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

  1. Absolutely magnificent post! I am an Aussie Naturopath and still feeding my son 4.7 months later and going strong. I know one day he will want to give up and I am ready for that, but until then, I have the healthiest, happiest, most secure little boy. He still feeds twice a night and on the very rare occaisions he gets ill, he’ll feed up to 6 times in a day. I’m happy to continue going as long as Jamie does.
    Well done to all you magnificent mothers out there who are proud of extended breastfeeding

  2. I’m so glad I found this website. My daughter is less than two months to her 3rd year old birthday, and she still wishes to breastfeed from me. I’m perfectly O.K. and happy to keep on the special bond and support as long as my daughter needs, but my husband keep on giving me weird looks and comments that make me feel like I need to be a “closet breastfeeder” from my own husband. It just gives us another issue to be on each other’s back. I’m so relieve now that I find out it is pretty normal.
    I just do not know what to do with my husband about this issue, except that it is very mutual between me and my daughter; for I assume my husband did not have this from his mother.
    Thank-you for a great site.

  3. to all the people who “my 2-8 year old breast feeds and has no cavities” type people. do you let your kids have any kind of candy or soda? or are they feed on a “pure” diet of nothing artificial and sugary, and the only sweet things are fruits?

    or are you saying ” a kid can drink soda and breastmilk and never get cavities because of the milk”

    how is their oral hygiene on top of that?

    or, a human only needs breastmilk, and your 3 year old dosen’t need to brush and floss at all?

  4. Dear Kuu,
    My almost 3 yrs. old daughter still wishes to breastfeed me whenever she can, including over night. Besides breastmilk, my daughter does eat rice with some meat and vegetables for dinner. She eats pancake in the morning. She only likes snickerdoodle cookies, icecream, gogurt, and chips around her meals. I ONLY give her an m&m once in a while. She gets no other candies, no sodas. She only like v-fusion light peach/mango juice. She drinks some milk, and water. I brush her teeth twice a day. I let her brush herself while I brush mine, then I brush her teeth myself some afterwards for a short while. So far I do not see any cavities, but her ped. recommended a dental check at 3 yrs. of age. I think me brushing her teeth for a while helps clean her teeth better than just a few seconds scrubs. Still, I cannot floss her teeth yet. Looking forward to take her to her first dental check up.
    Hope it helped you.

  5. Hi,
    Thanks for the great post. I breastfeed an 18 month old and have already received numerous critical questions and disparaging comments. I hope extended breastfeeding continues to become mainstream in the US and is not seen as an extreme mothering technique. My little girl Clara has been off the charts healthy and I have no doubts that breastfeeding and fresh foods has contributed to this blessing.

  6. Pingback: Crunchy Domestic Goddess » Child-led Weaning: They Aren’t Going to Nurse Forever

  7. When I considered that it’s also a birth control it makes sense. Emotionally a man and wife are one person, ideally, and seeing the reason his wife isn’t fertile has meaning to a thinking man.

    I like it! Let child and mother nurse as long as it’s wanted.

    I wouldn’t be surprised when data comes out, in 20 years, that children nursed beyond 1 year were more likely to thrive socially and economically

  8. Pingback: Crunchy Domestic Goddess » Thank you for the past six years

  9. Breastfeeding past the age of 1.5 years and into grade school will lead towards mental problems. I’ve seen it happen.

  10. I am so thankful i found this website. My son is 3 years old and he still breast feeds. He primarily just wants it when he is tired. He is a picky eater and when he wants breast milk i give it to him. I am so tired of family members and close friends telling me i need to stop breast feeding. My doctor says as long I am producing milk and he still wants it, its very healthy for him.
    He is very intelligent and I hope its from all the time i spent breast feeding.
    Thanks again for posting all these comments.

  11. Pingback: Rielle Hunter Still Nursing Her 2-Year-Old, National Enquirer Reports | www.iflickle.com

  12. Hi!! I am on the hunt for knowledge. I never set out to be an extended breast feeder, but my little angel is 2 now and loves her “nursey boobie”, and to be honest, I love giving it to her. I had intended to stop at age 2, and have attempted to ween her twice, when I just kinda feel upon all this great and empowering information. Now that I have made the decision to continue on strong, and aim for another year of nursing, I have one major problem. My milk is nearly gone, and I feel like most of the time I am just a binki, which causes lots of nipple soreness. I was hoping that you ladies might have some reccomendations for getting my supply flowing again, or if it is even possible at this point, i have heard that once the majority of the ducts have shut down it is hard/not possible to get good production again, short of giving birth. I am hoping this is not the case…anything would help.

