Breastfeeding until age 3, 4, or 5: more common than you think?

When my daughter was born four and a half years ago, I had no plan for how long I would breastfeed her, I just knew that I would start off breastfeeding and then go with the flow. It so happens that in our case going with the flow meant that one month shy of her fourth birthday she was still nursing (albeit only once a day), and as I would soon discover, we weren’t the only ones on this path.

Photo courtesy Alexander Tundakov
Photo courtesy Alexander Tundakov

I wrote my thoughts about this shortly before her fourth birthday in a post titled On Nursing a Preschooler.

I didn’t set out to nurse a preschooler, but somehow along the way, my sweet little baby grew from an infant to a toddler and eventually blossomed into a preschooler in what now seems like the blink of an eye. I am confident this won’t go on forever and when I look back on this time when she’s 10 or 20 or 30, and I look at the young woman she’s become, I am hopeful that I will feel good about the choices I made and have no regrets.

When I wrote that post I was feeling rather isolated and wondered if there were others who’d chosen (either deliberately or unintentionally) to take the long-term (a preferred alternative term to “extended”) breastfeeding route. I soon got my answer. I received 62 comments on that post. Amazingly none of them were negative and several came from women saying that they too nursed an older child and many thanked me for talking about it openly.

Lisa from The Joy of Six said, “I’m so glad you posted this. I’ve nursed mine until they stopped which has been anywhere from 14 mo to 4. Thanks for letting all those ‘closet nursing’ mommies know they aren’t alone.”

Melissa at Through My Window said: “The whole time I was nursing both of my girls past the age of 4 I always wished that I could talk about it and that more moms were willing to admit that they were nursing for a long time too. My girls only nursed at nap-time and bedtime as they became older which meant only 1-2 times/day. Of course, they are weaned now, but I have no regrets and I would absolutely nurse future children as long.”

Liesl from Come, Mommy, who was tandem nursing both her 4 1/2 year old and baby at the time, said:

Got a 4.5 year-old-nursling over here! Sometimes it is a lot to nurse two, but on the other hand, it’s one of the few times Liam will settle down for a bit. Then after he nurses, he’ll sit around and chat, and that’s when I often find out the things on his mind. And I think it’s eased his transition to brotherhood as well. Nursing a 4 year old is a very different thing than nursing a baby, and it is most definitely not for everyone, but overall I’m glad I stayed with it.

Nina (no blog listed) said:

I think it is important for those who think breast feeding a preschooler is *bad* that in many, many parts of the world this is quite normal. Only with the invasion of TVs and computers (whereby the views of more advanced countries are shown) have many moms stopped breastfeeding after about 1 year, they seem to think that the entire world is like that.

My mother was a midwife before she married my father and she very, very strongly rec. breast feeding until the child was ready to wean on his/her own and this was back in the 50’s!

Heather at A Mama’s Blog shared with me a story from her former employer:

My old boss told me an interesting story a few years ago. He was in his 60’s at the time, and grew up in the country. He said when he went to school at lunch time the “little” boys about ages 6 and 7 would go home to nurse. There wasn’t a lot of food at that time, and the mothers also used it as a form of birth control.

I thought that was pretty interesting that just in the 1940s, nursing a 6 and 7 year old was perfectly acceptable. Too bad we have come so far in the other direction in the last 60 years.

I also took an informal poll (if you will) on Twitter to see if others are nursing or have nursed children ages 3 and up. I was rather surprised by the number of replies I received.

Tomorrow evening, Jan. 2, barring any late-breaking big news stories, ABC’s 20/20 is set to air an episode featuring segments on long-term (extended) breastfeeding, as well as home birth (both with and without midwives), serial surrogates (women that have numerous babies for other women), “fake babies” (life-like dolls), and orgasmic birth. I believe the title for the show is “Extreme Mothering.” You can see a preview of the breastfeeding segment, which included an interview with the mother of a 6-year-old boy who still nurses, as well as an interview with the boy, on ABC News.

