Celebrities Who Breastfed Toddlers (but not on the cover of TIME)

This is post is made possible by the generous support of Leading Lady.

This post made possible by Leading Lady

The online world was abuzz yesterday with the release of Time Magazine’s newest cover, featuring the portrait of a young, slender mother breastfeeding her 3-year old. The image garnered some intense attention and it is no surprise why: Many Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding – especially breastfeeding that goes beyond the first year of life. It’s a Booby Trap that often keeps nursing past infancy “closeted.”

The fact is, babies are biologically and evolutionarily designed to nurse well into toddlerhood to reap the full benefits . . .even their cute one-size-fits-all button noses are built for dining at the breast and remain until about the age of 5. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for one year “or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.” The World Health Organization (and Health Canada) recommends breastfeeding “for up to two years of age and beyond.” The American Academy of Family Physicians states, “breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement, noting a number of benefits of nursing past infancy, and stating that the estimated “natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years.”  See this for the benefits of “full-term” breastfeeding, and this for the biggest misconceptions. And if you aren’t breastfeeding, or couldn’t or didn’t breastfeed, read this.

But because breastfeeding past one year is often hidden from view, it might appear that children such as the one on the Time cover just don’t exist . . . but they do. Best for Babes collects and shares celebrity stories to increase the cultural acceptance of breastfeeding. The celebrity stories below show that this “uncommon” act of nursing a toddler might be more common than you think.

Kelly Preston, one of Best for Babes’ Champions for Moms, was recently interviewed about breastfeeding her 16 month old son, Benjamin.

“I am still breastfeeding Benjamin and it has been incredibly rewarding and healing. . . . I am also sad to hear that so many moms are being discouraged from breastfeeding past a few months when there are clear benefits to nursing much longer.”

Salma Hayek is a movie star who
proudly breastfed her daughter, Valentina, for more than 15 months.

“When I see how much good it is doing her, I can’t stop.”

 

Kelly Rutherford, star of Gossip Girl and another of Best for Babes’ Champions for Moms was continuing to breastfeed her 3-year old son when her daughter was born in 2009.

“My son is busy doing other stuff and it’s more of a comfort thing, but it is really cute when they are nursing together. He just looks at her, and checks her out, and puts his hand on her little feet. It gives him this close-up intimate look at her, and it’s very beautiful to see them to kind of get to know each other. ”

 

Gwen Stefani shared with The Guardian in 2007 that she was
breastfeeding her son Kingston well into his second year,

“I don’t know when I’m going to stop breast-feeding,…
I’ll just keep going while I can.”

 

Mayim Bialik has been very vocal about
her experience breastfeeding her boys into their toddlerhood and beyond.

“When I see my precious son gaze into my eyes and grin that milky grin – the same eyes that looked into mine minutes after he careened out of my body; the eyes that convinced me that my only job was to keep this child thriving with the miraculous resources given to me through my body- not much else matters.”

Erykah Badu, who has added the titles of birth advocate and doula alongside those of singer and songwriter, had this to say about her child,

“When I first had the baby, I breastfed for two years straight, so we were together for two years of his life every day, all hours of the day.  So I was two people, and I eventually morphed back into one.”

Jada Pinkett Smith shared with Fit Pregnancy
in 2000 about breastfeeding her son, Jaden.

“[I breastfed him] a good 18 months. That baby never even saw a bottle. He went everywhere with me — premieres, award shows. I would just find a back room and hook him up.”

 

Nelly Furtado, singer and mother,
took her breastfeeding daughter with her on tour in 2006.

“I’m a lot more comfortable with myself now,” she says. “I was pregnant for nine months and breast-feeding for two years.”

Finally, legend has it that Michael Jordan was breastfed until he was 3 years old. His mother, Deloris Jordan, has reflected:

“I feel this is why he is the athlete he is.”

 

As more celebrities breastfeed their children and choose to share this experience with the public, let’s cheer them on and celebrate each and every moment, moving it from uncommon to common.

How do you feel about breastfeeding beyond one year? What could change in our culture that would encourage mothers towards extending the time before weaning?

 Photo Credits:  Kelly Preston, Salma Hayek (John McNab via Flickr), Kelly Rutherford, Gwen Stefani (Dennis Stefani), Mayim Bialik (Mingle MediaTV via Wikimedia Commons), Erykah Badu (Badu Nation via Flick), Jada Pinkett Smith (Jerry Avenaim via Wikimedia Commons), Nelly Furtado (Ovtovaz via Flick), and Michael Jordan (Steve Lipofsky at basketballphoto.com. via Wikimedia Commons).