  13. to the few negative commenters:

    hahahaha, my only child (9yo) that has had a cavity was my formula fed one! too funny! He had one before his 2nd birthday! He’s also the only one that had a maldeveloped upper palate. Even I know that heredity and diet (junk!) have more to do with cavities. My two middle children (age 7 and 4) who nursed until their fourth birthday have had no cavities, have perfect oral development, and have absolutely no problems socially relating with their peers. I’m still nursing my last baby. She’s almost two years old. It’s not like they nurse all day long like a newborn. Children who are nursing well into their second year are slowing down gradually, weaning themselves. Sometimes they nurse four times in a 24 hour period, sometimes two times. When they are sick or going through an insecure time, they nurse more, but it’s not like they don’t play t-ball, make crafts, and learn to read! There is more to their lives than just nursing. By the time my toddlers have turned into nursing preschoolers, they were only nursing before bedtime and for the occasional hurt or stress. What’s the difference between that and having a binky? Well, the teeth aren’t getting all jacked up for one, and they are actually getting some immunological benefits since their immune system is not considered mature (scientifically) until they are 5yo. I don’t care who thinks it’s weird. I *know* I only have a chance to do it once and that I have to make those years count for that child, and *that’s* why I choose to still let them nurse. By the time they are 2 years old, I don’t even feel the let-down, so the idea that I would do it for myself is completely ridiculus.

  14. I’m so glad I came across this site for more reasons than one! My mother nursed me and my brother until we were around 5 yrs old, and incidentally I’m expecting my first who I hope to breastfeed as long as he wants – I know I will need the support as we transition.

    Like the rest of you, my mom made a good decision IMO – she found weaning me around 14 months was difficult (on both of us with her oversupply & my crying) so she fed me at the breast until I was ready to let go on my own. The arrival of a baby brother at age 3 was made easier due to tandem nursing – she breastfed us together for 2 years. For those of you who brought up criticism – my mom did get that (even I remember this), but she was skilled at covering up when we were young, and taught us to be discreet not demanding in public as we got older. Outside of that, she said she just had to develop a thick skin because she was doing what felt right to her, what was good for us, and wasn’t going to let the opinions of some judgmental people change that.

    I weaned myself naturally around age 5 as did my brother. We’re both very healthy, have had NO cavities and have done very well at school. There were a handful of occasions we both turned to her breast for comfort after weaning (on really bad days), but it tapered off by age 6 or 7 or so. Like a few of you said, I have some memories of those times, of thinking how her ‘milkies’ were the most comforting place in the world to fall asleep suckling, and how wonderful her breast milk tasted. We have a really strong bond to this day, and I’m grateful for her maternal instincts that allowed me to experience that. The closer I get to my due date, the more excited I’m getting, to think of the memories and bond I’ll get to make with my little son someday very soon! :)

  15. Pingback: BREASTFEEDING BLOGS AND INFO « joyfulmamahood: My journey through parenting

  16. Wonderful post I just now found (again?). I’m still nursing L to sleep and sometimes when we snuggle on the sofa, and he is 4 years and 10 months old.

    We are not hurting anyone and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Our kids are little for such a short time…

  17. I am so happy I’ve come across this site and so very grateful to Crunchy Domestic Goddess for starting the topic, as well as, everyone who posted their comments. I still breastfeed my son who is 19 months and down there, deep in my heart, I know how heartbreaking it would be for him if I stopped… Now that I know there are more women who nurse their children for more than just a year I will be more confident in doing what feels right to me. Thanks to you I shall find more courage to fight or ignore the criticism – I live in Poland where nursing a child for more than a year is considered really strange and bit abnormal. Some people even say that a mother does it for herself only and that long-term breastfeeding is a sign of a mother’s psychological instability… THANK YOU!

