On (not) weaning.
April 28, 2010

So I’ve been thinking about extended breastfeeding.

I think about a lot of things, about earthquakes and cat poop and grass stains and strawberries dipped in chocolate.  So you might as well just pop the state of my boobs on the list, right?  There is no rhyme or reason to what floats around in my brain.

So I’ve been thinking about extended breastfeeding.  And I’ve been thinking about it an awful lot.  And since I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve been reading about it.  An awful, awful lot.

The truth is that before I became a mother, I was so consumed with the beginning of the breastfeeding relationship that I never really thought about the end.  But I’ve had three rounds of mastitis and I guarantee that anybody who has ever lain in bed shivering with fever after having lanced their own nipple duct with a needle?  Has thought about, has even looked forward to, the big wean.

Now, I powered through the mastitis.  I powered through the plugged ducts, the blisters, and the tenderness.  Thus far, I have powered through six milk teeth and tiny fingernails pinching my neck and baby fingers shoved up my nose.  Because I believe that continuing to nurse my daughter is the best choice for my family.

Also, I love breastfeeding.  I am practically a breastfeeding addict.

So now I wonder where we go from here.  I know people who never put their baby to their breast and I know people who have school-age children (up to age nine) who still nurse.  But for the very first time, I am beginning to wonder when Charlotte and I will decide to wean, what memories she may one day have of suckling, whether or not I am willing to nurse her beyond her third birthday, what sort of social stigma she might face if she nursed at older ages, if I want to nurse through subsequent pregnancies, at what age nursing in public becomes more difficult or socially awkward, etc.

So tell me this: what do you think about extended breastfeeding?

Also, as long as we’re talking about things I think about: why is it that I have no idea who any of those half-naked people are on the cover of glossy magazines anymore?

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  1. By MommyNamedApril on April 28, 2010

    i think do it for as long as you’re comfortable doing it.  with JJ i was done around 13 months.  he started biting… and was walking and acting like a kid.  and that was enough for me.  but everyone’s different, so just keep gauging whether you (and her) are still enjoying the experience.

  2. By on April 28, 2010

    I suspect people won’t like my view on this, but here it goes. I lived in a community as a child where everyone nursed, on demand, for extended periods of time (well not my mom but everyone else).

    I don’t think there is anything wrong about breastfeeding, I don’t think nursing in public is gross.

    But I do think school aged children should be weaned. I understand nursing is about bonding as much as it as about nutrition. However toddlers don’t have nutritional need to nurse and school aged children need to learn coping methods that don’t include suckling. As for bonding; bonding through nursing is something done by mother and baby…as the child matures so too should the relationship between mother and child.

    Personally, I think extended breastfeeding is more about fulfilling the needs of the parent than child.

  3. By C @ Kid Things on April 28, 2010

    I don’t plan on nursing much past age 2. Which is in 3 months. Actually, I kinda wish I could wean now, but my daughter is showing no signs of wanting to stop. I’m tired, though, and I’m looking forward to having my body back.

    My son I nursed until about 20 months, partly because I went back to work part-time for a bit. Even before that, though, my supply had diminished drastically because, as I later found out, I was pregnant again.

  4. By Sarah Christensen on April 28, 2010

    Corinne - So a friend of mine has nursed all four of her children until they were school-age.  She nursed them until they lost their milk teeth, and when I told the pediatrician about it, the pediatrician pointed out that a child’s immune system development really takes off around the same age, so there is some evidence that in a more natural environment, school-age weaning would be ideal.

    We obviously don’t live in that environment anymore, but does that mean we’ve outgrown the instincts or the biological drives to fulfill the needs we once had?

    I’m personally not at the point where I’m ready to talk about breastfeeding a five or six year old.  I mean, heck, my kid isn’t even one yet.  But my goal has always been to breastfeed until Charlotte’s third birthday, if the two of us were still comfortable with it, and lately I’ve been wondering if I would be willing to go beyond that.

  5. By Meghan on April 28, 2010

    Before I had kids, the idea of nursing beyond a year seemed kinda creepy to me. I wasn’t really exposed to anyone that BF, much less extended.

    After a failed BF relationship with my twins, I was uber-determined with our next baby. When she turned a year, I couldn’t imagine trying to take that part of our relationship away. Now at 18 months, she really only nurses in the morning and at night - sometimes she’ll take a quick “sip” to settle down if she gets hurt or upset during the day. She cut some new molars last week, and she asked for it more then.

    We’re both happy with this, who knows what will happen in the coming months. I don’t see us continuing much past 2, but I don’t think I would ‘force’ weaning.

  6. By on April 28, 2010

    Sarah -Here is my problem with the argument “some evidence”...it means nothing really. Living with a bio major has made me really skeptical of sweeping statements and medical studies.

    I haven’t read the medical studies, for and against, so I really can’t make an informed comment on the evolutionary biology involved (or not involved).

    I wouldn’t tell someone when to stop breastfeeding, but I thin if a child wants to nurse when they are lonely or scared, perhaps they need new ways of learning how to deal with their emotions? I mean, some people take soothers away sooner than they stop nursing. But at some point the boob becomes the same as a soother.

  7. By on April 28, 2010

    It’s a personal choice but age 9, wow!  I couldn’t even imagine breastfeeding my 3 1/2 yr old.  As for my 6 month old, I’ll play it by ear and wait until the time is right for both of us.  I’m not sure if I would want to go past 2 yrs. but I guess we’ll see what happens.

  8. By Krista on April 28, 2010

    I didn’t nurse so I feel a little bit like a member of the band telling the cheerleaders how to fluff their pom poms. But in another one of your posts a while back (the one on Charlotte learning to self soothe, maybe) someone commented that you you can’t tell someone what to do with their child until you’ve been that parent to that child.  (i’m paraphrasing)  I think the same thing applies here.  You’ve made all the right decisions for Charlotte for nine months, you’ll make the right decision here too, even if you don’t know what that is yet.