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36 Comments | Last revised on 05/12/2012


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36 Responses to Celebrities Who Breastfed Toddlers (but not on the cover of TIME)

  1. Buffymom9 says:

    After reading these celebrity mom quotes I feel like I identify with their sentiments exactly. I found them rather intelligent too.

  2. Monica says:

    Tgis is great! I wanted to follow the link on benefits of full-term BFing, but it doesn’t work, would love to see that article!

  3. Why do you feel the need to specify “but not on the cover of TIME”? The mom on the cover of TIME happens to be a friend of mine, and a damn fine mother. She is no less heroic than any of the celebrities you mentioned. Or is it just fashionable this week to separate yourself from the TIME cover? Way to try to align yourself.

    • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

      Mandi, I think you misunderstood. Our point with the cover title is that nursing a toddler is no big deal, lots of women, even celebrities do it! If you follow how I’ve been quoted in the media (Time, Huffington Post, TMZ etc.) this week you’ll see that Danielle Rigg, my co-founder, and I DEFEND the cover image. We think what Jamie did is great.

    • Tammy says:

      I too am an extended bfing mom for many years to 5 of my children,and an outspoken bfing advocate but even I was a little taken aback by the cover. And I couldn’t figure out why. Today I’ve determined it. I think its because its such an ” in your face” kind of picture. Its almost defiant. It seems to reinforce the mistaken ideas about bfing and what people commonly rail about regarding public bfing, and nursing in general – breas t out, kid just hanging there, not the nurturing, nourishing act that it is. I think this mom is brave and a warrior. But many people will not think that way.

    • Selena says:

      The tone I read it in was basically that, sure, these celebs are pro-BF… but they didn’t have the fortitude to do it on the cover of Time!
      Mandi, I realize your friend has had a lot of negative reactions in addition to the good, but this isn’t one of them. It’s nice to know she’s got a fighter for a friend though!

  4. Hooray! Thank you for your smart and insightful commentary and thank you to the amazing celebrities who are willing to come forward and stand as champions in a fight we should not even have to have!

  5. chris scott says:

    Life —Sex on Tv but you can not breastfeed that is wrong.We see animals breastfeed and think thats ok but we are animals to.animals have sex on Tv the world goes cool but we are animals human to.

  6. Robin Kaplan says:

    Fantastic article, Amber! It is so important that moms stop judging one another and just focus on what is best for their own families. If that means you do extended breastfeeding, than please do it:) It is no one else’s concern!

  7. Donna says:

    I love to read about these mothers giving their babies the best possible start in life. Not only are they “celebrities”, they all seem to be women of substance. I remember et the flak Salma Hayak took for nursing a poor baby when she was on tour for UNICEF & how much I admired her for it.

  8. Tina,Russo says:

    I am so glad breastfeeding is comming out of the closet.I am a midwife an have seen hundreds of mothers nurse there babe’s,neavere a issue.Breasts have become a object of sexual pleasure only,some look at porn behind cosed doors,violence,rape,and that becomes normal,however people see a natural function of the birth process and treat it as sexual.I can;t help but think our education for all the time and money spent has failed in teaching us about 2 major occurencess in life.Birth and death..2 things people are so afraid of…

  9. Richelle says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! I am a mother of 5 and am currently breastfeeding my 16 month old daughter. I breastfed all my other biological children until age 1. However, my youngest daughter was preemie and is still very small for her age. Nevertheless, almost on a daily basis I have close friends and family members asking me questions like, “So… She’s not showing any signs of wanting to wean yet???” or the more direct, “How long you gonna keep breast feeding that kid?!?” My heart always sinks. An image of a barefoot, sun-kissed, flower-clad hippie, with a 7 year old still suckling crosses my mind. I don’t want to be viewed as the local progressive weirdo. But Really? Nothing is more natural and more beneficial to a child’s health than breastfeeding. And when and where that age line gets drawn… To me, is a very personal choice to be made between mother and child. So the big question remains, How do you lovingly tell well-meaning nay-sayers to butt out???