Although I put together a decent little list of mothers and children who are long-term breast-feeders (and that’s without searching on the ‘net for other bloggers or celebrities – yes, there are some), there will, undoubtedly, still be those who think it is weird, gross, damaging, or just plain wrong. If you find yourself in that camp, you might want to consider the following.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life‡ and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.” AAP goes on to say, “There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.” (AAP 2005)
  • The World Health Organization recommends “infants should be exclusively breastfed(1) for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health(2). Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that breastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that “Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired.” They also note that “If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.” (AAFP 2001)
  • Former US Surgeon General Antonio Novello, MD has stated that it is a lucky baby who continues to nurse until age two.
  • When to Stop Breastfeeding Your Child: A Case for Extended Nursing includes the many benefits of extended nursing
  • Additionally, there are more position statements from various organizations linked up on KellyMom

But wait, there’s more. According to Summer Minor in her post Is 4 too old to be breastfed?,”Biologically, 4 years is still in the normal range for humans.”

The book Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives contains a wonderful section called “A Time to Wean: The Hominid Blueprint for a Natural Age of Weaning in Modern Human Populations.” by Katherine A. Dettwyler, Ph.D. Dr. Dettwyler is an award winning anthropologist, professor, and breastfed her daughter until she was 4 years old. In the section Dettwyler compares various primates, including humans, to find what the biological norm would be for humans. She found that the natural age for modern humans based on our size, development, and life span is between 2.5 years and 7 years. A child still nursing at 4 years old is normal, natural, and OK.

If you find yourself long-term nursing your child, there’s a good chance that at some point you will run into criticism from others. La Leche League International has some good advice for handling criticism from family, friends or even complete strangers.

If you’re facing criticism, remember that they may simply be uninformed about the benefits of extended breastfeeding or perhaps they feel guilt about their own parenting choices. Consider responding to unwelcome comments by:

  • Ignoring: walking away or changing the subject.
  • Informing: sharing books, articles, or a medical professional’s thoughts on extended nursing.
  • Using Humor: making a joke about the situation or yourself, not the other person.
  • Acknowledging: recognizing the person’s viewpoint and asking further questions without agreeing or disagreeing
  • Empathizing: being empathetic to demonstrate that you understand the other person’s feeling and meaning (Vakiener 1999).

Dr. William Sears has some advice about handling the criticism as well. Here are some things he suggests you keep in mind:

  • Science is on your side.
  • World opinion is on your side.
  • It’s better for your health.
  • It’s better for your toddler’s behavior.
  • Blame it on your doctor.
  • Let your child silence the critics.

For more information about each of these suggestions, visit Ask Dr. Sears: Extended Breastfeeding — Handling the Criticism.

There’s additional information about Handling Criticism about Breastfeeding at KellyMom.

Speaking of KellyMom, which is a wonderful resource for all things breastfeeding, if you are the mother of a long-term nurser and are looking for support, check out their forums. There’s a forum for nursing children ages 3 and up. There are also forums for the toddler years – ages 12-24 months and ages 24-36 months.

While I decided to focus primarily on older children in this post, many women on Twitter chimed in that they are nursing their kids to age two as well, including: Reiza at Stepping Off the Spaceship, Summer at Wired for Noise, Mom Most Traveled, Annie at PhD in Parenting, Sherri at Recovering Sociopath, and Sara (who was breast-fed herself until age 4 1/2) at Custom-Made Milk, among others.

While I’m sure some of my relatives thought my daughter would nurse “forever,” I can assure you she did not. Her last nursing was on Oct. 3, 2008, at age 4 years, 3 months and 11 days. It was mostly child-led, although I did nudge her a bit at the end. I felt that she was ready, but needed a little extra push (and I knew I was ready). It was bittersweet, but I think it went quite smoothly. I hope to write about the experience one day soon before I forget it. It is yet to be seen what my son will decide to do. As for now, he’s still going strong nursing at 25 months.

It is my hope that as a result of segments like the one on 20/20 and the fact that more women are feeling comfortable speaking out about long-term nursing (as evidenced by all of the comments and Tweets I received), that others will not feel like they need to be “closet nursers” nor feel pressured by family, friends or society in general to wean before they feel it is right for them and their child. Let’s trust our judgment to do what’s right for our child and trust the judgment of other moms to do what’s right for their child too.

Cross-posted on BlogHer. I’d love it if you’d share your comments there too! :)

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180 thoughts on “Breastfeeding until age 3, 4, or 5: more common than you think?”

