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Some say yes: Breastfeeding any time and at any age is nature’s way and therefore best. Others say no: When a child is between one and two years of age, we feed them on schedule, not on demand, and that includes breastfeeding.  

This is a developmental issue

Ellyn Satter says to consider the issue from the child’s point of view: “To me this is a developmental issue. The typically developing child approaching the end of the first year and into the second year is ready to experience the narcissistic resolution: To find out that s/he is no longer the center of the universe (where others drop everything and immediately address their needs), and joins the larger social group of the family (where they have to wait a bit for gratification).

“During early infancy (roughly the first six months), exclusive breastfeeding or formula feeding on demand fits the children’s developmental needs and lets them accomplish homeostasis and attachment. As children move through the “older baby” then “almost-toddler” stages, moving toward structure is a better fit because it supports separation-individuation developmental stage. To know where s/he leaves off and others start, they need structure in all things, including feeding. To make the transition from the demand feeding of infancy to the meals-plus-snacks routine of family meals, they (and parents as well) experience a necessary loss: Giving up the intimate one-on-one relationship of nipple feeding in order to gain the reward of being part of the family.” 

Get started with sit-down snacks

Here is what it says on the ESI website, under How to feed/ages and stages/feeding your almost-toddler. During the older baby stage, in response to your child’s increased regularity with feeding, you offered snacks partly on demand and partly on a schedule that you determined. At the almost-toddler stage, you continue to support the transition from demand feeding to structure by offering your child sit-down snacks roughly every two or three hours between meals. That lets him arrive at mealtime hungry (but not starved) and therefore able to behave nicely: He is interested in eating the food there. While he is likely to love drinking and eating on the go, he won’t learn to eat the food you eat because his special food, delivered in his special way, is more to his liking. Offer any nipple-feedings (breastmilk or formula) as a structured, sit-down snack. Don’t offer anything else between times except water. You are establishing the meals-plus-snacks routine of the division of responsibility for older children: Parents do the whatwhen and where of feeding, children do the how much and whether of eating.

Understand child development and feeding

Feeding with Love and Good Sense: The first two years addresses nutrition, child development, understanding and responding to child feeding behavior, and feeding relationships with respect to breast feeding, formula-feeding, beginning solid foods,  and learning to eat grownup food.

Eve Reed APD  and Ellyn Satter Institute Faculty Member

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