There has recently been some discussion here on this site about breastfeeding beyond toddlerhood. I decided to go ahead and make it an entry of its own so that it does not overtake the actual submission.

I want to be clear here that this post is merely to ask and answer questions about the subject – it is not here to make anyone feel judged on how things work in their family. If you breastfed for seven years or never at all, you are welcome here because this site is about motherhood, not the choices we make within it. I hope we can discuss this with gentleness and open-minded respect.

Some thoughts about nursing beyond the normal (Western society) length of 6-12 months are that it is unnatural, sexually wrong, selfish on the mother’s behalf or just plain weird. Here are some links I’ve dug up to hopefully shed some light on these ideas.

An anthropological view on the natural age to wean a human child.
La Leche League’s page on nursing beyond one year.
Extended Breastfeeding Fact Sheet on
Benefits of extended nursing from
An article from an episode of 20/20 with links to videos. (I used to know the woman, Robyn, when she lived here and was a LLL leader, it was a surprise to see her on TV!)

So feel free to discuss, but do be polite. I will moderate comments only so far as to delete trollish ones. If you are going to say something, let it be valid not merely cruel.

18 thoughts on “Breastfeeding

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Well as a young mother (18 when I had my first), and growing up in a bottle feeding community, I still had a sense of knowing that breastfeeding was the right thing to do somehow, so I was determined despite the health visitors efforts to the contrary(assuming I would bottle feed, advising supplementing), I breasted my first for 13 months and stopped because I was pregnant, and I breastfed my second for 20 months. I thought I would be happy breastfeeding him for as long as he wanted but in the end I wanted my body back and felt like I resented breastfeeding him so I had to stop. I dont really feel guilty about this because breastfeeding is a 2 way relationship and both parties have to be happy to continue. He was upset for a few days but soon settled down and now is as happy as ever

    ANyway my views on extended breastfeeding are that it is a wonderful and healthy thing to do with your child and I have lots of respect for women doing it, I just didnt expect that I would not enjoy it.

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I’m very pro-breastfeeding for as long as it works for your family. Like the first comment, I agree that it’s a two-person relationship, and the time to stop is when it’s no longer mutually beneficial.

    My mom breastfed me for all of 3 months. I don’t believe that was long enough for me because I remember wanting it when she was nursing my sister four years later. But that’s what was desirable for her at the time, so no hard feelings.

    My son is 16 months old and still nursing. My mom and mother-in-law don’t say anything to me anymore about it, but they have been known to ask me when I will wean him. My standard comeback is “sometime before college,” but I’m not sure how far past 24 months we’ll go. He’s not super picky or demanding, and for now, I love that we still have that physical bond and closeness. He’s such a little boy already sometimes, it’s kind of nice that he can settle against me and still be my baby in that way, too.

    In my experience, there is judgment on both sides. If you choose a bottle from the start, you don’t always get the support you may need, and if you choose to breastfeed for however long, the support is often just as hard to come by.

    I love the La Leche League, and I wish more pediatricians and hospital staff persons were better trained to be advocates for their patients wishes, whether to feed with the breast or the bottle or both. Mothers and babies deserve the best start possible to a long and sometimes difficult relationship.

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    I had a very hard time nursing both my babies. I just thought it would come so easy and natural. I had flat nipples and had no support team with my daughter in rural New Mexico I nursed her for 2 months and had such bad pain I put her on bottles. We had a very close relationship still and I was ok with it. When I got pregnant with my son I knew what I was in for… not quite. He was a great nurser latched on well and I had little pain and cracking. I had support and a doctor that was very pro breastfeeding. At 2 months I got a horrible breat infection. I had 2 abscesses that had to be surgically drained in the hospital. Amazingly everyone said I had to continue nursing. I didn’t give up. I got a pump and eventually my right breast dried up however I continued nursing for 9 months. I was so proud of myself that I didn’t give up. My son stopped nursing on his own unfortunatly. He got the flu and could only get down recharge. He wouldn’t nurse. When he got better he still refused to nurse. I tried to nurse him for 3 months but he would always refuse. He stopped a bottle and drinks a cup. He eats like crazy. I think he just thinks he is a big man. Anyway I would love to still nurse him. I think anyone that can nurse for a long time is amazing. However my daughter is 7 and I see her as a little woman. I would not nurse her. That would be very strange. Whatever works for the family is whats best.

