Kelly Preston and “Extended” Breastfeeding

As someone who didn’t want to breastfeed past six months (and feared embarrassment), I can understand where some of the comments (230+ and counting!) are coming from with regards to Kelly Preston’s news that she is nursing 16-month old Benjamin  (see PEOPLE.com–we shared it here last week, when we announced Kelly as a Best for Babes Champion for Moms).

Ben may be wearing jeans, but he’s still a baby!!

What changed my mind about nursing past a few months was the fact that 1) breastfeeding after 6 months was SO easy and convenient, especially while traveling or running errands, and it seemed silly NOT to continue, and 2) my 2-year old daughter was the only one of her peers not to be hospitalized for dehydration during a nasty rotovirus outbreak; breastmilk was the only fluid she could keep down (not pedialyte or water).

While intuitively we sense that breastfeeding  after a year is biologically and evolutionarily advantageous, we need more studies to bear that out (see this comment).  In the meantime, the below was culled from Kellymom.com and other sources:

FACTS about breastfeeding after 1 year:

  • After 1 year, human milk has significantly increased fat and energy contents, compared with human milk before 1 year.  Babies’ brains are growing and NEED the extra fat & especially human cholesterol.
  • In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides (Dewey 2001):  29% of energy requirements, 43% of protein requirements,36% of calcium requirements,75% of vitamin A requirements,76% of folate requirements, 94% of vitamin B12 requirements, 60% of vitamin C requirements . Note that this is exactly what baby humans need; cow’s milk is designed to grow baby cows which have smaller brains per body mass.
  • Nursing toddlers between the ages of 16 and 30 months have been found to have fewer illnesses and illnesses of shorter duration than their non-nursing peers (Gulick 1986).  In other words, the longer that toddlers are allowed to nurse, the lower their risk of disease.  There is also a proportionate increase in IQ for babies and toddlers who breastfeed longer, i.e. higher IQ for breastfeeding over 1 year vs. 6-12 months.
  • Some of the immune factors in breastmilk increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process. (Goldman 1983, Goldman & Goldblum 1983, Institute of Medicine 1991).
  • In cultures where mothers and babies are not pressured to wean prematurely, babies self-wean  naturally between 2.5 and 7 years of age, with most babies self-weaning around age 3 or 4. (Dettwyler)
  • The longer babies are allowed to nurse the better socially adjusted they are. Per the researchers, ‘There are statistically significant tendencies for conduct disorder scores to decline with increasing duration of breastfeeding.’”
  • Breastfeeding toddlers (babies > 1 year), helps them learn to self-soothe and self-regulate, manage frustrations (some parents report avoiding the “terrible twos” altogether) and lessens pain from bumps and bruises (breastmilk contains analgesics, i.e. natural pain-killers).  Nursing toddlers are easier to handle in the doctor’s office, too!
  • Breastfeeding toddlers (babies > 1 year) helps them make a gradual transition to childhood, “Meeting a child’s dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence. And children outgrow these needs according to their own unique timetable.”  Children who achieve independence at their own pace are more secure in that independence then children forced into independence prematurely.
  • The longer mothers breastfeed, the lower their risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease.
  • Older babies/toddlers nurse fewer times per day, most people are usually unaware they are nursing.
  • Babies that are old enough to “ask” to nurse are also old enough to say “thank you”, one of the sweetest experiences any mother can experience!

So, truthfully, there is no such thing as “extended” breastfeeding or “still” breastfeeding much as there is no such thing as “extended” walking or “still” walking.   Breastfeeding, like walking, is part of being human and begins and ends when it is evolutionary and developmentally advantageous.  In the case of breastfeeding, that is birth to somewhere between 2.5 and 7, end of story.   Anything other than that is premature weaning–and we all need to accept and acknowledge that.

Here’s what breastfeeding beyond a year looks like — it’s especially important that we SEE it because what we don’t SEE we often don’t regard as normal.

Of course, some women may choose to wean early for various reasons (I did!), but we owe it to ourselves to acknowledge and OWN those reasons.   Furthermore, nobody should be judged for weaning at any time, but listened to, UNDERSTOOD and accepted.    Through this kind of supportive dialogue, mothers are more likely to breastfeed longer, and start to think about whether, if any, booby traps kept them from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals.   No matter when a mother weans,  every ounce, every day counts!  Cheer moms on first, listen and seek to understand before you educate.  Don’t leave an angry rant on a blog. :-)

 

What made you decide to breastfeed longer than you intended?   What have you done that has worked to encourage other moms to nurse longer than they intended?



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101 Comments | Last revised on 04/19/2012


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101 Responses to Kelly Preston and “Extended” Breastfeeding

  1. Grace Coffee says:

    Thanks this is great! I am nursing a 16 month old myself and I am happy to hear some facts about the increased concentration of things in milk in the 2nd year!

    • Lilia says:

      I will also continue breastfeeding. This WONDERFUL information about continuing breastfeeding after a year is not socially accepted by my mother in-law and by my own mother. They don’t agree with me. They think it will make my child less independent. But, I know that that is not true. I know that my child will have more confidence in achieving his own independence as soon as he feels ready. I will need the support of my husband, so that my extended breastfeeding is understood by everyone in our family. They need to know the facts and benefits and accept our decision. I am only doing this because I truly believe that the benefits of breastfeeding longer than a year are going to benefit my child’s health and impact his self stem in a wonderful way. I want my child to grow up as happy as he can be and have that true connection with myself and his daddy. The ost wonderful thing his the greatness it will bring to his good health. (The only thing is that we want to have another child and I know it’s a bit hard when your are exclusively breastfeeding). I believe in breastfeeding and I want to give my child the best start ever in his health. I know that my determination will help me get through any hard times my family gives me. I just want them to understand and respect our extended breastfeeding. I give Thanks to God for this wonderful blessing he has given to us mothers. Our milk helps us to give our babies a healthy immune system and a wonderful and strong self stem to give them them a wonderful BOOST start in their life. I proudly say “I’m breastfeeding my child thanks to God and I don’t see why I should forbid him from this wonderful nutrition that God made me produce especially for him. :)
      Keep Breastfeeding mommas!!!