  18. I was born in the late 70s in Norway and the breast-feeding trend hadn’t quite caught on yet, but I was lucky enough to have a grandmother who nursed all her three children through a time when formula was the norm. So my mother nursed me until I was two. Not sure if that means 24 months or rather just shy of my 3rd birthday, but I can remember it. She had to go on a vacation to get the weaning done after I started unbuttoning her blouse on public transportation. I figure I could have gained a few IQ points had I not been so pushy in public….
    My younger brother weaned himself at only 9 months old, and it broke my mother’s heart a little.
    When my son was born I had to fight for my right to nurse in the hospital (in Texas), there was no lactation help as I had my son on a holiday, and the nurse insisted my son needed a bottle because my milk hadn’t come in yet. I refused, put up a good fight, called in a pediatrician to give her a talking to, and tried to explain to the nurse that the milk doesn’t come in as the afterbirth comes out, yet babies live and thrive.
    I always figured my son would wean when ready, and he is not at 2yrs, 7mos. He recently started daycare, so on weekdays he only nurses when he comes home, at bedtime and during the night, which I know is not the best for his teeth, but keeping us both up all night every night would probably be worse in many ways.
    I am a single mom now, cosleeping with my son, spending all my time with him outside of work. I am a little worried about him never wanting to wean on his own since it’s just the two of us, and we may get too co-dependent. Any thoughts?

  19. Sigrid, he is only 2 and 7 month. I’m still nursing L to sleep for a few minutes – and he just turned 5.

    You are not bothering or hurting anyone with nursing him. I am always so glad for all the health benefits L still gets – I don’t worry about colds or flu even though they are going around kindergarten right now. And don’t discount the many health benefits for yourself!

    http://dagmarbleasdale.com/2011/07/why-im-proudly-nursing-a-preschooler/

    He’s going to wean – and be able to remember that special time. What’s bad about that? :) Just let nature take its course and wean when he and you are ready, or let him self-wean. It’s going to happen.

  20. I stumbled across your site because I’m just winding down my nursing career. My youngest (of four) “baby” is now 3 years and 1 month, and tonight was the first night that she didn’t ask to nurse before bed. It truly is very bittersweet. I’m about ready, but I will horribly miss our connection. I feel like everything changes after a baby stops nursing, and nursing has definitely been my favorite part of motherhood. There is just nothing else like it. I don’t dare talk about my “extended breastfeeding” habits with my friends, and my family thinks I’m a little over-the-top about it, but I wouldn’t change it, either. Our time together has been so precious, and it truly has helped my daughter with illness-she’s only had a couple of colds. My first baby, whom I only nursed for 8 months (due to low supply), had millions of ear infections and various other ailments. It IS good to hear from other women who have blessed their babies in this way. I truly hope that our country will embrace nursing. Our babies deserve it.

  21. Am still nursing my 26 month old son 2-3x a day. He’s always been thin though (as we speak he’s just 11kg+) which made me doubt my breastfeeding for a long time. After around 18 months, I’m fully convinced it is the best way to go. He’s a relatively healthy child ( I count total flus/ stomach flus incidents in his lifetime as about 6). He’s VERY attached to me, and somehow I could still sleep train him since 6 months even though he breastfed often in the day at that time. I’m proud of this, and I know someday when he’s all grown, this will be a fond memory of mine. My husband used to find it uncomfortable when my son was still nursing at 18 months, but now he’s ok with it and can see how my son is comforted in a way no one can comfort him.

  22. So, glad to have found this site. My little guy just turned 4 and still loves to nurse. Most of the time, I do not have a problem with it. He usually nurses in the morning and at night. However, the issue that is causing me a great deal of distress is his father. We are divorced and he says that our son’s continued need for nursing is keeping him from bonding and being able to have overnight visits with him. He has been speaking with his attorney about this and even admitted that his attorney said there are no laws that can prevent a mom from nursing her child for as long as she wishes. However, I know my ex well enough that he will pursue this issue on the grounds that nursing is somehow psychologically damaging our son. Our little boy is very happy, intelligent, and healthy. I’ve tried to disallow him from nursing but he cries and cries so, I give in. I am sufferening anxiety over this because I feel this is just plain wrong on my ex’s part and just another way of trying to cause further hurt. Our son spends time with him father and if they have any bonding issues it is not due to the nursing as my ex would suggest. One last note…my ex has been jealous of our son and the nursing since he was an infant and kept insisting that I discontinue nursing since he was 6 months or younger.

  23. One other note….my ex believes the nursing and co-sleeping have caused the demise of our marriage as well. However, the relationship was toxic way before my son came into this world.