  9. By on April 28, 2010

    I haven’t done any reading on the subject of nursing through subsequent pregnancies and nursing 2 diffderent age kids…how does that work?

  10. By Sarah Christensen on April 28, 2010

    Corrinne - I’m the product of a mathematical family, so I completely understand.  You can make studies and statistics say anything you want.  What I meant is that the pediatrician felt that since the immune system’s development really takes off around the time that milk teeth are lost, it was highly likely (although some studies confirm and others contradict this) that there were benefits of nursing long-term.  I’ve been reading a few books about it and they all seem to say the same thing - that some science suggests that children benefit from breastmilk until they begin losing their teeth, but other science suggests that past toddlerhood there aren’t any significant health benefits.  The biggest argument for extended (through school-age) breastfeeding seems to be immune system development, as their digestive health seems to be (generally) in fine working order by then.  Another big argument for it seems to focus on the idea that in most cultures (obviously not western cultures!), children do not fully wean until they are six or seven.  I can’t comment on that because I haven’t experienced those cultures firsthand.  And to be fair, though, I haven’t really finished the books yet, since I only pick them up for ten minutes each at a time lol.

    At any rate, in our culture, it seems to come down to a question of comfort more than of health.  If a healthy child lives through babyhood in our society, chances are that they will see childhood and adolescence and adulthood.  So although I wonder whether or not there are evolutionary components to the decision some parents make to breastfeed long-term, my bigger question is just what people are generally comfortable with.

    Like I’m comfortable with two or three years, no problem.  I don’t know how comfortable I am with going beyond that, although it doesn’t bother me when I witness it in other families.

  11. By Sarah Christensen on April 28, 2010

    Kyla - I have no idea!  I’ve wondered before, like, okay, let’s say I breastfeed through a pregnancy and give birth.  Do I need my toddler up there immediately so that I can empty my breasts after the infant is done so that I don’t get plugged ducts and mastitis?  What about during labor?  Because if I have a 20 hour labor, say, well, that’s a long time for a breastfeeding mother to go without emptying her breasts!  I have no idea how it works!  And there aren’t many people who have done it and can answer all of my questions, you know?

    Krista - I know EXACTLY which comment you’re referring to.  I loved that comment, it was brilliant!  Every child is so different, every family dynamic so different, that I can’t help but think the woman who wrote that really knew what she was talking about.

    I sort of have comment envy, actually.

  12. By on April 28, 2010

    I think that breastfeeding is a beautiful thing between a mother and baby, i think 18 - 24 months is enough. It just becomes odd to see a child who is walking and talking fluently still breastfeeding. if they can walk up and say hey mom im huingry and grab your boob theres something wrong with that

  13. By on April 28, 2010

    Sarah- Michael is both a bio AND math major; it has made me incredibly skeptical! lol

    I know nothing about those cultures either; although I can tell you people romanticize/misrepresent other cultures all the time.  Like people say…women in Africa do….and I’m like oh really? Let me tell you about the practices of women in at least one part of Africa that I actually work in! LOL

    I do agree with Lynn on this one though; it just seems strange

  14. By Suzanne Jeanette on April 28, 2010

    I struggled with this subject so much with my first son.  I wanted to nurse as long as possible, hoping for at least a year to a year and a half. 
    He didn’t agree with that.  He weaned himself by the time he was 10 months old.  I remember crying to my husband through the process, so sad I didn’t have that special connection with my baby anymore. 
    I’m sure there are things I could have done differently, to encourage him to continue, like never offering a bottle, or delaying solids.  But I did what I thought was best for him. Those bottles from the grandparents and daddy were crucial to my sanity. 
    This time around, I can see my second son has a different personality.  I think he will nurse longer, and maybe I will get to keep that special connection a little longer. 
    I guess what I’m getting at is, it is great to want to nurse till your baby is a toddler or older, but sometimes your baby has their own opinion of how it’s going to go.  Now, I’m open to anything.  We could nurse for three years, or be done in a few months.  I’m following his lead.

  15. By Sarah on April 28, 2010

    I’m curious as to whether or not there is a difference in how long mothers nurse boys vs. girls? 

    I have nursed two boys.  My first stopped nursing at 15 months, shortly after he realized he liked the convenience of the sippy cup.  My second nursed until he was one year, and I had some medical issues and couldn’t continue. 

    My thing is this, nursing was great - and I’m glad that I got at least the first year in. 

    However, I couldn’t imagine doing extended nursing with my boys, just as I don’t shower or bathe with them once they get to about 3 and start noticing differences…  It would just be awkward…

    So Sarah, would you be considering extended nursing if it were Charlotte were a boy?  Would it ever become awkward for you?

  16. By stephaine on April 28, 2010

    Me personally I think if they are old enough to ask for it then it is time to stop. I literally saw a walking child come up to him mommy yell “booby” and unbutton her shirt. Wow.

    But I am all for breastfeeding as long as it is enjoyable for you both. I bet you will be suprised when she starts moving and shaking she will lose interest. Mine weaned herself at 10-11 months. About the time she got mobile there was no holding her to nurse. Sad. I wasn’t ready. But lets be honest. We all know who makes the rulse.

  17. By on April 28, 2010

    I was only able to nurse Bekah for 5 months. It made me sad when my supply decreased to the point of not being able to nurse her anymore when I returned to work and had to pump. If I had been able (or knew of some of the resources that I now know), I would have at least nursed her until a year if she wanted.

    I have friends who have done extended breastfeeding and have been reading some sites that talk about tandem nursing (infant and toddler). From what I have read the mother’s body adjust to give toddler milk to the toddler and infant milk to the infant. I thought that was really cool!

  18. By Crystal on April 28, 2010

    Is pumping and giving your child breast milk in a cup, sippy cup, etc. a compromise at some point when she is older? I agree with Corrine that as the child matures so too should the relationship between mother and child. I do think that there are benefits to giving your child breast milk but I think the suckling just becomes a soother.