  10. Robyn Coburn says:

    The only problem with this list of celebrities who breastfed for longer is that they are all, with the exception of Mrs. Jordan, stars in the entertainment industry. This means a high level of flexibility and accommodation, often a higher level of affluence which means helpers, in many cases the personal power to ask people to wait for them while they attend to their children. People love seeing celeb kids, so no-one is going to mind Jada bringing her toddler to an awards show or red carpet. But how welcome is the toddler of the make-up artist, key grip or production coordinator at the same premiere?

    While I absolutely applaud these busy women for continuing to nurse and say so in such matter-of-fact terms, it is a lot easier for them than for a working class mom or an office worker, or even someone in the entertainment industry who is not a celebrity, but a support worker, whose economic survival depends on working those 8, 10 or in the case of film making often 12 hour days, away from their baby.

    Yes breastfeeding can continue in those circumstances, but it makes for a lot more work. And there is still the issue of physical separation that is so heartbreaking for many moms.

    Personally I breastfed my daughter until she was 8 years old. By the end it was entirely in the evenings at home. I finally insisted on weaning because it had become painful, and I was reluctant to cuddle her in the evening because she would ask to nurse. It was only a few days before she was accepting and content.

    Before she was born, I was a production designer and set decorator working in independent film. I realized that the kind of hours and emotional intensity my job entailed were not compatible with the kind of fully present attachment parent I wished to be. With my husband’s support, I repurposed my life into being a work-at-home mom (artist and writer). I wish my career had been so fabulous that I miss it.

    I did make a couple of casual, freelance forays back into the business, including bringing my nursing toddler to a jobsite, with my own assistant to keep her busy in a separate room (what would have been the equivalent of my office) off the set. I nursed a couple of times during the work day set up. While I nursed, my assistant (another art department worker) stepped on the set to help if needed. My daughter made no noise, and we were only preparing the day before a live broadcast, not shooting. In short, my daughter caused no problems or delays of any kind.

    Yet, I was told not to bring her back next time. I bet no-one ever said that to Selma Hayek on her movie set.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Very true about the “privileges” (so to speak) these celebrities receive. I work full time and had to pump 2-3 times a day. I made it to a year and decided I just couldn’t keep up the pumping, but would like to continue nursing as long as possible. Unfortunately, my supply dipped off almost immediately and we had to stop. If I was in a job that allowed me to tote my son everywhere and drop everything when he needed to nurse, we probably would have made it much longer.

  11. Laura says:

    I’m so glad you are going to talk about the toddler boobie traps. My daughter’s year mark in just around the corner and I just don’t feel like we’ll quit right away. It’s so hard though because there is so… much pressure, and PUMPING! I have decided that I will not longer pump at work after a year, and just nurse at home when I can. I feel guilt for giving into social pressures (and my work is very supportive of bf) but it difficult. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

  12. mem says:

    I would print this and translate it into Spanish for a friend of mine who was totally puzzled and even shocked when I told her I kept beastfeeding my 2 and a half years old baby. She just asked: why?? She even told me when she was mother, like 30 years ago, breastfeeding was recommended for 3 first months of life and artificial milk was imposed by the doctors together with regular food then. I just feel sad and angry when I know about all the failed breastfeeding experiences just because of mad doctors and stupid “rules”, on top of prejudices and social rejection :(

  13. Dawn says:

    I was afraid to be the mom nursing a toddler. Then when my son turned 1 and really changed from a baby to a little boy I realized I WAS nursing a toddler! At 15 months he still wasn’t really eating a lot of sold foods, despite my best efforts. Now he’s 18 months and the relationship has changed again. He has the appetite of a teenager but he hasn’t slowed down on the breast milk AT ALL. It’s his comfort, like a blankie, a binkie, or a stuffed animal. I nurse him to sleep at night and awake in the morning. I wish more celebs would come out of the breastfeeding closet. I wish TIME would have used a celeb for that cover shot. I bet the reaction would’ve been a total 180 degree difference. I hate that the awesome relationship I have with my son somehow feels “tainted” because of the social stigma. I hate that something SO healthy and wonderful is looked at as cheap and stupid in our culture. This whole issue is so frustrating to me and the TIME cover – which could’ve made a world of difference for the better – just seems to have made it 100 times worse.