      • Faye Hughes says:

        Ah that was lovely! especially the God bit :) I’m still breastfeeding my boy will be 2 yrs old Feb 1st. Not sure when I’ll give it up but I know its best for him and for me. I enjoy the closeness that we have and yes I think about his immune system and brain development etc. All the best hun x x

    • tiffany says:

      my son is almost 6 months and i was going to switch to formula and go back to work but i think going a year would really benefit his health. especially after reading all the things that are actually in breastmilk like vitamins and nutrients. the list goes on and on. i really love nursing and i would miss the bonding and closeness from it if i did stop. some people in my family thought he was getting on the hefty side and they thought i was overfeeding him but the breastfeeding nutritionist said he was fine, and that it actually helps them not be obese when they get older.

      so to all you nursing moms out there good luck and keep it up! your giving your child the best! (:

  2. Angela Quinn says:

    Here’s my story of how I ended up breastfeeding longer than I intended.

    My initial goal for my first baby was to breastfeed for 6 weeks, until I had to go back to work. My mom breastfed 6 kids until toddlerhood, but I thought that you could only do that if you were a stay-at-home mom. After a c-section with some complications and many many nursing woes, I didn’t feel like I could safely wean at 10 weeks when I returned to work. So I decided to pump just a little longer. Finally, around 4 months, things started to turn around. We finally started getting the hang of it. By 6 months, I felt like it would have been a waste to get through all that and then quit. Then he started having some health issues between 6 – 9 months, so I kept going “just through those.” Then I started reading more about it and became increasingly committed to it.

    By 12 months, I was a full-on breastfeeding advocate and was aware of all the benefits of “extended” breastfeeding. When I proudly told my pediatrician he was still nursing at his one-year visit, he wrinkled his nose at me and told me that was “not really socially acceptable” anymore and I would need to quit soon and I should now give him cow’s milk. Thankfully, I was stubborn (and irritated) enough to request my records on the way out and switch doctors. His new doctor diagnosed his many health issues as likely to be related to allergies, and we went through testing. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to the doctor who tried to booby trap us because HE WENT ANAPHYLACTIC WITH 2 OUNCES OF COW’S MILK in the allergist’s office. Needed rescue therapy and everything. He could have died at home.

    Once we knew this, I went totally dairy-free and decided to pump at work until he was 2, so that his only milk would be mine. After his second year, we continued nursing, most weeks just a couple times a week, until he was about 3. And THAT’s how an initial goal of 6 weeks turned into 3 years…and a future of lactivism and advocacy including becoming a LLL Leader and later an IBCLC. You never know where life will take you!

    • Linda says:

      That is just amazing! I can totally relate to you:) very similar story especially the part when you became THE breastfeeding advocate:)

    • Jennifer V says:

      Wow! That is wonderful! A supportive pediatrician is great to have, mine is wonderful and is also an extended bf-ing mom. I love getting praises and compliments from her staff when I tell them that my little one is exclusively breast fed!

  3. Nicola says:

    When my oldest son was born, I knew I was going to breastfeed. I didn’t set myself a goal, or an intended weaning age, I just aimed to get through that feed, that day, which at first was difficult as I was struggling with PTSD from his birth. At 2 months I went on bf friendly anti ds, and before I knew it, he was 6 months old, then a year old, then I found out I was pregnant again, and fed him throughout pregnancy until his little brother arrived. He was 22 months old when he became a big brother, and 19 months later, I still have two nurslings. He is almost 3.5 years old now. I had no clue that I’d become “one of those people” who I previously “ewww”ed at but here we are, although I’m ready for him to wean, he shows no signs of stopping yet! He’s down to one feed a day (set by me) and I see that feed continuing for some time to come!

  4. Rita Yasmer says:

    I wish that mothers who choose not to breastfeed or “couldn’t breasfeed” for whatever reason, would just stop making negative comments. Leave mothers that choose to breastfeed a toddler or preschooler alone. It is our choice just like it is your choice to feed your human baby milk that is made for baby cows. Is it your guilt that makes you so negative?

    • Mel says:

      Well said. Why should breastfeeding mothers have to tip toe around formulas mothers? I’m proud to feed my child as nature intended. If they chose convienience of formula then they should be proud of it and not put us down and telling us ” to get off our high horse” as I’ve heard some women say

      • Colby says:

        Please understand the “formula moms” might not feel proud but pushed into the choice they made. I wish that stories like this would be mainstream and actually change how the workplace treats breastfeeding women. I didn’t want to choose formula but did upon returning to work because I just couldn’t figure out how to make it work. Reading stories like this brings back that experience and my regret. I wish it went differently, it didn’t. Please keep the great information coming, one day people won’t think it’s strange they will just expect that bf is how mamas feed their kiddos.

      • Hannah says:

        Your comment is just as mean?? ( hypocrites)

    • Hannah says:

      They are mothers who have a right to Participate in their experience of feeding their children.

  5. Ingrid says:

    What made me want to nurse past a tear was reading mom’s sweet and funny experiences of nursing toddlers over at Kellymom! I found them when my 16mo was about 4 months and it opened my eyes to a world where nursing was actually considered awesome. And it is! LOVING it, and forever indebted to those moms. (Holla!)

  6. Mary says:

    Oh wow. I have to back away from that People article before I do something I regret.

    • Rachel says:

      SO you have something negative to say about what GOD fully inteneded women to use the breast for? What do you do when formula companies make mistakes? Like RECALLS!!! Like they have before! Hmmmm sure dont have to worry about that with breast milk. Glad i can give my baby something actually good for him and not ARTIFICIAL:)

      • Rebecca says:

        before attacking her statement … realize she could be saying she’s feeling irritated by peoples comments to the article, not the article itself. I think the point here is encouragement, not being overly jumpy on a statement that may not be anything different than what the author of this article was saying…

      • Rachel W says:

        I think she may have meant that she had issues with the negative comments following the People article, not the article itself or breastfeeding. :)

      • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

        Rachel, please pause before making an assumption about what kind of comment Mary would have left. Also, your comments about formula are insensitive to those moms who had low milk supply, or had to use formula for a number of very good reasons! This space needs to be respectful and cheering on of all moms, regardless of how they feed their babies. We are here to educate and cheer moms on to give their personal best, whatever that looks like. Thank you.