  1. Thank you for this post. My four year old is still nursing, and there a lot of times that I feel pressure to stop, not because of what anyone says, but because it is out of the norm (or at least I thought so!). Oddly, the biggest negative reactions that I’ve received have been from medical “professionals.”

  2. Thanks for the great post. I’m still nursing a 3 yr old and 6 yr old. I tried forcing the older child to stop when he was 2, but it was so traumatic for both of us that I gave up and decided to let him wean when he was ready.

    I’m happy and my kids are happy. The only stress factor is the feeling that I’m the only one living my life like this. It’s such a relief to know that there are other moms out there doing the same thing.

  3. I was so glad to read this today. Just yesterday I was thinking I needed to start weaning my son who will be two in a few days. I’m not sure why I felt that way now, he shows no signs of wanting to quit and it calms him down when he’s had a hard day. It’s also a huge benefit when he’s sick and doesn’t feel like eating solid food or just has a day when he doesn’t eat much.
    He’s my fourth child and many people were horrified that I nursed my other three as long as I did. ( 15,18,and 20 months) Now besides my husband and kids, i think everyone in my family just assumes he’s stopped nursing. When he was only 14 months my sister asked in a shocked voice, when I started nursing him in front of everyone, “You’re not still breastfeeding that little boy are you?” Silly question since i clearly was. She actually sent her kids out of the room so they wouldn’t see. After reading all of these wonderful posts, I realized that I was only thinking about weaning because of other people’s reactions and that is a very bad reason to do it. I guess we’ll wean when he is no longer interested. Thanks everyone!!

  4. There are stories of my great grandmother putting a fox tail down the front of her dress trying to wean six year old female twins. She was also known to have smeared them with coal to tell them the breasts were sick. haaa

    I have a thirty three year old son that breast fed until two and one half. He has perfect teeth, never an ear infection and great health. A high IQ and a great sense of self. I breast fed and was told I should go to the bathroom to do it. I never did, I did it everywhere it was necessary to take care of my child and I recommend it most highly to anyone that wants an above average healthy secure child. It’s the best thing a mother can do for her baby and young child.


  5. I have three girls who all did “extended” nursing. I tandem nursed the first two who were 21 months apart. I also have a 6 six year old who weaned when when she was five. I decided to wean the two who were 21 months apart together when younger one was 3 years old. In retrospect, this was a mistake to make that decision for my (at the time) three year old. I wish I would have given her the same opportunity to continue nursing as long as my other two girls. I don’t think this is extreme parenting; it was just nursing upon the needs of each child. They each chose to nurse for five years. It’s really more about Mommy and comfort for the child than about the milk.

  6. Oh boy, sorry for coming to this discussion late, but here are my two cents:

    1st of all, I think that if these comments and your twitter poll are any indication, “extended” breastfeeding is much more common than the media would like us to believe.

    2nd, just to throw this out there, I myself was nursed until I was 3 1/2 years old, and I must say I am doing fine! For my Mom who was working full time as a lawyer from the time I was 6 weeks old on, breastfeeding me when she got home from work was our special time each day. It gave us a chance to bond & connect one-on-one.

    Bravo to you, Amy, for bringing up this important issue!

  7. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but in developing countries children are weaned (as there’s usually another child on the way), and you do see alot of kids that are as young as 3 or 4 helping out with work or on the farm. As for Europe, the rate of breastfeeding is high (~99%) but most are weaned off by a year (mat. leave and well, teeth). In nature animals are weaned when they get teeth.
    My mom breastfed both her kids, but stopped when we got teeth. We are intelligent and independent (not living at home as adults). So I think breastfeeding is excellent, but seeing 3 or 4 year olds asking for the boob is just weird – i remember kids in ECS doing that, and well, they were the weird kids. I think extended breastfeeding is a control issue with the mother. Remember, people used to only like to about 35 or 40, and were having kids at 13 or 14, so extended breastfeeding during hunter gatherer or early agriculture would have been quite rare.
    Usng general cases of “Well in other cultures” without actually looking into it is bunk science. Quick googling shows that in Europe extended breastfeeding is quite uncommon.

