Breastfeed like a chimp

“How long do you plan to breastfeed?” is a question I have been asked, more and more as baby girl grows.

“We have no plan.  We’re doing great, and World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of two years,” is my answer, every time.  However, society seems to put a timer on how long we should breastfeed; if we ‘make it’ to 12 months, we get a pat a on the back.  If we go beyond 12 months, we start to get questions.

I know babies who self-weaned much earlier than their mothers wished.  I know mothers who chose to stop breastfeeding before baby showed any signs of weaning.  I know mothers and babies who breastfed for up to 6 years.  I know mothers and babies who did not breastfeed at all.

If you are like me and don’t have a plan, here is some information that may help us all accept breastfeeding beyond 12 months (or at all):

At birth, an infant’s brain is 25% the size of the adult brain but by age 3, the brain size is 80% of the adult brain.  That’s fast growth in a tiny person!  This time is critical for proper nutritional support for brain development.  Our closest primate relative, the chimpanzee, breastfeeds until age 5.  Yet our human society expects us to wean by baby’s first birthday, or earlier.  But what markers should we be looking to help gauge when baby is ready to wean?

I stumbled across this interesting article “A Time to Wean” that addresses weaning based on biological milestones, such as:

  • tripling or quadrupling of birth weight
  • attainment of one-third adult weight
  • adult body size
  • gestation length
  • dental eruption

Read it here!




Photo credit: By Kitty Terwolbeck from The Netherlands – Baby chimpanzee Ajani with mother Amber – Artis Royal Zoo, CC BY 2.0,

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