        • Hannah says:

          I was a breastfeeding mother, but some of these breastfeeding women are shaming mothers for their choice, which is just as valid as their choice, why so mean? Why do you feel the need to invalidate other women so much? It doesn’t affect you what they put into their child’s bodies? I had formula feeding friends and we got along just fine.. I never felt the need to put them down..

  7. Bethany says:

    My plan with my first was to nurse to 1 year. We made it the year and it seemed completely random and arbitrary to stop nursing at that point so we kept going until my son weaned himself (with a tiny push from me) at 2 years 7 months. Still going strong with my second son who is almost 22 months old!

  8. Sarah says:

    I nursed my son for 22 months. Right around the time he was 15 months old, his dad left us and I feel that providing that stability and comfort was what got us BOTH through the difficult time. Today, at almost four, he is SMART and HEALTHY. By the time I weaned him, he was ready and it was so easy and not emotionally strenuous. If I had to do it over, I wouldn’t change a single thing.

  9. Susana says:

    I did not have the tenacity to continue to try breastfeeding and my kids were formula babies after two months, how ever I am very much for breastfeeding and do my best to encourage breastfeeding. Those who judge the beautiful simple and natural act of breastfeeding are ignorant individuals, not mommies who couldn’t. EDUCATION over critisization helps to end the ignorance!

  10. Another reason to accept breastfeeding beyond the norm: some moms just produce a lot of milk, and if we don’t get the milk out, we get mastitis. I’ve been hospitalized twice with antibiotic resistant mastitis. The doctors even told me when I was in the hospital that I could risk losing a breast if I did not get the infection under control. The only way to get the infection under control is to use antibiotics and continually get the milk out. Unfortunately getting the milk out means that your body just wants to make more.

    I breastfed my first-born son for 3.5 years. This is largely because I had a stillborn baby girl when he was two years old. My body didn’t know the difference and started pumping out the milk, regardless of all of my efforts to dry up. My boy loved nursing, and he really didn’t like any other kind of food. My breasts filled up and hurt so bad and another infection was starting to take place, as I could feel it. So I did what was only natural–fed it to my two year old.

    I did this regardless of the lack of societal support. My mother-in-law told me that I was in fact risking being arrested for child sexual abuse. Imagine how angry and mortified I was when she said that! I’m glad I am a reasonable enough person to see through the falseness of that claim.

    Attitudes have got to change!

    • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

      I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter. How brave are you to continue inspite of pressure from your mother-in-law! You did the best thing for your son, your mastitis, and your healing process. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story!

  11. Akklia says:

    The proper term for breastfeeding until natural weaning is:

    “Full Term Breastfeeder.”

    Those that wean early will never get it. I am an accidental “Full Term Breastfeeder,” and I am glad I became one. I see marked physical differences in those that are weaned early.

    I will never understand women who are only willing to share their insides with their little babies, and, somehow think breastfeeding and sharing the best food ever for their baby mammals is grosser than canfeeding their little mammals. No wonder we are turning into such a belly button centric society. Working on the fourth generation of never breastfed humans has only weakened us and allowed us to churn out an overwhelming number of sheeple, some of whom are psychotic, all because mommy couldn’t be bothered to breastfeed.

    • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

      I love and appreciate your passion (and kudos on “accidentally” becoming a full-term breastfeeder) but until we understand women’s squeamishness and how they are a product of an anti-breastfeeding culture, and stop judging them, we will never persuade them to be more comfortable with nursing. I’ve seen a number of “sheeple” who are psychotic even though they were breastfed full-term, because breastfeeding is not the only thing that makes a good mother!

  12. Krista says:

    My goal was to nurse to 6 months. We are now going into month 8 and I am already starting to become “nervous” of other peoples opinions and reactions. I too use to be one of those that “eewwwed ” those moms that were nursing at 12+ months. Now I understand why those mothers did just that. Its convenient, cheap, and a special bonding time. I’ve already gotten negative comments about nursing my almost 8 month old. My husband told me he would like for me to stop nursing once our son has teeth (he’s just nows getting his first tooth) . So I do feel a little lost. But my son has also started “biting ” while nursing and I’ve tried a few different things to get him to stop…. he laughs ni matter what I do! LOL … so I may not make it many more months if biting doesn’t stop, but I do wish breast feeding past 12 months was more socially accepted.

    • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

      Good for you to pass your goal!! Check out Kellymom.com for information on biting. There are lots of solutions!!

    • Laura says:

      Why does your husband care that you stop nursing when baby gets teeth? The biting will only hurt you, not him! Both my babies got their first teeth well before they were six months, so I can’t imagine having stopped then. (My daughter weaned herself just before her first birthday; my son still nurses at 19 months.)

      Btw, at 8 months, your baby’s old enough for you to simply take him off your breast if he bites – with my children, it only took 2-3 times before they figured out that they shouldn’t do that. My son has a full mouth of teeth (16!) and nurses 2-3 times a day.

      • Krista says:

        I do take him off the.breast when he bites. My husband thinks it’s weird to breast feed a child with teeth and finds it disgusting to breast feed 12 months +.

        • Meagan says:

          Krista, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re feeling pressure from your husband. He is the exact person who should be supporting you. My husband is not as bad, but ultimately I believe his comments are based in jealousy. He is jealous that my son and I have a bond that he could never recreate in a million years. He even tried to push cow’s milk on him before he was 1!!!

          But I stood firm, and my son is now 2 years and still nurses. The biting stops if you stay on them about it. But please, if you wean, let it be for your own reasons, not because of pressure from someone who would be so ignorant (sorry) to think that a baby eating is “disgusting”.

          Realize the power you have as your baby’s mother and stand your ground. Just let him know that you appreciate his opinion, but that you will have to agree to disagree and keep and moving along. Don’t let his issues (and perhaps inadequacies) force you into a dire decision. Make up YOUR OWN mind as to what YOU want to do in terms of YOUR baby and YOUR boobies!! :)

          Best of luck to you!

          • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

            Your comment is a great example of how to coach and cheer a woman on to push past her “comfort zone” and to stick with a change she is trying to make!! Thank you!