  8. I breastfed both our girls until they were four (and a little after for our youngest.) I also tandem nursed them for about 2 years – that was a little tough at times! Overall, I never thought I would’ve nursed them this long, but I had great support from my husband and my lactation consultant. The literature I read (Dr. Sears, When Weaning Happens) was also invaluable to reinforcing my decision to do what was best for our family. I know that it’s not the right thing for everyone, but I feel so blessed that I was able to nurse our girls for as long as we did! It was a gradual weaning that involved little to no heartache (except for bittersweet feelings for me, knowing that I’ll never nurse again.)

  9. Kelsey, you really might want to read some book like “Breastfeeding:Biocultural Perspectives” mentioned above, or Meredith Small’s “Our Babies, Ourselves”, before deciding that extended nursing is a ‘control issue’. I admire a lot about ‘European’ parenting, but just because most of them wean at a year doesn’t mean that’s what nature intended, or what’s best for the child biologically. There have been lots of fads and misinformation that have changed what’s considered ‘normal’ in parenting, and I’m sure the Europeans have been just as susceptible. (If I remember correctly, discouraging cosleeping – a topic for another blog – started in Great Britain?).
    And Lilbet, yes, your claim was that you can spot a Binky mouth, but you also claimed that OR a “breast can result in problems with dentition and speech”. The research I’ve read states otherwise. Also, I don’t know how you can be a certified Lactation Consultant, read the posts from women who have been criticized for nursing their ‘older’ children, and still tell us all we’re being defensive and don’t need to take a stand. I don’t need everyone to parent the way I do, but they don’t need to keep telling me that what I’m doing is weird. I’ve read many stories of women that weren’t sure if they were doing the right thing and caved in to the influence of family members or even doctors, and later regretted it. I think we need to all speak up about it so that those that are looking for support and not finding it in real life can find it here.
    I nursed my first for 4.5 years and my second for 3.5 (2 tandem). I second-guessed myself a lot (yes, I AM insecure) and received a lot of criticism. It was the online communities and activists that helped me listen to my gut and pointed me in the direction of good research. So thank you all!

  10. I found this page by googling how to fix my almost 4yo’s bad latch! He nurses alongside baby sis, and my oldest nursed until 5.

  11. Your ability to choose comments, and the fact that none of them are negative, tells me that this will not be published, but at least you will read it.

    (1) Analogizing humans to other primates is ridiculous. Chimpanzees never learn to talk at all; is it okay for a human child to reach his or her seventeenth birthday without speaking?

    (2) The vast, vast majority of women wean their children at or before the first year of life. You are arguing from the extreme dangling edge of the bell curve here.

    (3) Socialization of late-nursing children has never been scientifically studied in this country. Consider that by the age of four, a child has the ability to record lasting memories and discuss his or her experiences with friends to at least some degree. Your child’s friends, with statistically normal parenting, will not be nursing at age 4 or 4.5 or 5 years old. They’ll be getting ready to play t-ball. Do you want your kid questioning his relationship to mommy?

    (4) Who is this really about? Every animal mother forces its offspring to wean; farmers watch cows do it with their calves every spring. A baby is just that: a baby. You don’t let a baby make its own financial decisions, do you? You potty train your child well before 4.5, don’t you? Is this really about the child, or is it about you? Doesn’t “that connection” you feel with your child make you happy? It does; that’s because of chemicals released in your brain meant to improve the nursing instinct. But at some point this must stop.

    (5) 90% of your peers would tell you to stop. 90% of your peers sincerely believe that you are hurting your child. You don’t get a chance to do this again. It is possible to scar a child for life at that age. This self-justification should not stand unopposed. Your readers deserve to hear that they are not normal. In fact, they are statistically abnormal, and so are you.

  12. Great post!! I have discovered through my blog and boutique that there are many more long-term breastfeeders out there as well. My son is 3.5 and still nursing. We have gone well beyond any of my original expectations for nursing as well. We are down to nursing just a few times per week now. I am working on gentle weaning with him and it is going well.

  13. This was sooo refreshing to read with all the comments I get on breastfeeding a toddler (mainly negative) – the breastfeeding Moms and scientific proof of what GOOD breastfeeding means for our children is proof of its positive influence upon society’s future as well. Being there for comfort and nurturing these little creatures into a world full of many entities of the unknown. Mothering is not just having a child it is being there! My son is also 3.5 and we are breastfeeding and I believe it is a natural process. Our western culture has no time for breastfeeding it has a ‘time frame’ and then the breastfeeding has to stop as if we are programmed beings – which I believe is not Human.