  19. By katherine on April 28, 2010

    Extended breastfeeding rocks! I breastfed my youngest until she was 3.  Extended breastfeeding is a huge gift to give to a child - it truly provides all the comfort and security they need as they go through those early toddler years.  It gives them a safe place to land when they feel frustrated or get hurt.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world and neither would my youngest.  She told me herself it made her feel loved.

  20. By on April 28, 2010

    I nursed my son until he was 10 or 11 months.  After his third ear infection in a row, he weaned himself off of the breast - he simply refused to nurse.  (I can’t say I was too terribly upset - he was a CHOMPER)!!  I still pumped 5 or 6 times a day, though, and he drank only breast milk until he was about 18 months old.  I was planning on going until he was 2 and then evaluating where we were and if we wanted to extend the breastfeeding, but he took himself off the “boob juice” at about 18 months. 

    I say whatever works for you works for you…no one else knows what’s in your heart and mind, and no one knows that little girl better than you.

  21. By Dandy on April 28, 2010

    Hmmmm… I’ll be honest and say that the thought of breastfeeding a 4th grader in this day and age makes me uncomfortable.  I just feel like nutritionally there is so much we can do besides breast feeding to ensure the health of the child and that independence might be hampered. 

    It never occurred to me to breast feed two children at once.  Is it the same bonding experience with both children?  Doesn’t milk production change during pregnancy?  Very interesting.

    Ummmmm did you say lancing your breast?!  ~sigh~  I’m really hoping to breast feed but it looks like after 35 rounds of radiation I’ll be one sided.  How will breastfeeding from just one breast work?

    I’m just talking out loud here :)

  22. By Cambria Copeland on April 28, 2010

    I took a lactation preparation class prior to the birth of my first daughter.  The first thing the consultant told us was that she nursed her children until they were five and that many cultures, unlike ours, do this.  I never researched this, but I believe there is some truth to this.

    I do think, however, that there is a pro-breastfeeding trend with the younger generations and we will start to see babies/toddlers being nursed into older ages.  My mom couldn’t nurse us, but she also has stated that it wasn’t the “in” thing to do at the time.  I think that notion has changed, for now at least and social stigmas will diminish.

    I stopped nursing my first daughter when she was 15 months because my energy was zapped with the pregnancy of our second.  It also seemed like a logical time to ween as I was also not wanting to be nursing a toddler and a newborn.  But, I think, had I not become pregnant, in need of more energy and wanting to make an easy transition, I’d likely still be nursing my toddler at night.  She is now almost 22 months. I did give her some of my expressed breastmilk recently in a bottle and she turned it away…

    Bottom line, I believe it’s up to the mother and child to determine how long they will nurse, or if they want to nurse at all.

  23. By Tracy on April 28, 2010

    My opinion? Breastfeeding school age kids is kinda creepy. That being said, I wouldn’t judge a mom if that was her choice. Yes, I think these 2 thoughts can coexist.

    I actually breastfeed longer than I thought I would, b/c my daughter wasn’t ready. My boobs were like crack to that child. 

    I weaned her gradually, the last feeding being the 6am-so-mom-can-get-a-little-more-sleep feeding, at around 18 months. She took it surpringly well. I do not recommend weaning & then sorting tiny baby clothes when you are hormonal.

    So I guess, to each her own? Weaning when we did was the right time for our family.

  24. By Monica on April 28, 2010

    I think it’s a matter of family preference.  I do think that nursing an older child is more of a bonding thing/special moment thing, and not about nutrition/immunity anymore.  If I nurse Ivy beyond 2, I think I will only be doing it once or twice a day, in our own home, because it would be reserved for bedtime for example.  She already has coping skills for fear, etc, and so I don’t see myself nursing a toddler on the playground because she got pushed down when I know she’d be find with just a cuddle.  At some point the curious stares are probably more harmful to the kid than the breast milk is good for the kid. 

    I’ll just be judgmental and say that if I saw a school-age child nursing in public, it would weird me out.  If I knew a same aged kid who nursed once before bedtime… that would not freak me out.

  25. By on April 28, 2010

    My Charlotte is 13 months old and we are still nursing 3x/day. I thought I’d probably continue at bedtime past a year, so this is exceeding our goal. I’m really happy with it right now and don’t really know when we’ll stop. I do notice myself sounding apologetic when I tell people that we’re still nursing, though.

    I’m not having any more babies (unless we adopt) but I doubt that I would be interested in nursing a toddler and a baby at the same time.

    I have a 9yo step-son and um EW. I think breastfeeding that long is pretty excessive. Not to mention I think he’d get teased if his peers knew.

    IMO 3 years old is probably the upper limit for me.

  26. By on April 28, 2010

    PS: I’m out of town at a conference for a few days and am pumping just to maintain supply. (When I’m home, my Charlotte drinks whole milk when at daycare and with meals) Based on how much I’m pumping, I don’t think she’s actually getting that much from me, maybe 8-10 oz/day? I highly doubt she’s getting a ton of immunity or nutrition from that. Even at 13 months, I think it’s mostly for bonding.

  27. By on April 28, 2010

    Despite what people might do in other cultures, most people in the U.S. would find nursing a toddler creepy, particularly if done in public.  The health benefits are so debatable and to me not worth the pubic scrutiny.  You’ll DEFINITELY get stares if nursing a jabbering toddler in public and (like it or not) your child will get ridiculed if still nursing at school-aged.  I especially find it weird when a boy is nursing to 4, 5, or beyond years old.  I don’t think it is healthy to be that attached to mommy at that age.  Hopefully that doesn’t make anyone livid to read that, but those are my thoughts.