  13. Ashley says:

    I am still nursing my daughter who is now 16 months. I thought I would stop when she turned one but I have decided to keep on going until she is ready to be weaned. It is very relaxing for her and I both. Someone has said that I need to stop nursing her because she is too big now. I disagree and am wondering why it is any of her business. My daughter is very healthy and hasn’t gotten sick at all. I plan on continuing nursing unroll she is ready to stop. Thank you for this article.

  14. liz says:

    I know you mean well by this, but you need to be very careful with this research. The Gulick study is cited all the time as evidence of the benefit of extended breastfeeding, but it was actually a study comparing babies who had been breastfed before a year but were no longer breastfed with those who had not been breastfed at all. Parenting Myths and Facts explains this well: http://parentingmythsandfacts.com/2011/04/18/breastfeeding-for-longer-than-a-year-myths-facts-and-what-the-research-really-shows/

    I am a total supporter of women breastfeeding as long as it works for them and their kids (I’m at 9 months and plan to continue to until at least 18 months), but you have to be very careful with what the research shows. Read the study carefully and not just the abstract.

    • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment and the extremely interesting link. I am not a scientist or researcher but welcome those who are to comment and engage in a dialogue. My personal opinion is that there simply has not been enough good research to either prove or disprove the merits of “extended” breastfeeding; but I do think that eventually the evidence will come out in favor of our common sense; there is a reason humans wean naturally at around 3-4. I particularly agree with the blog post that NOBODY should be putting pressure on moms to breastfeed longer; quite frankly I am so happy when moms get past the first 6 weeks that I think the notion of judging someone for not breastfeeding until age 3 is ridiculous!! Thanks again for writing.

      • liz says:

        You’re very welcome. I also believe that any future studies will come out in favor of extended breastfeeding (how could they not?!), but the fact is that there is no research yet. I believe we need to support any women who choose to breastfeed for as long as they choose to do so, and not judge them for stopping when it makes sense for them and their families. Attitudes are changing. It will take time, but eventually most people will know someone who breastfed beyond a year and very few people will think anything of it. :)

        • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

          We completely agree. Mothers should feel proud of making informed decisions and doing the best they can for their babies, regardless of what that looks like. We need to cheer all moms on, whether they breastfeed for 2 days, 2 months, 2 years or not at all!

  15. Laura says:

    Thank you for this beautiful article! I have 4 children. I adore the breastfeeding relationship and have nursed my kids for a total of 8 years. My youngest is turning 3 and we are talking about weaning. Nursing moms need lots of support and encouragement which you have given.

  16. Beth campbell says:

    With my son, I’d planned on nursing for at least a year. Sadly that didn’t work out due to lack of proper information, and my son having low muscle tone and not able to effentially nurse at the breast. With my daughter I went to LLL and just totally emersed myself in everything I could find and learn about breastfeeding. with her, I took it a feeding at a time. She however was my “easy” baby and even though she was dubbed “Miss. Backwards” when I went into hard labor and she was still butt in my hip socket, she took to nursing like a champ. It was easy. after about 3 wks it was 2nd nature and I aimed for a year. When she hit a year, she still looked like a baby, still wanted to nurse, it made no sense to me to take it away from her at such a young age. Plus like heck I was going to give up the tantrum killer of the booby! When she turned 2, again, she didn’t want to, I didn’t want too, and since her birthday is in Feburary, the height of cold adn flu season, and she had a big brother in school, I just didn’t think it was a good idea. Now she is 3, at this point she is not ready to stop and neither am I, I love the closeness that nursing provides, specially as she is all over the place and I’m but a distant memory most of her playing time, that it really is nice to have nursie snuggles while she NaNa’s (what she calls nursies) Plus, hey it is still good for her, and even though now we are a homeschooling family, she is still exposed to all sorts of ickies I would rather her not catch, so hey kill 2 birds with one stone. Plus the added tantrum killer of the boobie, and the booboo soother, it’s just too easy to calm her! At this point we will wean when she is ready, and not before. Never thought I’d be nursing a 3 yr old, but hey, it’s no biggie, and it is beneficial to both of us in so many ways!

  17. Karissa says:

    I initially intended on breastfeeding for at least 3 months, then I went back to work and couldn’t bear the thought of my son drinking something else besides my milk. My goal was then a year, we made it to a year and past. Nursing calms him down when he is hurt or has a nightmare. At 17 months I find that most people I know don’t support my decsicion to breastfeed past a year, but I am still proud of the gift I can give my son.

  18. Danea says:

    My original goal was to breastfeed for 6 months, mostly because everything I initially read said 6 months. Then after my daughter was born my research and new mommy friends taught me that the AAP suggested nursing to 1 year which then got changed to 2 years. At a year she wasn’t done yet (was cutting molars) so we continued but by 18 months I began to feel touched out and pressure from my family so we started the weaning process and stopped at 24 months. It really didn’t help that my entire family seemed opposed to me nursing and would ask when I planned to wean every time I saw them =/ I tried educating them but they still think I’m crazy.

    I think just talking with and explaining the benefits to other mothers has helped change some of their minds. They just feel alone because you don’t see a whole lot of extended nursers out in public, but when I explain that it mostly happens at home they start to understand that we’re not hiding it’s just that older nursers don’t breastfeed as often as the infants.

    I rarely have to nurse my 19m old in public these days, but when I do I don’t hide and I don’t show shame or embarrassment b/c it should be a normal sight to see and not a rarity.

  19. Andrea S. says:

    My initial goal was six months. Even though my mom was very pro-extended nursing, I didn’t want to place what I was afraid were unrealistic goals for myself. Even though I was practicing ecological breastfeeding, my period returned early, and I got pregnant again at five months post partum. My milk remained, though, and I continued breastfeeding. Even after developing Reynaud’s of the nipple, I still breastfed, past six months, past nine months, and I made it to a year. Each time I made it to one goal, I’d make another goal.

    My second son was born when my oldest was just 13 months old, and I began my own adventures in tandem nursing. Neither was sleeping through the night, and to this day I cannot tell how I survived. But I did. This time I did not make goals. I knew that I could make it to six months and beyond as needed. When my second son was a year old, I again got pregnant. I continued tandem nursing. My third son was born when my oldest was 35 months old and my second son 22 months old and both still nursing strong. I tandem nursed in the hospital, and the lactation consultant popped in for a visit at one point and laughed that, “You sure don’t need my help, do you?” And I laughed that, “Well, you never know.” But I didn’t. My third son was as good a nurser as his brothers.

