.

      I speak from my experience with my own children (I have 3) and my experience with hundreds of other peoples children. These children are those in my kindergarten as well as the many children I have met on my visits around the world. The understanding of the physical development of the child’s body has made me take my viewpoint.

      The way you bring up your children sounds so caring and full of love, for this I am very greatful, and I am sure your children will grow up feeling loved, safe and secure. I just would not have done it the same way, due to my way of looking at this – this does not mean that you are wrong and I am right.

      I wish you and your family all the best and thank you for your concern and for participating here!