  28. By Catherine on April 28, 2010

    My son self weaned at 15 months, likely because I was already 3 months pregnant and I could tell the milk just wasn’t there, and then bam, colostrum, and he was done.  With DD, I would like to nurse her until she decides she’s done as well, but I likely will not encourage regularly nursing past the age of two.  I’ll probably slip into the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” way of working it.  I don’t have any problems or real opinions about people extended nursing.

  29. By on April 28, 2010

    I am really glad I don’t remember suckling at my mum’s tit. That’s pretty much my guideline for how long to breastfeed a child.

  30. By Alicia on April 28, 2010

    I say skip setting restrictive dates and just go with it. When I first got pregnant I said I’d never want to pump at work, So Jude would only get his mommy milk until I went back to work. Well, come tof ind out, once I started I couldn’t stop. I pumped when I went back to work (and then quit my job b/c I just loved his smiling face too much).

    Then I told myself that I’d never nurse past 6 months old. He would just seem too… grown up? for me to do such a thing! But alas… 6 months has come and gone (almost twice now) and he’s still attached.

    Currently I tell myself that 1 year might be my limit… but even that’s not looking like it’s going to happen. We’re one week away and he’s still nursing 4-5 times a day.

    I really look forward to being able to go out without worrying about how many feedings I’ll miss… maybe having an over night trip with some female friends… or even wearing a bra that my husband sees me in and thinks “daddy wants”... but I’m sure all of that will come in time…

    I personally think you’ll know when it’s right for you to stop. Whether that be tomorrow, her third birthday, or third grade.

  31. By Weekend Cowgirl on April 28, 2010

    You have to do what is right for you! Just do what you want and enjoy it. I do think nursing should stop before a child enters K. For me, a year was a perfect amount of time…

  32. By on April 28, 2010

    Well, since you asked, I personally think that extended breastfeeding (for me, that’s beyond two years old) is the opposite of natural. But, to be fair, I tried breastfeeding both my kids and it didn’t feel natural to me even as infants.

    I don’t know anyone who has/does breastfeed a school-age kid, but I did watch a documentary-type piece on You Tube about it. The two girls I saw interviewed definitely seemed unusually fixated on their mother’s breasts…like, had names for them and drew pictures of them, etc. It made me really uncomfortable and it seemed weird.

    I do agree with others’ advice not to set too firm a date in your mind, so that you don’t end up disappointed if it turns out your agendas are different! One thought I had about tandem nursing, was whether it would be another source of sibling rivalry that would be hard for the older child to accept?

  33. By elizabeth Mackey on April 28, 2010

    I think you will know when it’s over.
    My first daughter was 18 months, and my second daughter was 22 months. It kinda fit their personalities. My oldest is very independent, and when I decided it was draining me a bit, I decided to wean her. It took one night, I laid her down on her bed, patted her back to sleep, and she never nursed again. At that point it was kinda getting tough on me. She seemed cool to let it go too.
    Second daughter, very clingy as a baby and toddler, she hung on longer. Again, I just felt like I wanted it done. She was a morning and evening nurser by that point. So in the morning, instead of starting the day nursing, I would hop out of bed and get breakfast started, and in the evening we just read more books. Again, she was cool with it, and really didn’t fuss.
    They seem to become more independent too when you quit. At least my girls did. Then it is really funny, after you haven’t nursed them in a month or so, to ask them if the want to nurse. They have an odd look on their face, almost like they are embarrassed. My girlfriend is a lactation consultant, and she use to love to do that to her kids when they were weaned.It’s as if they know they aren’t babies, yet you wonder if they remember how comforting it was.
    I don’t know if it is coming out the way I want to explain it, but it is kinda comical.
    Plus , if you have another baby soon, you will most likely feel like your are being tugged from one end to another if you are still nursing too long.
    good luck with your choice. You do have some time though.

  34. By tracey on April 28, 2010

    Sigh… I miss nursing a baby. It’s so personal and empowering… You’re so connected to your child at that moment… Hold onto it as long as you can. Any naysayers be damned, they aren’t the ones who are involved in it. Because once you’re done, you’re done. And it’s over and you WILL miss it, no matter how long you do it.

  35. By Jennifer W on April 28, 2010

    Go with the flow, stop when you’re both ready. You’ll know the time when it comes. That’s my 2 cents. That being said, (sigh), breastfeeding your school age child? GROSS. I’m comfortable with two years, maybe three. But that’s just me. And I wasn’t even able to breastfeed my own.

  36. By on April 28, 2010

    I don’t have kids yet so maybe I don’t really know but personally I feel that breastfeeding beyond one is odd. A family friend breastfed her son until he was four or five and it always looked so wrong to have a grown child latched on to her breast. Is there really any need for the child emotionally do that? And, does it really make any difference nutritionally? At the end of the day, I wouldn’t do it but really it is up to each person individually.

  37. By AmyBeth on April 28, 2010

    I don’t have an opinion to share, other than just do what is right for you.

    But can I just say, you ladies all rock! Generally speaking breast feeding discussions (especially online) turn pretty heated and can get nasty. Just read all the comments and you are all awesome.

    Sarah, you draw good folk to you. :-)

  38. By Nili on April 28, 2010

    I have an almost 13 month old….I knew that I would nurse him to 12 months at least but not any longer than 18 months.  He is only nursing in the morning now.  I enjoy our time together and have had nothing but a wonderful breastfeeding experience.  I think that the “when to wean” time is personal and is different with each child.

  39. By on April 28, 2010

    I think breastfeeding is great. However, I have to say that after a certain age it needs to be stopped. Children need to gain independence and learn to self-soothe on their own. I could not imagine my child coming up to me at nine years of age and wanting to be breastfed. That’s kind of creepy to me. I think two would be the limit for me; most likely earlier. Yes, it is a great bonding experience but there are other ways to bond.

    I watched a show on the discovery or health channel about a mother who breastfed her children until elementary school and it was just all very odd to me. It doesn’t seem natural. I mean, I don’t know how all tribes live but most children gain independence quickly and by 8-10 they’re practically adults. I don’t think they really breastfeed their children.