    I did wean the oldest shortly after that. Nursing two toddlers and a newborn was just too hard on me physically and emotionally, but I made it beyond three years with my oldest. I continued to tandem nurse my second and third for another year, at which point I weaned my second son at just over three years. My third was nearer to three and a half when I weaned him, just ready to have my body back.

    Although many women are staunch proponents of self-weaning (and I am, too, in ideal circumstances), it just wasn’t something I felt I could do in my circumstances. But I was so happy that I was able to do what I did for my boys. And I’m happy that they had the ability to bond through tandem nursing. It was an amazing experience for all of us and so sweet. I have many precious memories of those years.

  20. Susie says:

    I find it interesting and disturbing that the majority of the women commenting that they have participated in long-term breast-feeding have male children.

    • Andrea S. says:

      Why do you find it disturbing? But apart from that, you must have missed the part where I mentioned my own mother was a proponent of extended breastfeeding … that means she breastfed me into my toddler years. I’m quite obviously female. :)

    • Nyph says:

      I find your comment very disturbing, to be honest. You seem to be suggesting there is something indecent about breastfeeding a male child. I know lots of women who breastfeed for longer than a year, and there isn’t a majority of boys in that group, it’s more or less equal. I nursed my daughter for 16 months, then she quit mainly because I was pregnant. Now I’m nursing her brother, he’s almost 1 year old and we are definitely not ready to quit! I hope he will continue to nurse even if I get pregnant again.

    • Jayne says:

      I find it interesting that you would notice that. I have a little girl who I am happily breastfeeding at 3.5 and I can tell you gender doesn’t matter. It seems to me you are subconsciously sexualizing toddlers…

    • Krista says:

      What exactly are you insinuating with your comment? A child does not find breasts to be sexual and with your comment it sounds like you’re sexualizing children.

    • Toni Fowler says:

      Well,i have 10 children – 7 boys and 3 girls.I have weaned children everywhere from 4 months to over 4 years. My “baby” is over 4 and a half and is a girl and is the strongest child I have ever known. (All my kids are very strong.) She is the smartest child most have ever seen and she is independent and the most socially secure child I have ever seen. And she adores nursing and has been very challenging to wean. My other 2 girls weaned themselves at 17 months. Only 2 of my boys nursed that long. I forced my oldest 2 boys to wean at 24 months. None of the others nursed for nearly that long – weaning themselves between 4 – 15 months.

  21. Ann says:

    With my first, I attended an information session at a birthing center and saw a mother nurse a 14 month old. I walked out and whispered to my husband “Did you see that? he lifted her shirt! that is totally inappropriate, I will never nurse a baby that old!!”
    So fast forward to my actual birth (three miscarriages later). I had been to one LLL meeting as part of my birthing classes. I intended to nurse for six months. Then six turned to twelve, twelve to eighteen, and at two and a half when I conceived her brother, my reproductive immunologist gave me a week to wean in case I had to be on some drug therapy to keep my next pregnancy. Thankfully I didn’t have to this time, and we kept nursing through a high risk pregnancy, til she finally self-weaned near her brother’s birth, when she was 3. It was a gentle weaning, I can barely remember the last time – I remember a few ‘last times’ but not THE last time. I hold them in my heart, even as I nurse her little brother, now 22 months old. Eventually he’ll wean too, but I hope he weans gently, as I will be sad.

  22. Laney says:

    I have no kids and am not pregnant, but I am trying to learn who to be more holistic with food for when I do have kids and I guess this falls in that category…

    I am confused so please pardon my confusion. You literally breast feed until 2.5 – 7 years? I can see pumping and giving them the milk, but actually breastfeeding seems odd to me once they get larger.

    Also, kids aren’t just breast feeding, right? The article wasn’t entirely clear… so I am thinking they are still also eating other foods while still breast feeding?

    • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

      Yes, toddlers eat other food along with nursing. Also, just to let you know, 7 years of nursing is fairly rare in the industrialized world.

    • Nyph says:

      Why on earth would you pump and give them the milk if they can get it straight from the breast? Just because in our Western society people aren’t used to the sight of an older child nursing? Breastfeeding isn’t just food, it’s also about skin contact, closeness, soothing, the breastfeeding relationship with the mom… It’s also not just the milk that makes a baby grow, the skin contact is important for the development of their brain, for example.

      And obviously they do eat other food, most moms start introducing solids when the child is 6 months old, but very slowly, so as not to lose their milk. That’s also much healthier for your baby’s bowels.

      • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

        Do you think your tone is conducive to encouraging and educating someone who asked an honest question because they truly didn’t know and wanted to learn?

  23. Chrissy says:

    while breastfeeding has been getting more public attetion lately, so called “extended” nursing has not and i’m glad to have read this piece…i get a lot of commets from people and surprised looks that i am “still” nursing my 20 month old son but i see nothing wrong with it and find it very beneficial to him. i hope to see more new mama’s out there not give in to pressure to stop nuring before both you and your child are ready.

    • Barbara says:

      You really don’t hear negative comments about a toddler with a bottle at 16 months, 18 months, or 24 months of age, yet the shock & negativity are palpable when a toddler nurses at those ages. How ridiculous. If new moms ask me about nursing I always tell them I had planned on a year, found the 2nd year of nursing to be so easy, so bonding and wonderful that I consider nursing through age 2 a gift – to me and to my kids.

  24. Cassandra says:

    I don’t understand why we as moms can’t simply make our own decisions for what we think is best for our family without having to look down on those who choose another path. The intention of this article (and others like it) may be to discourage judgement, but I find it insulting for anyone to say that my child is sicker, weaker, less intelligent or socially adjusted because I didn’t choose a homebirth, family bed, attachment parenting or extended nursing.

    If studies show that these children are better off than the general population, I believe it probably has more to do with the fact that their mothers have taken the time to educate themselves and make them a priority, and less to do with what they ate or drank those first few years.