  24. When a mother “gives in” to their child because of their continued crying about wanting breast milk. That’s when only the mother benefits. She doesn’t want to put up with the crying. I noticed there are no negative feedback on this forum. It’s a board about opinions towards breast feeding. It’s so funny that you delete them. Is it because you don’t want people feeling bad about extended breast feeding? If people are feeling bad, it’s probably because deep down they know there is no real reason they should still be doing it other than upsetting the child. Children are resilient. At age 3-5, you are able to start reasoning with them and explain to them the reason for stopping. It’s called consistency.

  25. I am in the process of weaning my child and it is going well. I know about consistency when it comes to parenting children as I have two grown children so, this isn’t my first time around the block. I never nursed my oldest, nursed my middle child for only 6 weeks and my youngest is the only one I chose to nursing almost exclusively. I’ve made a few errors along the way, in regards to not realizing I needed to teach my nursing infant to fall asleep on his own because I never had this issue with my other children. I disagree that a mom who chooses to nurse beyond a year is somehow doing something wrong. If you do your research, you would find that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both promote nursing until 2 or 3 and beyond this as long as both child and mom are comfortable with it.WIC also promotes long term nursing as well. I came to this website looking for support and encouragement during the weaning process.

  26. To Taylor – OF COURSE there is no negative feedabck on this forum! We are pro-breastfeeding because this is the only natural way and has nothing to do with reasoning with a child and nothing to do with giving in to their whims! I bet you have had to give in hundreds of times in completely different areas of life… My 2-year-old breastfed child is very well-behaved and I do not give in whenever he wants anything… I let him have a cuddle and be breastfed not because he wants it but because he needs it…

  27. “She doesn’t want to put up with the crying” – what is wrong with that? Mums do not want their children to cry – it is only natural…

  28. Thank you Ursula! You are very right…I do not want to leave my child crying in distress…There is a big difference between a child crying to get “their own way” as it seems is being implied in the other post and a child crying out of distress and in need of comfort. When my young child was an infant I did not leave him cry for long periods of time…this is how one builds trust with their child. I know how to discipline my child when he is in fact crying to get his own way and I know when my child is simply crying due to feeling a need for comfort…so completely different.

  29. Ursula. I have to correct you, by telling you that I’ve never gave in, in any areas in my life. I am still here in life, living very happy and comfortable. I have a wonderful relationship with both my children. I breast fed both my girls. My oldest until the age of 14 months, my youngest until the age 10 months. When the time came my girls learned to drink from a cup, I weaned them. It didn’t take over night, it definitely was a process. It’s all a matter of outlook. And just because mine happens to differ from yours, does not give you the right to poke insults at me. What does he “need” at 4-5 years old suckling on a breast in the evening? Please explain. Not trying to be rude, would like to be informed. What benefit does a child get when the mother barely has any milk to feed? Is this moment strictly for “bonding”? Isn’t it possible to bond in other ways? It’s all a matter of opinion I suppose. But like I said, difference of opinion shouldn’t have to come down to immature behavior. I don’t think you would appreciate me saying something to you about what I really think about breast feeding until 4 or 5….and just for the record, I’m an early childhood educator, ive taken child development. I do understand the importance of children’s needs… Taylor.

  30. My little one only nurses for a few minutes in the evening as it helps to lull him to sleep. We have many other ways of bonding each day that do not include the nursing; however, he asks to nurse when he is tired. It is a comfort, like a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. He never had a comfort item when he was an infant, as the nursing was his comfort. Nursing is not just about giving a child nutrition but it is also about comfort. When he was younger, he became very sick for a few days and wouldn’t take any fluids or food;however, he would nurse and this helped both of us through a tough time. The nurses whom I spoke to during this time were greatly encouraging me to keep up the nursing. They had only good things to say about it. It is sad that something so beautiful between mother and child can be made into something ugly by those who oppose it. While everyone has a right to their opinions no one should come to this site and put others down with their opinions. Also, if at any point my little one would have chosen to wean prior to this I would have been all for it. It is absurd to think that I am somehow forcing the nursing on my child, as he is the one who requests it, not I. I do not offer if he does not ask and many times he asks and I try to divert his attention to something else that we can do together, like extra playtime. I see nothing wrong with nursing my little one to sleep. This is something that has always brought him comfort. It is bothersome to say the least that anyone could think there was something wrong about this. However, everyone is entitled to their opinion and this is mine.