    I think most people expect breastfeeding to stop at one. I know someone who still breastfeeds her 15 month old and she keeps it very quiet because she feels he’s getting too old to be breastfed. But, I definitely think that when a child is able to come up to you and in a full-sentence ask to be breastfed and even undress you, that’s just strange.

    But that’s just me. To each their own. I don’t mean to offend anyone and I really hope I didn’t!

  40. By Jenn of the Roof on April 28, 2010

    My first son weaned himself around 8 months - I went back to work and despite my best efforts to pump my milk supply plummeted.  I was so sad!  I hope to nurse my second son, now 3 months old, for as long as he wants to nurse.  I can’t quite imagine feeding him at school age, I’d hope that he was independent enough by then not to need it.  Kids will always need their mommies, but I don’t think they need to breastfeed that long.  I have high hopes that we make it to 2, but I wouldn’t have a problem with 3 either.

  41. By Melodie on April 28, 2010

    I have comfortably nursed two girls, one to her third birthday and the other, who is three, I am still nursing. I don’t think there is anything wrong with nursing long term. In fact there are benefits for extended breastfeeding, both nutritional and emotional. I would recommend reading Breastfeeding Older Children by Ann Sinnott.

  42. By Elizabeth on April 28, 2010

    I’ve nursed my kids until wanting to get pregnant again made me stop.  Also, I said I’d never nurse a walking talking child… but I was wrong.  Both kids weaned at 16 months.. so not that extended, I guess.

  43. By Jaimey on April 28, 2010

    Howdie Sarah. :)
    I was very anti BF over a year before I had kiddos. Cause we all know everything before we are there, right? Then I had G. My life and ideas were turned upside down in a wonderful way.

    I BF Grayson until he was 16 months which did NOT make me happy but I was pregnant with Jonathan and it hurt like a mofo for me. If I had known then that Jonathan would not live I would have never weaned. It is one of my few regrets in life. :(  I play to nurse Jax until at least 2 if he will have it and its not horribly painful when I am pg again. (if they overlap)

  44. By on April 28, 2010

    Breast-feed until their in school? I think ya’all need to go see the new movie “Back-Up Plan” which is playing right now.

  45. By on April 28, 2010

    I nursed my son until he was around 3 1/2, and he was definitely not ready to quit but I was a that point, although he was mostly into it for the closeness and ‘falling asleep-ness’ of it at that point.  Whenever someone asked. “omg how long are you going to nurse that kid?“ I would reply, “until he leaves for college"and then laugh and follow it up with"you know, the World Health Organization says that the average weaning age worldwide is 7 years old.“

  46. By on April 28, 2010

    I don’t have much advice, and look forward to reading the comments.

    I am still feeding my 16 month old. After about 10 months she fell into a fairly set routine of feeding, rather than demand. So i’d feed her after each meal, at 11pm and very early in the morning (about 5am then she’d go back ti sleep for a couple of hours). Shortly after her 1st birthday I dropped the post breakfast and post lunch feed. WEll, she went a couple of days without being very interested in these feeds, so I dropped them. This gave me the flexibility to go back to to work if I wanted and not worry about expressing etc. At about 14 months I dropped the 11pm feed. This was hard, because she was VERY committed to this feed. There was much crying that night, but the very next night she woke at 11 amd whimpered for about 2 mins and the night after that she slept through.

    We are now down to 2 feeds: after dinner and 5am. I am basically happy to keep this up until she weans herself, but am having trouble conceiving baby number 2. Some months I don’t ovulate and most months I ovulate VERY late in the cycle meaning my luteal phase is too short to fall pregnant. So now I am torn. I think i will give it two more goes before weaning. I desperately do not want to wean, but also really want another bub so they are close enough in age to play.

  47. By Lauren on April 29, 2010

    I breastfed my first child until she was 12 months, having no specific goals about breastfeeding, and then I fell pregnant. At this stage she was having 3 feeds a day and plenty of food.
    I had read a great deal of literature supporting the idea of child-led weaning and believed it was the right thing to do, however I didn’t want to tandem nurse.  I wasn’t worried about it, as I thought my milk would likely dry up and she’d wean herself. I had bought the book ‘Adventures in Tandem Nursing’ awhile back, just to add to my parenting library and found it a fascinating read- gives you more insight into how the body and nursing relationship works.
    Anyway, my milk dried up in the first trimester, but she kept right on going. In the last 4 weeks she’d sometimes go a few days without a feed and I thought she was done. When my son was born he latched on right away (and I had NO tenderness, cracks or anything, my body was just used to nursing I guess. It’s been great!) and my daughter had a hard time adjusting and instantly weaned. I thought it was for good, but when he was 3 weeks old she started asking for milk again and I didn’t know what to do, but really didn’t want to reject her when she already felt a bit ‘replaced’, you know?
    So now I am feeding a 2 year old and a 3 month old. There are ups and downs, such as when the 2 year old decided she needed to feed as often as her new brother, but that phase soon passed.
    As for this comment of yours-
    ‘I’ve wondered before, like, okay, let’s say I breastfeed through a pregnancy and give birth.  Do I need my toddler up there immediately so that I can empty my breasts after the infant is done so that I don’t get plugged ducts and mastitis?  What about during labor?  Because if I have a 20 hour labor, say, well, that’s a long time for a breastfeeding mother to go without emptying her breasts!  I have no idea how it works!  And there aren’t many people who have done it and can answer all of my questions, you know?‘
    Here is my answer to that- Because your milk dries up (for at least 2/3 of women it does, and the others find their supply diminishes) when you are pregnant, your body is primarily providing for the newborn, so when your next baby is born, there is colostrum, not mature milk yet, and then it will be newborn milk etc- your body looks after the baby first and if toddler gets some too it’s a bonus. Therefore, you are unlikely to need to empty breasts during labour, or afterwards. Anytime I’ve been engorged though, my toddler helped me out and I’ve never had mastitis this time, nor had to pump.