  25. Deborah says:

    I have a goal of 2 with my current nursling. He is just about. 17.5months old right now. I am also 36w3d pregnant with his baby sister. My goal is still 2yr and until he weans. I am already getting the “ick” comments along with eye rolling. My own mother is the main non-supporter I have. My hubby is awesome and knows our toddler has severe lactose issues and needs momma milk. When he was a newborn we had, latch issues(thanks nurse who gave a bottle that had my baby puke green foam for 2 days), and weaning from a shield, 1 clogged duct, mastitis and 2 rounds o food poisoning before 6 weeks. We pushed through it though

  26. Karen says:

    I breastfed my son for a full year. My daughter was a different story. I often joked she was born with a steak in her mouth. She started eatting solids early and was not interested in breastfeeding so I stopped. My pediatrician was impressed I breastfed as long as I did since I am an older mom-47. I feel all kids are different and a good mom does what is best and realistic for her individual children

  27. JL says:

    I’m breastfeeding my 21-month-old. Due to his developmental delays and other issues, he still is unable to drink from a bottle or a cup. So, yeah, we’ll be breastfeeding for quite a while longer. No one who knows me would dare say anything against it. But, then again, I nursed one of my typical children for three years, so this doesn’t seem the least bit strange to me.

  28. meggiemoo says:

    I intended to breastfeed my 1st for at least a year. After a year, I decided breastfeeding was such a needed tool in my parenting toolbox (he was a high-needs infant in every way) that I wouldn’t stop unless we both decided it wasn’t working for us (not just me). He self-weaned at 2.

    With my 2nd, I already knew I would let her wean when she wanted to, as her brother did. She just turned 3 and shows no signs of weaning. We don’t breastfeed in public anymore, not because I feel there is anything wrong with it, but because I know it isn’t the social norm. I do, however, tell anyone who asks that she’s still nursing. They’re always surprised, but I’ve had very little negative feedback throughout my years of nursing…probably because I really don’t care what anyone else thinks. I am fortunate to be surrounded by supportive people: husband, sisters, friends.

    Since I’m nursing a 3-year-old, a 16-month-old seems like so not a big deal. 16 months seems so little, really. It’s all about perspective. No one starts out nursing a toddler any more then we start out birthing a toddler!

  29. Christal says:

    When I first started to breastfeed my son, I only intended on trying to make it to 12 months. We had such a rough time that I didn’t think we would make it. But we did. We made it through despite nipple confusion and bottle preference, diary intolerance, doctor’s discouraging and pushing amino based formula, low supply, biting, a very distracted baby, and many other challenged. I was never able to nurse him in public because he wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t cover because he would pull it off, move it, or struggle to get out. I learned early on tricks (that had to change frequently) to keep him latched on long enough to get enough milk. Clipping things to my shirt or bra was a saver. I would have to go into a familiar dark room and do things exactly the same. If I try to change positions he would not latch. Sometimes I would have to pump and give it to him because he would not stay on. But we made it through those times and are still nursing at 17 months. I still have to avoid all dairy (which I love and miss) but it is worth it. The milk intolerance and health benefits are the reasons I am still nursing. Now my new goal is to make it to 2 years but there are so many times that I just think we will not get there just like I thought so many months ago. I am also tired of pumping, putting books in my bra so he can play with the pages while nursing, and missing out on so many foods that I love. But those are not reasons for me to quit. This is for my son and he is worth it.

  30. Machelle Nelson says:

    My mother breastfed when it was NOT the norm and I breastfed all four of my kids. Three of them weaned somewhere between 2 & 3 years. The oldest I chose to wean at 14 months only because I was pregnant with my second and it had become very uncomfortable for me and she was only nursing to go to sleep at night. I also wasn’t gaining weight like I should have been. Wouldn’t trade the whole nursing experience (even with breast infections, engorgement, & occasional cracked nipples)for anything!! Healthy, confident, connected, & bright kids who are so very close to me is the fantastic payoff! I (as my mother also did) always try to encourage young mommies who choose to nurse. It is a choice. You must have the attitude that you will do it not just TRY IT. It is a learned skill – seems like it should come naturally but it is a learned skill. And I had to relearn with each of my babies.

  31. Sandy B says:

    I breastfeed my oldest daughter, born in 1988, full time (as a “combo mom” after returning to work when she was four months old) for 12 months and continued morning and night nursing until she was 2 1/4 years old, which is when I was was pregnant again. At that point she was mostly just nursing at night and I wanted to give myself a little break before nursing again. I had identical twin daughter in 1991 who were born five weeks premature. I breastfeed them full time for 13 months as a combo mom after I returned to work when they were 3.5 months old. They nursed morning and night until they were 19 months old. At that point, it just got to be a lot of pushing and shoving at the breast. I truly enjoyed my time as a nursing mother and I will encourage my daughters to be NMs when they have babies. I hope they are interested! Thanks everyone who has shared their experiences. I really liked reading everyone’s stories!

  32. Carolyn says:

    I am still nursing my 19 month old twins!! I knew I could from the start, and here I am, 19 months later, still tandom nursing at least twice a day for 5-10 minutes at a time! I love nursing them and enjoy the cuddle time. I’m proud and lucky to say they have never had an ounce of formula :) they do not like any other milk, are sensitive to dairy, so I’m very glad to see how much my milk has for them! Thank you for the great article and go Mommies!! If you ever meet a soon to be mother of twins, let them know nursing is very doable with twins and now you can say you heard about a mom who did into toddlerhood! I’m in no rush to stop nursing so we’ll see how long I can go :)

  33. Tirzah says:

    This is so great! I am currently “still” nursing my 19 month old. I have the support of many including my husband, my mom (she nursed me until I was two) and my in-laws and close friends. My pediatrician nursed her twins until they were two! It’s so wonderful to not feel pressure from her. I feel so lucky and blessed to have such an amazing support system. That being said I still have A LOT of people in my life who can’t believe i’m “still” nursing. I just keep spreading articles like this on my Facebook page and referring to them in conversations when the questions arise! ;)

  34. Beth says:

    What a great story! I am still nursing my 23 month old. I never had any intention to nurse past one year but when she turned one I just didn’t see it necessary to stop. Nursing a toddler is very different than nursing a baby and it provides a truly special bond between us. I think it’s wonderful that so many moms can encourage and support the decision to nurse past one year. My daughter has never needed any medication in her almost two years. Aside from a couple of common colds she has just not been sick. I really feel that much of this is due to breasfeeding. And it’s not like she’s nursing all day, just in the morning and sometimes at night. She is also super well behaved for a child of her age. I swear we may skip over the “terrible twos”. Most of my family members are aware, most supportive, some not but respectfully refrain form saying anything. My husband is also super supportive and proud to be the daddy to breastfeeding toddler.