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    most of the non-western world cultures breastfeed beyond infancy. it is our society’s warped hyper-sexualization of women that has us all convinced that breasts are only for pleasure or for show. my son has been nursing for 28 months so far, & shows no signs of stopping or slowing down. barring medical complications or death, i will nurse him as long as he needs it. he still gets all the immune support, nutrients, relaxing hormones & comfort he ever got as an infant, & i benefit from it as well. to hear that some doctors tell mothers that their milk has no nutritional value after 6 months is preposterous. so what, i go to bed one night & some internal nutrient switch flips off & now my milk is worthless? i laugh at such a suggestion. my aunt breastfed my cousin for 5 years & she is a certifiable genius. i’m not saying that it’s proof of anything, but studies have shown higher IQs in children who were breastfed beyond 6 infancy. sure, nursing is painful for me sometimes, what with teeth, thrush, cracks & clogs, but i wouldn’t trade a day of it for the nutritionally inferior convenience of formula.

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    My mother breastfed me to the age of 2 1/2, so it was very natural for me to want to breastfeed my babies and I always knew that was the route I would take. I was 18 when I had my son and was somewhat an oddity to the nurses when they were shocked at how determined I was to nurse him. He was very small and wouldn’t take to the breast but I continued and was very strict that they must not give him formula. Eventually it took a nipple sheild to get him to latch and after two months of that he was a pro. He breastfed until 2 1/2 as well; and he has always been a healthy child.
    When I had my daughter, she took to the breast immediately and is now on her 16th month of nursing with no intention to stop.

    I have been praised and scolded for my choice to breastfeed. I’ve also been scolded by strangers and my husband’s family for my choice to allow my children to nurse until they wean themselves; be that at a year or 3 if they so choose.
    I am very PRO-BREAST, but I never yell at or disrespect mothers who choose formula. I only offer advice when asked about breastfeeding and never make anyone feel less of a mother if they decide not too. I just expect that same respect and understanding;it is sad that in this day our women are not being educated on how amazing and healthy breasfeeding is.

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    I nursed my boy for nearly three years. He’s the healthiest, happiest, best attached kid I know.

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    I was so determined to nurse that while I was pregnant with my first child I actually had nightmares that the nurses in the hospital gave my daughter a bottle and she rejected my nipple! Well when my daughter (who is now almost 8) was born, she was a breast HOG! I am proud to say my daughter was 100% breastfed and never once had formula or even a bottle of breastmilk!(not that there is anything wrong with formula or bottlefeeding, I just believe breast is best) I enjoyed the experience so much and so did she, I breastfed her until she was done at 25 months, my second child, my son, nursed as long as he wanted also and finished up right around two months after his 3rd birthday!!! I am now studying to be a lactation consultant, hopefully work with the county and the hospitals to go on home visits for new mom’s and help give them encouragement because I know how hard it can be those first couple months! but I also know all the benefits!

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    I am currently nursing my 7 month old daughter, despite the flat nipples, mastitis, crazy work schedule and judgment from society. I don’t know why but I was stuck on the fact I was going to nurse come hell or high water. She had a horrible latch at first, but the lactation nurses at the hospital saved me!

    I recently received my certification to teach lactation after a 45 hr course and an exam. I received my bachelors degree in nursing and I feel like I want to make the difference they made for me. I don’t want to convert anyone, but help those who desire to nurse.

    Myspace recently deleted a professional picture (done by Mark Harper)of Natalie nursing due to being “sexually explicit” (you can see the photo here ) It just proves that breasts are sexual in our society. The picture is beautiful…but not accepted in our country. I have decided I will no longer cover her up when I feed in public. I’m sick of hiding how I feed my child. Why must we switch to cows milk right at a year? I don’t want to be a “closet nurser” because of being judged. Maybe if more people were exposed to breastfeeding, it wouldn’t be so “odd”.

  • Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 12:27 am

    We’ve made it 11 months now and I hope to get to 2 years. I THINK my personal stopping point will be between 2 and 2.5yrs. Right now I can’t see myself nursing her past 2.5 but you never know, I might change my mind about it once we get there. My PERSONAL opinion… I think it’s getting a little too weird by about 4 yrs old (I know that 4 or 5 is quite normal in other parts of the world and that the natural age of weaning is probably supposed to be somewhere between 3 and 7)

  • Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at 1:52 am

    Beth, I had a similar experience with you – it was hard nursing my baby with flat nipples that often were bleeding for 6 month`s – and I doubt that I will keep on as long with a potential next baby. I feel good though, because I really did my absolutely best at the field. And really – I believe the love and sensitivity you give to your baby is far more important than all the breastmilk in the world – thank God!

  • Thursday, March 5, 2009 at 9:16 am

    My perceptions of what is ‘normal’ have changed so much since I’ve had children. When my first child was a baby, I saw an acquaintance nursing her 2-year-old and thought it very strange. I also remember reading an article in Mothering about a woman who was nursing her 5-year-old and thought that REALLY strange. I’ve now breastfed four children, and those things no longer seem strange to me. Two of my children were weaned ‘early’, to my mind, at two years old. Another child was weaned at age 3 1/2, again too early, and I regret that also. My last child stopped breastfeeding at age 4 1/2.

    I think that the problem is the tendency in our culture to want children to be little adults so we can get on with our own lives. I think that we project onto them a maturation that is not naturally there, sort of like how some people (and the wider culture in some ways via fashion) sexualize young girls in their minds. I look at a two-year-old, or even a three-year-old, and think, that is a *baby*. They still have such baby-like needs at that age, they are so dependent emotionally and physically. It’s obvious to me now that to deny that fact is unnatural and causes stress and emotional confusion. My child who breastfed the longest is also the most well-adjusted. I don’t think it’s coincidence.

  • Friday, March 6, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    i have 5 children, first twin girls, now 9 years old, i wanted to breastfeed them and thought i would, but right from the start it felt strangely unnatural, i had not expected that, i suffered from post natal depression and felt distant from them for a while, then three years later comes another little girl, with just one baby this time it was a lot easier, i felt an instant bond, and she breastfed for 3 years until i became pregnant again, she stopped because my nipples became very sensitive, then my boy / girl twins were born, and even though one baby was a bit small we still managed to breastfeed and have only just stopped, they are 3 and a half. i feel it is an accomplishment when you can breastfeed your babies, i think it is natural and right, and remains ok for as long as your children have their ‘milk teeth’, they are called that for a reason!
    its not always easy, and sometimes i felt embarrassed, other times i fed them both in public and felt proud, no-one ever told me to stop or cover up. but i know people started to feel uncomfortable about it when they were about 2 ish, but that really is their problem, not anyone elses.
    for us it felt food, natural, and loving, hooray for breastfeeding!!!!

  • Friday, March 13, 2009 at 5:02 am

    This is to Jessica F. :
    the photo of you breastfeeding your child is beautiful and it’s a shame myspace found it “sexually explicit”. It really is sad when our culture can make breastfeeding sexual when it is anything but.

    Much respect to the mothers who can breastfeed and to the mothers who cannot. We do what is best for our babies and even though breastfeeding may not work out for all of us, just the effort alone makes us good mothers!

  • Saturday, March 21, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Breastfeeding is a natural process. Whether your bottle feed or breastfeed, that fact still stands.

    My 2 year, 3 month old daughter still nurses before bedtime. :)

  • Saturday, April 4, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I didn’t nurse my first baby because, honestly, I was 18 and thought of it as “weird”. Noone I knew breastfed and I was the first of all my friends to have a baby so I didn’t really have any encouragement.