  14. I nursed my oldest until he was going on 6- tandem nursing with my middle for 2.5 years. Tandem nursing was not my cup of tea, but it did ease the transition into big brotherhood, and it made for some lovely quiet moments too.

  15. I was having the conversation with my mom in law, who surprisingly has quite strong opinions on certain aspects of child rearing. she assumed I’d stop breastfeeding at 4 months, when I go back to work. Horrified, I said definitely not, and that I’d b/f until at least 1 year, and probably longer (I’m still researching). She was saying it’s weird to see kids at 3 being b/f’d, and I said that in many cultures, kids are b/fd till up to 7 years old. She actually came out and said it was “sick”. I don’t agree, and while I will probably wean before 7, I quite resent someone other than my child telling me when I should stop. How do I handle my MIL’s opinion on the matter? She’s not normally an intrusive person, so her vociferousness on this topic was quite unexpected.

  16. LOL – Just read Bob’s post now. He comments on how you shouldn’t analogize wrt animals, and then does exactly that. Bob is a man and therefore has only an observer’s point of view. Further, being statistically abnormal is not an insult. Mensans are statistically abnormal too. So what if you are on the end of a bell curve? LOL. Whatever.

  17. how about thinking about your children’s teeth !!! I work in a Pediatric Dentists office and see the daily effects of children who breast feed for too long. They have cavities galore!!! Not only do I find moral problems, but are usually more than 10 cavities by age 4. On average, a cavity filling for a baby tooth will cost you $265 – $360, so think about the pain you will create while they have fillings done (they scream for hours in the office and hate the dentist in the future). Just a thought for you “Earth Mothers”

  18. This has given me a lot of perspective. DD weaned herself at 10 months, and she’s the only baby in my family since I’ve become an adult. I recently found out a friend of mine is nursing her 6 year old and I was completely freaked out when her son came up and pulled her boob out stroking it lovingly and kissing it. She of course told me that he still nursed and was in the process of weaning, and I didn’t get it at all. My DD is 26 months and jumped from nursing to a straw cup at under a year and then to a regular cup at 18 months.

    I tried not to be judgmental and think of what I witnessed as repulsive, and this blog entry has helped subside those feelings I felt.

    I think that most negative reactions come from personal experience. I knew of some women who nursed their toddlers, and I was perfectly indifferent to that idea until DD weaned herself at 10 months. I think that people have a tendency to base what they view as “normal” off of their own experiences.

    Anyway, thanks for the informative insight. It’s helped me feel less judgmental over my friend.

  19. I am still breastfeeding my 3 year old daughter and was doing some research and came across your blog. There isn’t a whole lot of research on the benefits of breastfeeding past age 2. I strongly believe that my breastmilk is helping her build immunity to certain things. This gives me a piece of mind with the swine flu going around!

  20. Thought I’d chime in about the women who commented about the amound of cavities she has seen. My daughter has been to the dentist 3 times and she has never had any cavities. She is almost 3 1/2 and still nurses, so that is not true for all!

  21. Hi, I just found this page after googling extended breastfeeding. My 13 month old daughter loves to breastfeed and finds it a real comfort in a sometimes scary world. I have found it very interesting how peoples opinions of me feeding have changed from “Well done, good for you” in the early days, to “Oh, your still feeding, when will you stop!” at 9 months ish, to “Your be feeding her when she’s at school!” at 12 months.I find it very sad that society forces children to grow up so fast, my daughter is still a baby and in my opinion needs my milk, the most natural thing in the world. I hate comments such as earth mother or hippy, it is natural to feed our young we are mammals after all, does it matter how long we feed them for? Even though there is a massive push for breastfeeding going on here in Britain, I still feel like i’m some sort of radical which is crazy!

  22. So happy to see all of you wonderful, devoted Mothers out there. My daughter is 2 1/2 and still nursing. My son who is now 13 yrs. was also 2 1/2 when he weaned himself I also have two older daughters 15 yrs and 17 yrs both were almost 2 when they weaned themselves. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything they are babies for such a short time I don’t know why anyone would rush them to grow up!

  23. Unbelievable. You really have convinced yourselves. Disgusting. Anything older than 12-14 months is child abuse. We don’t live in a 3rd world country and you children can gain the nutrition needed in food and milk. Shocking you feel okay with this.

