I've been reading a lot of "natural mothering" sites lately, because crazy people amuse me.
Anyway, there's one thing that's been interesting me. The idea of "child-led weaning." Aka, you don't actively wean, you wait until your kid chooses not to breastfeed any more all on their own. Which usually means mothers nursing 4 and 5 year olds. It also leads to tandem breast feeding when new babies arrive (breast feeding your 5 year old, your 3 year old, and your newborn all at the same time).
Now, I don't see anything wrong with extended breast feeding per se, as long as the kid gets other foods, gains weight at a normal rate, and stops before they start school/daycare/major social interactions with peers who think it's weird so as to prevent social issues. And as long as the mother isn't pressuring the kid to breastfeed, either, which some moms seem to do. And I also don't think a mom should wean to formula, unless of course she has to for some reason. Breast milk's always best until the kid can drink cow's milk, if a mom can nurse sufficiently, formula's pretty much useless.
At the same time, what I object to is the idea that child-led weaning is "natural" mothering. Or "natural" at all. Because let's face it. Mammals wean their young. They do. Actively. At least humans don't kick their babies in the face to wean them, like grazing animals do. Natural mothering involves active weaning when the mom decides it's time to end it. If the kid self-weans before the mom was ready, great! But natural weaning means the mom stops the kid if the kid doesn't stop themselves fast enough to suit them.
What's more, tandem nursing? NOT natural. Not at ALL. I mean, obviously tandem nursing occurs for multiple births, and occasionally for animals-- or humans-- who nurse the offspring of a dead mother. But this idea of continuing to nurse the older child while pregnant and then while nursing a newborn? That's not "natural." Animals don't DO that. Humans in hunter-gatherer societies don't do that. IN fact, as far as I can tell, the only people who do that are modern hippie types.
In nature, animals wean #1 pretty much as soon as they can tell that they are pregnant (aka when they've got , so that they will have the energy and food supply for #2. The first child, at that point, is usually developed enough to survive on normal food. Meanwhile the second child needs all the colostrum and breast milk (and energy) the mother can devote to it. To tandem nurse would create a dangerous situation for the mother and more importantly, the new baby.
Now, obviously first-world humans don't have to worry about limited food supply or predators attacking a child. And honestly, if someone wants to tandem nurse, whatever, it probably won't hurt them. But it's not "natural" parenting. It's about as unnatural as it gets. Just saying.