  31. Thank you Michelle! It looks like there is nothing else to be said to Taylor but just because Taylor thinks I insulted her I feel obliged to write something. I reread my post and found nothing insulting in it… not even a word! If you, Taylor, still think you have been insulted, please accept apologies and please believe me that it wasn’t my intention. You found something between the lines that only you know – but it wasn’t really there… Have you ever thought how I felt when you wrote your original post suggesting that me and other women here are inconsistent and we breastfeed only because we want peace and quiet? Don’t you personally think it is not very nice to write such things to women who do not go out there to convince everyone they are right but simply support each other and share experience? Did you know that reading the comments of all the women here was illuminating to me as I hadn’t known about tandem breastfeeding before? There is no site like this in my country and I was very grateful to the author of this one because I learnt a lot and finally found someone who feels like me… When I first read all these comments I cried as if I found a good friend who understands me… I do something which has always been very natural and still is to mammals in this world and please, if you disagree, do not criticize us and do not jump to conclusions because it hurts…

  32. It’s a shame that Taylor has misunderstood that the purpose of this thread is to promote and discuss extended breastfeeding…and therefore, this is not the venue to oppose it. I’m still nursing my girl once a day, btw. She still won’t give up the night time nursing (which lasts all of two minutes). And I’m not going to make her.

  33. Thank you so much Ursula and Amy L. It is good to support one another instead of knocking one another down. Amy, my little guy has been great with giving up all of the day time nursing but still asks for it right before bedtime and also if he lays down for a nap in the afternoon, which he doesn’t do much anymore. I cannot see turning the night time nursing into a major issue when it does not need to be. He nurses for only a few minutes as well and falls peacefully asleep. He doesn’t have a problem with it and neither do I. The problems that have come about are only due to others. I was told there was nothing wrong with continued nursing as long as my little one and I were comfortable with it. I suppose there will always be some individuals who are vehemently opposed to extended nursing and feel a strong need to share that with others.

  34. One last thing for now…Ursula I agree there were insults being thrown about when comments were made about inconsistency and also implications that were being made that I was doing something wrong but not wanting to leave my child crying in distress. I cannot speak for any other mother, but I never wish to leave my child crying in distress. I feel there is a big difference between a temper tantrum and a child crying out of distress and in need of comfort or support. I came to this site in hopes of finding some support and I am happy that I found many good posts to read and a few individuals like you and Amy who have not hesitated to offer your support to me…..Thank you so much!

  35. Michelle – thumbs up! You must be a wonderful mum! Thank you for all the thoughts you shared with us here…

  36. Just wanted to send a quick update: I’m still nursing L, who is now 5 years and 4 months old. He nurses to sleep for a few minutes and sometimes nurses on the couch, while we watch a kids show together.

    These special moments get less and less and I treasure them. I have never been able to find research that says it’s detrimental to an older child to nurse for a few minutes a day, and L is such a sweet and independent child. So since I don’t mind him still nursing, that’s what we’ll do for a bit longer.

    We are doing this in the comfort of our own home, so I don’t see how anyone needs to say anything negative about it. There are much more important things to get upset about than a mom nursing her child.

    For all the extended breastfeeding mama’s out there, thumbs up! :)

  37. Ladies, I think youve misunderstood me. I am not opposed to breast feeding. I think it’s one of the most beautiful things in the world! Like I said, I breast fed both my children. I asked a few questions, yet no one answered them…as for you Ursula. Please don’t feel obliged to apologize to me. You wrote in your last message to me,”I bet you have had to give up hundreds of times in completely different areas in your life”. You were implying that I was the one who had to “give in” on my life. That WAS an insult. But if you feel that there was nothing wrong with your statement, then please don’t insult me again by making a false apology. It was never my intent to insult anyone. I simply wanted to gain more knowledge. If some women in general, think its ok to breast feed till later in a child’s life, why is it so hush hush? What is the benefit to it, if a mother no longer has milk? I just don’t really understand that’s all…I totally understand wanting to comfort your child. I love my daughters very much. But couldn’t you still have bond and the need to comfort your child in other ways? I by no means ever wanted my opinion to cause a “b” match. I do apologize to everyone…

  38. Thanks so much for this lovely post. I am still nursing my 3.2 year old twin girls, at bedtime for sure, but other times throughout the day, too, when I am home (I work outside the home during the week). They still ask for it, I am COMPLETELY sold on (and in awe of) the benefits, and I treasure these sweet moments that I know will not last forever…(even when some days it feels as if they might…LOL). I didn’t have a “plan” when we began, either, but now I most definitely plan to let them decide when they are done. I do sometimes find myself feeling like I avoid mentioning it to others, so this was a welcome post for me to read today. Thank you – and thank you to all the commenters, as well.