  14. I love this article – nice normal women doing a veyr normal thing!

  15. Lucia says:

    I have been breastfeeding my Daughter for 9 months so far and would love to continue into the future but unfortunately unlike these celebs i have to return to work shortly and i work shifts so i won’t be able to accommodate feeding as well. My Daughter struggles to accept a bottle/beaker but am having to persist before i have to reluctantly leave her. Its society that has it wrong i don’t know why exactly we have such a prudish view of breastfeeding and why we can’t be like other countries and accept it right into toddler years? I have loved every minute of feeding her and feel it has been so beneficial for her however because of my circumstances i feel a lot of pressure to break her need for me and the comfort she gets from feeding. It makes me sad :-( i applaud any women who continue feeding to whenever they can, should be actively encouraged! x

  16. Merry Miller Moon says:

    I was so thankful that I was able to breastfeed my son, because my sister wasn’t able to breastfeed her son-she just couldn’t make enough milk for him to thrive/survive. My son turns 19 mos. old today and we are still going strong! I have stopped pumping milk while at work so we are only doing the “supply and demand”-but he is still demanding it and I’m still supplying it.:) I think the only problem with the Time magazine article/cover was the heading “Are you mom enough?”. I have no problem with seeing a toddler breastfed. Kudos to the model for being able to supply him milk for that long period of time! I hope we can go that long! But, I’m several years older than that woman, so I don’t know if my body will hold up that long or that my son will want to go that long. But he determines how long he wants to nurse. I wished our socitiel attitude towards nursing was more accepting. It seems like boobs are okay as long as they are viewed sexually, but show them for feeding purposes (which is what they were designed for) and people wig out! Ex. the whole Facebook anti-breastfeeding picture posts. What’s the big deal? I’m just providing my son with nature’s nutrition! the very best for him and ME! :) Keep up the good work fellow breastfeeding mommas! What we do take a huge committment-I think people just seem to forget/neglect that concept! But, it takes hard work on both the mother’s and the child’s parts! Besides giving birth to my son, breastfeeding him is the best thing I’ve ever done! Nothing compares to the closeness or the bond that we have established! Lactate on ladies!! :)

  17. Great article, and wonderful discussion!

    As a volunteer lactation support provider, and a mom of 2 boys, one 9 months and one 5 year old son with Autism, I`ve been nursing non stop since our first son was born, and will continue to do so, untill the kids outgrow the need.

    You cannot force a kid to nurse. They will stop when they don`t need to nurse anyore.

    And please keep in mind ANY breastmilk kiddos get is beneficial. So, even if you have to work full time, there`s no reason why you cannot continue to nurse some of the time when you are home and available.

    Cheers!

  18. beverly says:

    As usual its okay to be half naked on magazines showing youre breasts on the cover of a magazine or exposing yourself on T.V. But when it comes to breast feeding youre child which is natural normal and meant to be that is considered “not normal” Come on America wake up and realize being a breast feeding mom well into toddlerhood is the norm and right thing to do!!! I wonder if people would tell Michael Jordan or his mom that they arent normal!YEAH RIGHT!!!

  19. Mom of one says:

    (Like Robyn Coburn touched on)
    I applaud this – but also want to shine the light on something..
    Jada Pinkett Smith says her baby ‘never even saw a bottle’, other celebs alike said the babies never left their sides.. these are EXTREMELY wealthy women who can afford to be solo with their babes, while hired help does the dishes, the laundry, cleans the house, cooks breakfast/lunch/dinner/snacks, write their emails, assistants to answer phone calls and make appointments for them. The list goes one. All mamas beware of living up to these celebs. Breastfeeding past a year is awesome, but this shower of affection to celebs is no different then comparing yourself and applauding to their photoshopped bodies (including 7days a week with a trainer/chef/etc) in magazines and tabloids.

  20. Kaysha says:

    I am so glad to read this article! My 4th child is now 13 months old. My goal was one year, as recommended. Its been a rough one; returning to work, supply issues, an unsupportive employer, and pumping. We have since moved closer to family, some of whom does not support BFing. I have become ashamed of having to stop entertaining certain visitors, to nurse, and I hate that. I’ve been asked about weaning, and as the teeth came in, I thought I wanted to. But my baby girl, who may very well be the last baby, is not ready. I realized that “I” am not ready. So, reading this article has helped me decide to go, ‘just a little longer’. The thought of never making milk again, brings forth tears.