    Also, I’ve found that once your child is 18 months (and other friends have confirmed this too), you can go longer stretches between feeds without getting uncomfortable. I find it sad that so many women wean because they want their body back, when after 12 months, breastfeeding becomes a REALLY casual affair. Also, as for feeding a toddler in public, my daughter has never asked, and I’ve never had to- she’s always too busy. And at her age, if she did ask-  she’d understand it if I told her to wait till we got home.

    The best book I’ve read on extended breastfeeding is Breastfeeding- Biocultural Perspective by Katherine A. Dettwyler.
    I hope you enjoy it as long as it works for you and Charlotte both! It’s sad that people don’t realise how much joy there is (for the mother and child both) in feeding a child past infancy.

  48. By on April 29, 2010

    I have read several articles from WHOs website and have never come across a figure that the age weaning age world-wide is 7.  I find that incredibly hard to believe.  For it to be average, there would have to be as many people nursing 7, 8, 9 year olds (please say it doesn’t go any higher) as 0-7 year olds.  Also many other countries have issues with lack of clean water and access to nutritious food so the benefit of breastfeeding longer is definitely going to be different than the U.S.

  49. By Cynthia Krajcarski on April 29, 2010

    1. I think, as long as the feeling is mutual, that extending breastfeeding is fine. I wanted to nurse Isla until she was two years old… beyond that, I don’t know.

    2. Isla started self weaning already, and she’s 13 months old… She’s on one nursing session now, at night, and she’s even showing some disinterest in that… So you may not have a choice anyway.

    3. I’ve heard from a few sources that you have to let your breasts reset themselves for the new baby. The milk you give Charlotte now is different from the milk a new baby will need. From those sources, I heard that you should stop nursing in your fifth month of pregnancy. I don’t know how accurate that information is, I never bothered to look it up since it’s not going to be an issue for us anyway.

    Good luck making a decision… To make it easy on everyone, hopefully Charlotte will make the decision for you!

  50. By Kate on April 29, 2010

    Extended breastfeeding is definitely not for me.

    My daughter is currently 8 1/2 months and I’m having a lot of trouble nursing her. She’s just too busy for me. In fact, the other day, she went almost 24 hours without nursing. WOULD. NOT. put my breast in her mouth. Or take a bottle of pumped milk.

    I’m finding nursing to be incredibly frustrating already. It’s like wrestling a little critter just to get her to nurse for a few minutes. I can’t imagine what it will be like when she’s on the move.

    I wanted to breastfeed for a year, but when it comes down to it, it’s about her and not me, so I’m pretty sure my breastfeeding days are numbered. I’ll take my cues from her.

    I have other friends whose kids were always interested in the breast. Mine, not so much.

  51. By on April 29, 2010

    sadly, I wasn’t able to BF past a month bc of thyroid issues. I had finally gotten past all of the painful parts, and found my groove when my supply began to disappear. I had hoped to breast feed much longer than that. It is true that other culturd bf much longer than ours… But I would certainly look into the pshycology of bfing a school aged child. I seem to remembe from a college course that children become sexually ‘aware’ around the age of 7. And really in todays society, no matter how we try to protect them, they may become aware even earlier.

    I completely agree that it would be wonderful to give our children any extra help/ boost to their health. But I would be concerened about the psycological effects… Also, while unfair, it would possibly cause them confusion to know that their friends are not bfing and the stigmas of why.

    like I said, I didn’t get the opportunity to bf for long. So maybe I’m looking at this from an outsiders perspective… But it’s certainly a good idea to look at the psychology of it. Plus, like a lot of people have said… Charolette may have other plans.

    no matte what, only you know what is best for you and your sweet little girl.

  52. By on April 29, 2010

    <<I seem to remembe from a college course that children become sexually ‘aware’ around the age of 7. And really in todays society, no matter how we try to protect them, they may become aware even earlier.>>

    Last night, my 9 & 11 year old step-sons were teasing my husband about how they thought he should greet me with rose petals and cheetah underwear when I returned from my business trip after bedtime. So, uh, yeah I agree with the PP on this.

    Also an aside, I told my husband about this thread and about how Sarah knows someone who was BFing a 9yo and he flat out didn’t believe it. Then I told him that Sarah lives in California. That made it a little more believable, LOL.

    You crazy Californians ;)

  53. By Megan on April 29, 2010

    I know this through friends that do extended breastfeeding, when your colostrum comes in, it gives/can give your breastfeeding child diarrhea (mmm!), so this friend stopped at that point. 

    I’m all for extended breast feeding, but probably not passed age 2, but heck factoring in the percentage of mothers that go back to work 8-12 weeks after giving birth 2 years is monumental!

  54. By on April 29, 2010

    Amy you’re right, I could not find anything on the WHO website either.  It was a radio interview that I heard and quoted.
    I found this on their site: “ It is correct that the World Health Organization (WHO) advises breastfeeding to “two years of age or beyond.
    WHO’s infant feeding recommendation states that infants should be exclusively breastfed (no other drink or food) for the first four to six months of life, while being allowed frequent and unrestricted access to the breast. Beginning around four to six months of age, babies can begin receiving appropriate complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or beyond. The immunological properties in breastmilk continue to provide both nutrition and protection from illness as long as your baby/child continues to nurse.“

    I also agree that most moms probably continue in other countries for nutritional reasons, but I also believe that breast milk provides a lot more immune protection (short and long term) than switching over exclusively to solids. And please believe me when I say that every mom has the right to make her own choices!
    Also, for anyone interested, David Mills at UC Davis has been doing some fascinating research on mom’s milk and precisely how babies benefit. About 50% has no nutritional benefit to babies, but is needed to build future immunity.