  35. Regina says:

    My DH is 18 months and shows no signs of weaning.

  36. Wendy says:

    I am reading this with a 30 month old little boy sprawled across my body, nursing. I had no intention to nurse this long, but here we are and although I am ready to wean, he is not. So on we nurse! Even though I do believe it is hurting our efforts to conceive again, I do believe that going full-term is my responsibility as a mother. Thanks for a great article!

  37. Halley says:

    As someone who planned to nurse long term, things don’t always go as planned. My daughter was born with a slow suck reflex which didn’t improve until she was almost 2 months old. Although I pumped from the beginning and put her to breast every feeding my body never made enough milk for her. Although we’ve had to supplement with formula (something that depressed me badly in the beginning and I still feel guilty about) I did what I had to do to nurish my child. She has weaned herself completely at a few days shy of 6 months( minus a few comfort nursings) due to my insufficant supply. I still pump for her although I only get 3-5 oz a day… I figure as the blog states every ounce counts. I support those who were able to continue for so long but I am overcome with sadness everytime I read such negativity towards moms who use formula… Some of us just had no other choice.

    • Bettina Forbes, CLC says:

      Bravo to you! Thank you for sharing your story and reminding everyone not to judge unless we’ve walked in another mom’s shoes. You did an amazing job and yes, EVERY OUNCE COUNTS, and there is much more to motherhood than breastfeeding!!

    • Mel says:

      Halley,

      Kudos to you for continuing to provide as much milk as you can! I also find it unfortunate when nursing mothers (or ANYONE) come down so hard on the formula front. I won’t pretend to LOVE formula or the commercial end of marketing formulas, but I totally respect that some women must use formula to nourish their children. Frankly, I also support that some women simply CHOOSE to formula feed. It’s not my preference, but I think it’s up to a woman to decide what is best for her and her child. We do women a huge injustice when we judge their choices, particularly their parenting choices. And it is pious for any of us to think that we know enough about another’s situation to decide what is best for them or what they should be doing. To each their own!

    • Toni Fowler says:

      Along with nursing, i formula fed a few of my 10 children. I don’t believe it was detrimental. One thing that nursing cultivates is loving on the baby while feeding. How often do we see moms who prop a bottle up to their little one. Sad. I just determined every bottle given would be with much loving and affection. That is their ultimate need. Let go of the guilt. It breaks down positive parenting. Blessings!

  38. Mel says:

    My son is 19 months old and we’re still nursing strong! I honestly am not enamored by “the science” behind breastfeeding… I just feel that it works for my son and I, it’s what nature intended, and I am grateful that we have had such a good run thus far. Nursing makes him happy, he’s virtually never sick, the breast helps to calm him when teething or when he’s suffered a bump or a fall – the proof is in the emotional disposition of the child, and the bond between mother and child, in my opinion. (And I say that as a PhD scientist, for the record)!!! :-)

  39. Amanda says:

    When my son was born with a poor suck/swallow reflex and had lost a pound at 6 days old I could only think of making day by day. Initially I’d set a goal of 6 months but worried that we’d never make it that far! I spent the first 8 weeks of his life pumping 10-12 times per day, trying to get him to nurse and supplementing with a bottle and formula. Although I’d smugly told my husband to throw away all of the formula samples before he was born, I was glad they were available when times got tough. I was never able to exclusively breastfeed (we do a combination of nursing and bottles) because of his issues but I am eternally grateful to the moms who supported my efforts. Now at 8 months with the introduction of solid foods I am slowly weaning him off of formula all together. I can’t imagine after the hard work and trauma (yes it was extremely upsetting to not be able to feed my baby the way “God intended”) stopping him at 12 months, and I’m excited at the prospect of finally being able to give him only breast milk. He nurses himself to sleep and any time he gets anxious he dives bombs my chest! I wouldn’t trade this relationship for the world and so far my plan of writing off any dissenters as ignorant has worked for me. I take it as an opportunity to rattle off a few statistics about the benefits for both of us. What is really hard is other breastfeeding moms who make comments about he formula he gets. Trust me, nobody would take the time to wash bottles and mix formula when breastfeeding if they didn’t HAVE to. When asking for advice about what his tummy might tolerate I would get snide remarks about “that’s why I just stick to the mams”. Well good for you lady, rub it in. It’s not a competition ladies! The most important thing is that your baby gets fed.

  40. I am not sure how I happened upon this sight, but thank you for having it, for encouraging moms to breastfeed and to give the really good reasons for doing so, and for doing it as long as the child needs it. I might be considered a bit of a freak of nature when I tell you that I have 9 children, from the ages of 23 down to 3 who have been breastfed until they weaned gently and easily on mutual accord. The least I have nursed is 3 weeks shy of my first baby’s 3rd birthday. I had my 2nd baby a few months later. I might add that the two were naturally spaced – I did not plan it that way. So when my 3rd baby was born 17 months after baby #2, I tandem nursed. My 2nd baby was just too young and needy to wean her, and I never had the inclination for one minute to do so. I actually think it helped me to have an easier delivery for baby # 3. I have since then (over 18 years ago) been nursing and tandem nursing continuously. Usually my babies ween between 3 and 5 years old, but my 6 year-old son went a little longer. I don’t generally nurse out in public unless the baby is little and then use a blanket for privacy. The one thing I will tell you is that it is important for mom to eat very well, to take appropriate nourishing supplements and even herbal teas or infusions as needed. For the record, I have a bachelor of science in nursing, and I have made it a my mission to raise healthy, well nourished, well-educated children. Though I worked in traditional conventional medicine before I married, I now prefer the natural and herbal routes whenever possible. In 23 years of mothering, my children have rarely been sick, and I have had only one get an ear infection once. There are certain nutrients that can ONLY be found in breast milk and I can vouch for the healthfulness of it for all of my children as their special food. And I can tell you that longer nursing does make for well-adjusted children, teenagers and adults. And as for me, I am 50 years old, still producing milk, still nursing my youngest and yet am physically active (work out, walk, garden. play basketball with my kids). I think it has actually helped keep me healthy as well.