  21. Paala says:

    Thanks for the wonderful post! I really enjoyed reading their quotes on breastfeeding their older babies. I am nursing my 2 1/2 year old, and I feel like I am “closeted” most of the time with her, so any positive stories help me keep on going and give me strength to NIP without shame. I wish there were more celebs to read about though. I thought there were more that I’ve seen but I can’t recall who. And I hope you don’t mind that I linked to your article on my blog today – http://doublethink.us.com/paala/2012/05/15/sweet-links-babysitter-fail-celebrities-who-breastfed-toddlers-cow-milk-youths-thoughts-on-birth/

  22. Laura says:

    I’m going to start this with to each their own but I disagree to a certain point. Children after a certain age are supposed to be weaned from a bottle and given primarily food with milk. I can understand breast feeding once at night before bed but to say your child is getting better nutrients from the breast milk then from food is beyond absurd unless your diet is perfect. Meaning no junk food and keeping it to primarily eating clean fooda I.e. fresh fruits and vegetables. I think that is a certain point where it is taken to far children need to learn to be able to eat on their own. I’m sorry I didn’t breast feed till my daughter was a toddler or even older and even felt bad when I stopped but my ob said it best formula now a days is as
    good as breast milk and the only nutrients in breast
    Milk that are better then anything else is the colstrom. So the only thing accomplished by breastfeeding a 3 year old is your insecurity of not wanting to cut the cord. At some point a child has to learn to be a child and not a baby on your breast

    • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

      Hi Laura, thank you for sharing your viewpoint! I would encourage you to read some of the research about extended breastfeeding, and the immune protection provided by mother’s milk regardless of the age. Check out the article in USA Today and in Scientific American, and also see our blog post, Kelly Preston & Extended Breastfeeding. Unfortunately, though I am sure your OB means well, he/she is incorrect. Formula is an adequate substitute when breastfeeding is not feasible but is completely devoid of the immune protection, growth factors, and about 400 ingredients in breastmilk that can not be reproduced in a laboratory. Most doctors are not educated in the latest research on breastfeeding and human milk. Thanks again for commenting.

    • Sylvia says:

      You are incorrect in your assertion that a mother needs a “perfect” diet in order for her breast milk to be nourishing. Breast milk will leach all needed nutrients for the child, whether it leaves the mother malnourished, or otherwise. Children DO learn to eat on their own. I personally haven’t seen any adults still breastfeeding or older children never eating any solids. Why do you feel the need to rush as it to be sooner rather than later? And, I’m sorry, but there is no way formula will ever be as good as breast milk. Breast milk changes to your babies needs and has extensive immunity boosters. That cannot be replicated by formula. You were misinformed.

  23. Melanie T says:

    Can you get Alanis? She is speaking out about AP and breastfeeding past infancy. Thanks for all you do!

  24. dot says:

    I think there should be more support and advice on tandem breastfeeding – I thought it would be too stressful to feed two, so gave up when pregnant with second.

    Also, breast surgeons don’t always understand breastfeeding. I was told to give up breastfeeding my second so I could have a biopsy on a breast lump. Luckily I saw another doctor who was happy for me to carry on breastfeeding even after a lumpectomy operation.

    These are things that can get in the way of extended breastfeeding if women don’t get the right advice and support.

  25. Lisa says:

    In spite of being wealthy and having assistants,cooks,maids,etc, these are very s
    trong women.Society still looks down on or sexualizes breast feeding.Yes,many moms in the world brest feed beyond a year and it’s no big deal, but nowadays it takes celebrity voices to get a point across.Especially in North America.

    I wish I kept bf-ing well beyond a year,but my daughters had other ideas.Hopefully I get the opportunity with #3.

    Good article. I hope it reaches and inspires more moms to not only breastfeed longer, but to simply breastfeed period.

  26. Becca says:

    Hooray for wealthy women who could be with their toddlers 24/7! Boo for the job I had to go back to and my son’s self-weaning at 10 months (I pumped thereafter). These women are very lucky to have had the opportunity to breastfeed their children for so long.

  27. JRho says:

    Any source material about Michael Jordan’s mother other than another blog? Where does the original quote come from?

  28. Jamie says:

    I don’t understand why people call it extended breastfeeding. In reality, breastfeeding for two years is called full-term breastfeeding. The World Health Organization says that a baby should have breast milk for at least the first two years of life. Breasts are designed to produce milk and babies are designed to consume that milk. How can anyone find something disgusting or offensive about that?

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