  55. By on April 29, 2010

    Since so many of your commenters seem to think age 2 is a good stopping point, and I totally would LOVE to stop nursing my little guy soon (he’s 23 months), I’m wondering—anyone have tips?  It feels like it’s never going to happen.

    As a total aside, I LOVED your recent post about cleaning, or not cleaning.  Find the poem ‘Song to a Fifth Child’ (or something like that).  I think you’ll like it.  :)

  56. By on April 29, 2010

    I have 3 kiddos.  My first I was 21 and very uninformed as a mother and therefore she was formula fed.  With my second I knew I would do everything to nurse her and I did until she sadly weaned at 2 1/2.  My plan was to nurse her as long as she wanted and I did. My third is almost 19 months and still VERY happily nursing.  I do not plan on weaning him until he self-weans as well so hoping not for at least another year.  Do I believe in nursing older children?  No but I think toddlers still get a HUGE benefit from breastmilk and its what is right for our family.  It’s always been a very calming time for both the baby and I.  It helps us connect and slow down in a hectic life.  I’m not one to cut them off when they hit 12 months-certainly very into self-weaning.  When others couldn’t believe I was still breastfeeding I would always say…well I’m sure she/he wont be nursing when they go to college.
    The WHO says breastfeed for at least two years.  Not that that is what every swayed me because I really think it’s a personal choice but it certainly helped.

  57. By Jodie on April 29, 2010

    For me, something changes around the 2-yr-old mark. The language skills, the want/ability to be more independent. As much as I hate to admit my babies are growing up, once they start behaving more like children and less like babies, my urge to BF dwindles, too. And that’s okay. I think it’s something I will always look back on fondly, but there’s something very wonderful about having my body back to being all mine again.

    ‘I breastfed my first child until she was about 18 months when she sort of just lost interest. Now I am breastfeeding baby #2. He’s only 8 months old now and he already is getting sooo busy that his daytime feedings are becoming difficult. I predict he will move to mainly morning and nighttime feedings sometime around 12-18 months (which is the same thing that happened with child #1). Continuing the morning and evening feedings was a nice way to slowly wean but still have that bonding and snuggling time that is so hard to give up.

  58. By Katelyn on April 30, 2010

    Hi Sarah- my remark is based on someone’s comment about breastfeeding 2 children at once. Someone may have mentioned something about it.. but I don’t have the time to read all 50 comments! I’m only 24 and I don’t have children so I obviously do not breastfeed. However I am around breastfeeding an awful lot with my newborn and maternity photography. Most women I know don’t breastfeed much past 8 months or a year- simply because they go back to work. However, I am thinking of one client/friend I know that was pregnant and breastfeeding her first born baby. The night she went into labor, her first born no longer wanted her breast. Maybe it is a coincidence, but maybe it is biology. :) Also, I will soo be moving out west-ish to nanny for a vegan family. The mother plans on breastfeeding for as long as possible (2-3 years?) for the nutritional benefits to the baby since they do not consume animal products. In this case I am even more for extended breastfeeding at nut milks aren’t advised for young children due to allergy concerns and I’d hesitate giving soy milk to a 2 year old as well. I’m starting to ramble now, so I’ll stop but I wanted to give my 2 cents!

  59. By on April 30, 2010

    Ok, I’m just going to come out and say it: Breastfeeding a 9 year old seems really ridiculous to me. Even a 5 year old. If the argument is for health benefits, then why not just pump and let the kid drink it from a cup? Would you give a 5-9 year old a bottle? In other words, it’s the school-aged kid suckling on their mother’s breast that I have the issue with, not the drinking of the breast milk. I can imagine that there ARE some health benefits to drinking it beyond toddlerhood. But socially, I think there are absolutely no benefits and would argue that it would be the opposite…especially if you did it in public. I would never even dream of doing that! (not that you said you would give her the boob at school or anything, but some people do!)

    I also think comparing the US to other countries in this argument is useless. We do/don’t do a lot of things based on social norms, and this is just one of them. In another culture where this is a norm, people wouldn’t judge it, so it would cause no trauma to your child. Here it easily could, and as a parent, that would be the last thing I wanted for my child….especially since the health benefits are questionable at best. And in some countries where people die everyday from lack of food, breastfeeding an older child might make a lot more sense. It’s just not necessary here.

    Basically, what I’m trying to say (and hopefully I haven’t offended anyone), is that if I felt the evidence of health benefits were overwhelming for a school-aged child to consume breast milk, I would be more than happy to feed it to them. Just not from my breast. I’m also curious about the gender aspect that someone else brought up. I can’t imagine the effect that breastfeeding a 5-9 year old boy would have on him later in life. He would have very VIVID memories of suckling his mother and I’m thinking that might be very confusing in a country where breasts are seen as so sexual. I don’t know….

  60. By Sheila on April 30, 2010

    I think 3 sounds like a quite reasonable end-date.  Any later seems a little strange and unnecessary to me ... but that’s me.  My own goal is 1 year.  If we want to go longer after that, we will.  But I kind of would like a break between kids when I’m not nursing and not pregnant ... and I want a lot of kids.

    My mom, however, nursed all of hers till about 3, and tandem nursed several.  She says the pairs of kids she’s had that nursed together are extra close because of it.  Sure, the toddler is mostly nursing for comfort, but this way they don’t feel “pushed out” by the new baby—they can share with him.  And it leads to a lot of snuggles.  She also says it prevented engorgement, because there’s always the toddler to nurse off the extra.  But on the downside, it is a little more dfficult than nursing one.  She would have them both on her lap, and they would both fall asleep.  So she would have to call one of us to take one kid so that she could put the other down—she couldn’t get up holding them both.  In the end she got a walkie-talkie so that she could call someone to help her without yelling and waking up the kids.  ;)

    At any rate, I wouldn’t be afraid of tandem nursing!  However, I don’t intend to try it myself.  (Watch me eat my words later.  Who knows.)