  24. Not to mention, you are only doing this for yourselves. If you feel so strongly about breast milk (which is weird), then put it in a sippy cup or the case of a 4 year old – a CUP. You are hanging on to a period which doesn’t last….let them grow up. Let them be a NORMAL toddler and not get a sip from the boob at school. Again, gross and disturbing.

  25. Debbie, how `disgusting` that you can utter bad words so easily about a wonderful thing (not only a nutrition and natural immunization, but also more than anything, a very strong and unique connection between child and mother).

    I have 2.5 yo son, and he is still nursing once in a day, and at night before the bed, not for food (he is a good eater, not picky at all, very healthy boy), just for his emotional frustration (as you know how they can be frustrated sometimes) and his way of expressing his love etc.

    There is `feed` word in `breastfeeding`, yes, but it does not mean that our TODDLERS depends on the milk comes from breast, they get their nutrition from other food too…PLUS, they get their emotional nutrition from the beautiful connection.

    I am happy that my son does not depend on a binky or sucking his thumb!!! Look around you, you will amaze how many toddlers are have binky on their mouth…poor kids…

    Hands off our nursing kids!!! it is not disgusting, it is not gross!

  26. I am so glad to read these posts. I was a closet nurser with my son- now almost 9 yrs old. He nursed until his fifth birthday. When my daughter was born last year he was so happy she would get to nurse too. Yes, he remembers nursing and it brings back fond loving feelings for him.
    That brings me to a thought I’ve often pondered that hasn’t been discussed here yet- My son has a respect for breasts as a loving entity not merely sexual objects. I wonder if this will also foster respect for women’ s breasts and all as he grows older. Its not a big secret to him what breasts look and feel like. and instead of fostering a glamorized Farah Faucet pin up girl attitude toward breasts his first association was in loving family environment.
    I’m not sure if I’m saying this all right. I guess my point is how our children grow to think of women with love and respect and for my girl I hope she will find that in herself also.
    I was nursed untill the age if 3. I remember the feeling of my mom nursing me and remember how I thought she had the prettiest “ninnies”. I wanted to have pretty ninnies too when I grew up.
    I’m curious to hear others ideas on this theme.

  27. It is really reassuring to find this site and information. I am very fortunate to have a supportive partner who actually introduced me to the idea of extended breastfeeding our son who is now two and a half.
    There are times when I feel truly exhausted – from the night feeds especially – and from criticism mixed with my own low self esteem.
    Again my thanks for this site.

  28. I have just read some of of the comments by Debbie. How terribly sad. As Dr Sears says Science is on our side.

  29. Debbies comments that: “We don’t live in a 3rd world country and you children can gain the nutrition needed in food and milk..”
    The milk you are referring to here I suppose is cows milk – which incendentally is for calfs – just as a human mothers milk is for her child…
    Mothers milk not cows milk has the optimimum in nutrition for a (human) mothers child!
    I am rather saddened by Debbies comments. What on earth would lead someone to have the vehemence and such misguided notions that she has. I truly hope that if you take the time to research you will see the facts for yourself.
    go to :

  30. I’m still nursing my son he is almost 3…It’s for comfort sometimes and sometimes as nourishment…it’s my favorite time of the day…I get grounded and it’s a miracle everyday.

  31. I’m currently nursing my daughter who just turned 3 and a half. We’ve had a great relationship as far as balance, She started dropping day nursings when she stopped napping during the day (at 3), and now does it once before bedtime and once in the morning. Occasionally she’ll ask late afternoon if she’s sleepy. She has completely healthy teeth, no speech problems, and is the healthiest child I’ve ever come across. This isn’t something I even knew was an option when I started breastfeeding, and I’m so glad that I dropped in one day to a LLL meeting. I’m just finishing up training now to be a leader myself, and I’m looking forward to pass on the value of what I’ve come to learn!

  32. I’m so glad I found your sight and have read many comments. I wasn’t quite sure if I was the only one out there still breast feeding my 2 yr. old daughter. She is my 3rd and last baby and I’ve always enjoyed breast feeding. My only concern is when I want to take a little vacation with a friend. I haven’t had any time to myself for 3 years now and feel I need it. I always fear that if I went away for 3 days I wouldn’t have any milk when I came back.