  39. I am nursing my 5 year old. It seems very strange even to me. She is in 1st grade. The only other person I know who nursed this long is my aunt. Her son was 7 and in 1st grade. My goal was to nurse 3 months. One month turned into the next. At some point my newbie was an alert toddler who turned into my a spunky preschooler and now she is a 1st grader. I am not sure how to go about weaning but I am sure as my milk does decrease she will be less and less interested.

  40. I’ve been happily nursing my 3-year old son but recently noticed a possible reason to stop: He’s begun to masturbate while nursing. Obviously a non-issue right now (he’s 3, for goodness sake, and pleasure is pleasure — I asked him about it and he replied that it “feels nice”), but as he gets closer to that age when memories form I think it’s best he not have this one in the vault.

    Anyone else experienced this? Am I overthinking? I can just feel Freud over my shoulder. :-)

  41. I have a son just turned 2 everyone is on my case to stop breastfeeding,, say I’m doing more harm than good,, my husband is rejecting me over this,, saying I’m being a bad parent this is hurtfull to me.. I feel totally different about this of course,,

  42. I nursed my first son to 4 1/2 years old and now my second is 4 1/4 and still nursing. I’ve been starting to feel like an oddity and have no one to talk to about this. This post has been helpful, since I see there are others out there also swimming against the stream.

  43. Thanks for this! I found the post and most comments quite encouraging. My daughter is about to turn two, and I was really beginning to feel like I needed to begin the weaning process. When I try to nurse her less frequently, though, she gets clingier and sadder, and most of the comments here bolster my resolve: for now, nursing is better for my daughter, so we’ll continue this part of our relationship.

    I do have a question, since not many moms I know have chosen to continue breastfeeding this long: we co-sleep, and she still wakes up numerous times during the night. Suggestions? Could it be, in part, the coming of her two-year-old molars? (I’m not looking to stop co-sleeping quite yet – she prefers to go to sleep in our bed – but am open to the idea that moving her to her own space might help.)

    I guess I feel like crunchydomesticgoddess addresses Taylor’s concerns about extended breastfeeding in her blog entry, but beyond that, I think that the reason so many moms continue to nurse their children longer than most mothers, whether covertly or overtly, is because there’s such a long history of comfort in it. The mother’s breast is where a child once had most of her needs met and found comfort from sadness and found the happiness of a full belly; it was, for many, the first symbol of love. That strong association means that even for a toddler, a quick nursing session can soften the ills of the day. Sure, I tend to use chocolate, but for my two-year-old, I think a little mama milk is a much better answer! Kudos to those who go beyond a year (but no knocks to those for whom that isn’t the right path!).

  44. Sarah: Very well said. As for night weaning, has she always fed at night, or is this new? You may be able to simply say “milk in the morning” and put her off. I’ve had to do that with my 3-year-old son. He would be angry for a minute but before long he’d be back asleep, and he’s gotten out of the habit. Frankly, I couldn’t take it any more. Mommy needs sleep, too!

  45. I want to quickly respond to Taylor’s question, “What is the benefit to it, if a mother no longer has milk?.”

    The system is beautifully simple. Your breasts replace the milk that is removed. So we can make milk for as long as our children want it. When our children want more, they nurse more frequently and stimulate more production. It works the same with a 3 or 4 year old as it does with a newborn. Over time as our children wean, they nurse less and less frequently, so our breasts have less to replace.

    What I don’t know is what the minimum is. I’ve heard of women going on trips for many days but still producing milk when they return. I’m curious about that.

  46. My sweet girl finally stopped nursing, at 3 years and 3 months. I have to say, both of us miss it, but nursing has been replaced by “just” snuggling, chatting, and hanging out. I don’t regret a single day of nursing. Not one. Love to all of you!

  47. I nursed my son till he was 2 years old this norm is widely accepted in my home country (Philippines) and now that I am pregnant with baby #2 I’m looking forward to breastfeed her till she’s ready to move on.

    It makes me sad though to hear some parents claiming that you should only breastfeed till the baby is 6 months since after that they are no longer getting the nutrition required.

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