  61. By on April 30, 2010

    My goal with both of my children was to nurse until a year old… my daughter had different plans and weaned me at 10 months.  I weaned my son at 14 months old… it just felt like the time was right for both of us.  Breastfeeding was such a wonderful experience, and I did feel sad when the time came to stop… but that feeling passed (quickly, actually), and we found other ways to bond, snuggle and love.

    My children are now five and three… it is very hard to imagine nursing either one of them still.  They are so big and gaining their own sense of independence - when they need love and comfort, I’m here with arms wide open and kisses at the ready.  While I’m very supportive of breast-feeding moms, I think I would feel uncomfortable seeing children older than three nurse.  But that is just me, and I have no doubt you’ll do what you feel is best for your family!

  62. By Nichole on May 01, 2010

    I am a huge proponent of extended nursing.

    With my daughter, who is now three, I was committed to nursing her until she turned two.  Well, we ultimately made it to 21 months.  Though I wasn’t ready to stop nursing, she was and I always promised myself that when it stopped being a mutually beneficial relationship, we would stop.  My heart broke more than a little, but I knew that we had done great to get that far. 

    She is healthy and strong.  I can count on one hand the number of colds she’s had and has never had a virus. 

    I am now nursing my baby boy who is 5 1/2 months and again, I strive to make it to the two-year mark. Let’s hope he is willing too!

    Good luck to you and follow your heart.  Only you can know what’s best for your family. 


  63. By on May 01, 2010

    I am currently nursing my third son and I can tell you that my nursing relationship was very different for each child.  My first was a nursing champ from the get go and weaned easily by himself at 15 months mainly because he just was not interested anymore and I was so NOT emotionally ready. But we moved on to other ways of bonding.  My second was a bit more sensitive in the beginning but still weaned by himself at 18 months and a few weeks later I found myself newly pregnant so I think my supply went down and it just happened. His books at bedtime were apparently more interesting than I was because he never looked back!  My third is still going strong at 24 months!  I myself am having these same questions!  But as he becomes more of a boy and less of a baby I am finding it easier to start (one day soon) the weaning process this time around.  I do think I have sleeping champs that settle on their own and I credit this to nursing them to sleep and allowing a comforting routine with sleeping and waking.  I think the decision to wean is just like everything else…..you just go with what feels right for you at the time! Good luck!  Your daughter is adorable!

  64. By on May 01, 2010

    I breastfed my daughter for a year. I also loved breastfeeding, but i think that there comes a time when the kid can walk, and starts to talk, and can lift up your shirt and ask to eat, that enough is enough. In my opinion, after about a year, it’s more about the mom than the kid. Kids eat food, and need to drink milk. Breastfeeding isn’t necessary after that point. Also, I must admit it was nice to have my body back as my own for alittle while before the next kid comes along!

  65. By on May 02, 2010

    There is no real reason (food wise or any otherwise) really to brestfeed older children and I personally think that by the time the kid verbally asks your boobs it’s time to move on. I also have seen some school aged children being brestfeed (including my cousins) and it was a borderline child abuse. Children are supposed to grow and get (more) independent and we are somewhat supposed to cry alone and let them do that. Brestfeeding old children basically just means that the moms are too selfish to let the kids move on. Kids will never double question what the moms think is right, but it’s simple plain disgusting how some people can dominate their older babies like that. I get having a special bound is important but how about snuggling together and reading a book?

  66. By Laura Bishop on May 03, 2010

    My 13 month old Aiden and I are also deciding to continue to breastfeed and as of now I don’t know either when the time will come when he decides to be done. I figure as long as it makes him happy and well-nourished, not to mention the addicting amazing bond that we share with it-why in the world would we stop something so special? And who cares what our society says or doctors? They don’t know everything-there is a big wide world out there of people who breastfeed way longer than most americans because they too cherish the benefits that it offers. I think that people who wean early just don’t enjoy it as much or realize the benefits either. They think about how it’s not convenient for them anymore and are not considering if their child is ready to wean. And when you have a kid, it’s not about YOU anymore so I choose to listen to his needs over mine. It’s a mother’s job. Good for you for giving Charlotte what makes her happy. YOu are an amazing mother. Now will you please follow my blog? Thanks :)


  67. By Elaine on May 06, 2010

    My beautiful little love, Jack, just turned two on May 2nd and I am amazed at how big and strong he is—and I attribute some of that to his parents’ gigantism (Dad is 6’6” and Mama is 5’10”) but some of that to breastfeeding!
    I really didn’t know how to stop. I love breastfeeding. I loved all the gurgles and coos, the instinctual little “kick ins” of the nursing reflex, the grasping hand and the little eye peeking at me! I didn’t know how to let go. However, my husband and I decided to try to wean him over Christmas vacation last year. I bucked down, expecting a week of crying and pleading and angry hatred toward me…and instead there was peace. He’d come up to me and ask with a big smile, “Na-nas?“ Sadly, I’d say gently, “No, baby. No na-nas.“ He’d sigh and then ask for the next best thing, “Beet-ah?“ (Pacifier—>binky—>“beetah”) I’d give him his pacifier and he’d be happy for me to rock him. I know that is NOT TYPICAL, but I was glad that Jack was already ready to stop at 20 months—it was just me unwilling to let go.
    I don’t judge anyone for continuing to nurse, although I think to avoid unnecessary conflict, tension and criticism, much older children should probably limit their nursing session to the home.
    I don’t think our society will ever embrace extended nursing among older toddlers/preschoolers/etc and sometimes I think it’s more self-righteous than productive to try to make a statement.
    Sometimes Jack will see me getting dressed, point to my chest and say, “Na-nas! and ask to nurse. He doesn’t even remember the right way to latch on, which is sad, but kind of a relief now that I’m working on baby #2.
    Good luck with your nursing endeavors and treasure those sweet times with your little one!





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