  33. Fantastic information. My daughter is about to turn 5. I have slowly stopped producing milk, but she still nurses at night. She’s nursed almost every night of her life to go to sleep. We have an agreement, in the absence of milk, to see if she can find another way she likes to fall asleep after her 5th birthday (back rub/pat, extra books beyond our usual 2-3, singing, something). It has seemed like the most normal thing in the world to nurse her well beyond infancy.

  34. My daughter nursed until 2.5 yo. I never brushed her teeth before she slept (she’d fall asleep nursing), which the dentist blamed for her 7 (!) cavities found at her first check-up.

    Has anyone else found this to be the case?

  35. Great post! When I owned a paint-your-own pottery studio and brought my nursing babies to work with me I found that a lot of mothers became comfortable telling me that they were nursing toddlers and preschoolers. Sometimes their children would see me nursing a baby and ask their mothers to nurse too. I might never have known that there were so many long term nursing moms around otherwise.

    I recently represented Attachment Parenting on the Discovery Health Channel show Radical Parenting (which will re-air on March 23rd at 8pm and 11pm ET). I talk about extended nursing, including how other mothers became comfortable letting me know they were nursing an older child when they found out I was too. Here is the link to the promo for Baby Week where I talk about extended breastfeeding (Radical Parenting is the 3rd show):

    Thanks again for this post! I think the information is really important to share to work towards normalizing long term breastfeeding.

  36. How wonderful that you are all following your instincts with this! I don’t have kids yet, but hope to breastfeed them as long as they would like to, when I do.. My mother breastfed me for a year and says I was so distraught when she stopped; I even remember feeling sad about this as a very young child! These days, the more I read about the benefits of breast milk, the more convinced I am that it can only be good for the baby, and that there are clear benefits to longer term breastfeeding. So, kudos to all of you!

  37. Thanks for this and to everyone for being so honest. Friends of mine have feed their children for 3 to 5 years and playfully alongside younger siblings a bit after. My own daughter feed in an evening and weekend mornings up to perhaps 6 and weekend mornings and odd evenings well beyond that. It really hard to remember, it has always been so much part of our relationship that neither of us really thinks about it.
    Even at eight she’ll still nurse if she’s ill or needs to unwind. Neither of us consciously decided to carry on this long it just happened and one day we’ll find we’ve stopped just like one day you realise your singing pop songs, not nursery rhymes.

  38. Great post. I have two wonderful girls who are now 12 and 7. I nursed during my pregnancy and then tandem nursed for 2 years; sometimes tandem nursing was overwhelming, but I am so glad I committed to it – even though my girls are 4.5 years apart they are extremely close emotionally.
    I just want to encourage moms who are extended nursing not to be afraid of what society says or fear your child’s emotional needs that are met by nursing. My oldest weaned at 6.5 years (which was gently led by me because I was starting to get negative feelings) and with my youngest I did completely child-led weaning and she decided she was done just a week or so shy of her 7th birthday. If anyone had told me when my children were born that I would have nursed that long, I would have thought they were nuts. But you grow as a person and mother. My daughters are exceptionally loving and affectionate people and nursing them that long was the greatest gift to our whole family.

  39. re: Stephanie’s March comment and dental caries– I happen to be a La Leche League Leader. Breastfeeding does not cause dental caries. That being said, it is important before nursing to sleep at nap time and at nighttime to wipe or brush your baby’s/toddler’s teeth clean before the last nursing; you want to get off all the bacteria/food stuffs before sleeping because the acidity/saliva level is different in the mouth at night so there is less protection from harmful bacteria. Just make sure those cute little teeth are clean before nursing your little one off to slumberland!

  40. Thanks for these comments. I currently nurse my son who is 3.5 years old. I know it is the right thing for us and our family but I fear the thoughts of others. I pay attention to oral health by ensuring I brush his teeth for a second time (nursing after the bedtime routine and then a quick second brush after the nursing). I feel like I am living with a secret but also feel like I am doing the right thing. My goal has always been for him to self-wean. For my daugther, who is now 5, I was only able to nurse her for 15 months as was having challenges conceiving and wanted to stop to help, which it did. However I regret not being able to nurse longer. Thanks for the conversation

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