    With my second my best friend got me on board with breastfeeding and even though I was still weirded out by the idea of it I decided to give it a go…and fell in love with it. I only nursed him until he was 6 months because I thought he was weaning himself, which I found out later that that wasn’t happening I just didn’t try hard enough.

    Now I am 10 months into nursing my daughter and want to continue as long as I can, but she only has interest in it when she is sleeping or VERY sleepy. All other times she is too interested in what’s going on around her. I’ve tried bringing her into a dark quiet room but she still insists on sucking a couple times then squirming to get away. She really only nurse 2 times a day now, when I really try to get at least 4 times in.

    I don’t cover up when I nurse. I nurse anywhere and everywhere. My opinion is that our culture has TOTALLY oversexualed women, especially our breasts, and turned them into something they weren’t meant to be. Yes, it is okay for them to be a sexual object but not to the point that a woman is scorned for nursing in public.

  • Sunday, April 12, 2009 at 5:04 am

    I think anything that gets a real constructive conversation about breastfeeding going is good. My mother had her 1st child in 1969 and she lived a ‘hippie’ lifestyle in the bay area. She breastfed my brother for 5 years, and later me for almost 2 years.

    I thought this sounded normal & natural, so when I became a mother at 17, I breastfed too and decided to let my son wean on his own, as my mother had done. And my son chose to wean at 2 years 4 months. And there was no crying or fussing. No engorged breasts or pain. We just stopped and it felt again, normal & natural.

    I think it’s sad when some women don’t understand the process well enough and choose to wean too early for the wrong reasons. Of course women have valid reasons too. And if they make an informed choice that’s great. It’s the ones making uninformed choices based on “eww it’s gross” or they think it’s sexual or harmful to the child, or their partner feels that way, that make me sad.

  • Sunday, December 27, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    My second was only BF for 2 weeks. I was young (19) and had no support plus the hospital gave him formula for his first feeding, and I knew nothing about “rooming in with baby”. My second was both nursed and BF and nursed until almost 6…My third who is now 3yrs and 3mo is still nursing! I support extended breastfeeding 100%

  • Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    I was a very young girl (in my own opinion) when I had my first baby (just 18). And she was premature and sent to the NICU. She had to be tube fed, but I was determined to breastfeed because my doctor had said it was the healthiest thing for baby, and my baby was obviously in need of some good health! So while she struggled for life I pumped like crazy and spent all my time with her so she would feel my skin and get my smell. I was so worried that after being tube fed for 2 weeks she would never breastfeed. I had to have a doctor, a respitory specialist, 2 nurses and a lactation consultant in with me the first time I tried to breastfeed (which was a bit cramped seeing as we were in a 5×5 space and I was in a huge rocker! and her isolette was there too!) My hubby opted to let me have special “mommy time” to do this as privately as possible. And she took right to it!!!! She latched on perfectly, and other than a dip in oxygen when she got really good, she never had a problem– the staff was FLOORED!
    I breastfed her for 7 months (until I was 4 months pregnant with my 2nd baby), and I only weaned her because I completely dried up due to a complicated pregnancy… When my 2nd daughter was born I breastfed her for 3 1/2 months until heartbroken, we found out through several tests that she was both lactose intolerant and allergic to my breastmilk :( and she was AWFUL to wean and I felt horrible. She wouldnt eat for 3 days, but eventually I got her to take the bottle and cried for a week.
    My 3rd daughter was the MOST difficult to breastfeed. She couldnt open her mouth wide enough and never got a good latch. She seemed disinterested and didnt want to eat as much as she needed. Finally, cracked, bleeding, and feeling defeated I gave in after a month and a half and gave her the bottle and she was never so happy.
    I feel that breastfeeding is best when it is right for both parties. My husband was very supportive and loves his daughters, we both wanted everything that was best for them. And I had alot of support from friends and family (even our male friends thought it was great that we were so “dedicated” to our children) I live in a place where most women dont breastfeed because of social pressure and the need to be what the men in their life want– and I think that is selfish, for them, and for the guys out there that obviously dont know that breasts are for FEEDING BABIES.
    Thank you all for your stories and photos, I hope one day to have the courage to share mine <3

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