  41. Natalie says:

    This is so encouraging. I am still breast feeding my 23 month old. I am getting a little tired of it. I also keep thinking about what others are thinking about me. Which I need to stop and be reminded of these great benefits. sometimes I really love that we still can have that time togther.

  42. Melissa says:

    Old article but still contains much-needed information that I’ve referenced a number of times now. I am still nursing my 3.5 yr old and no intention of weaning her (nor having another child). I have an intolerance to cow’s milk and was very determined to exclusively breastfeed until at least 6 months in order to attempt to keep cow milk out of my child’s diet. Until shortly after her 1st birthday I didn’t even give her much cow cheese or other dairy products (did give her goat dairy products). A public health nurse, at her 18 month vaccinations, was shocked when I said I was still nursing and even went so far as to ask “where does she get calcium from?” as if human milk doesn’t contain any and I finally got frustrated and told her that my daughter was also eating yogurt. I’ve been getting pressure from mother-in-law for a loooong time to wean: her biggest reason is that she wants to take care of my daughter overnight, yet has only twice been successful in getting her to sleep when she was babysitting for the evening. My daughter still wakes up at night most nights, and yes I nurse her back to sleep. I’ve given up trying to educate the nay-sayers around me, but I’m so frustrated with people thinking she’s nursing to control me, or that it’s bad for her or me in any way. The only possible drawback to nursing now is that my daughter uses it as her “rest” time and refuses any position other than cradle, which gets a little tiresome on the arms & back when dealing with a 36# child! But my child has been sick (cold) only twice in her life so far, no ear infections. She has thrown up only once in her entire life (beyond baby spit up) and doesn’t know what I’m talking about when I tell her of her friends throwing up. Further, she is soooo strong that in a recent gymnastics class, she was able to do things that the two almost-5 year old boys weren’t even able to do. Smart, strong, healthy… oh, and then there’s the benefits to me… why would I stop?? Thanks again for the article.

  43. Rachel says:

    I’m so glad you posted this. I’m still nursing my 21 month old and sometimes I feel like people think I’m crazy or that it’s gross. I had planned to stop at 12 months but it turned out that my son is allergic to both dairy and soy and refuses all the types of prescription formulas we tried.

  44. Michelle Michelle says:

    Just finished having a conversation with my 6-year-old daughter about when she might be ready to stop nursing–she joked that it’ll be before college!:) Nursed her sister until she was five and I thought that seemed crazy! Thank you all for the courage to post on here and share what has felt right for you & your children as you embrace the awesome experience of mothering! I never envisioned nursing for so long but aIso never envisioned how motherhood would so profoundly transform my life! I hope we can move forward as a culture and not just tolerate differences but truly respect and accept the many differ choices & paths each of us choose for our families.

  45. mamalife says:

    I am breastfeeding my 12.5 months old son and willing to continue at least for another year. He is allergic to dairy and sensitive to soy, wheat, corn, beef, fish, egg and chicken and tomatoes and more… he would get eczema and diaper rash when I eat these foods. One pediatrician said my son was allergic to my breastmilk that I must switch him to hypoallergenic formula, when he was 3 months old with pretty bad looking seborrhea infection on his face. It was heartbreaking to hear that. I said no (to myself) and started elimination diet, did find out he was sensitive to foods I ate, when he was 6- 7 months. Yes it is very hard eliminating all the goodies from my diet but my baby is growing well and his skin is soft and rash free! He is the happiest baby on earth and we both love nursing. I hope he outgrows from his food allergy and sensitivity as soon as possible but I won’t force to wean to cows milk until 2.

  46. Jocelyn says:

    I am stil breastfeeding my 22 month old son. Sometimes I get tired of it but there is nothing else more rewarding in this world than what I can offer my child. I love the special bonding that we have. I will continue until he self-weans.

  47. Renata says:

    Dear Moms,

    I have a 2 year old daughter that still nurses. We started on the “left foot” …my milk supply was low but we had more trouble because she didn´t latch properly and I had to go through a lot of pain to nurse, but I really wanted her to have the best she could from me, she is my dream come true, in every single way.

    I was fortunate to have a friend who knew this amazingly generous person that gave me my North in relation to breast feeding a slow growing baby that would´t take a bottle…(LLL consultant, and THE BOOK – The womanly art of breastfeeding) lots of pumping and some formula, 2 engorgement episodes, 1 mastitis with abscess after nursing for 1 year, and then now I need to wean her for other reasons related to my own health (I need medication that in not compatible with nursing)…but I am not ready to wean, and I am not sure if she is.

    Nonetheless I started the process, I am on the 3rd day without nursing during the day (I used to nurse her when I came back form work at lunchtime), and I am feeling a bit more confident that we (I, mostly) can wean without too much heartache, as my plan was to wean her whenever she wanted to.

    It is very nice to see how things are changing, I still get dirty looks and I simply couldn´t care less…but now that I only breastfeed at night and in the mornings, I don´t have to deal with that at all, but I am on a deadline to take my meds and would like some advice as to how to wean a toddler from early morning and nighttime nursing.

    THANK YOU ALL.

  48. Hannah says:

    I feel good and proud of my efforts breastfeeding until 12 months. What’s offensive Is reading that it was “premature” by strangers.

    Some of the comments here are unbelievably offensive.

    How did I manage to feed for 12 months without encountering any of this negativity? I had breast and formula feeding friends at the time and we mostly kept our opinions to ourselves. I’m so glad I wasn’t part of this website then. I can only imagine the pressure I would have felt to continue past what was comfortable for US both.

  49. Kiersten W. says:

    I loved that video. That’s exactly what nursing my 17-month-old daughter looks like. ;) I work full time, so I thought she would have weaned herself by now, but she hasn’t and that’s fine with me! (The only drawback is that it seems to be affecting my ability to ovulate and we’d like to try for a second soon.) We only get to nurse once during the day, and I call that “Mommy Time” because it’s just me and her and just like in the video, I stroke her hair and give her kisses and she pats my chest. lol. I truly will be sad when she decides she’s had enough. <3

  50. Joe says:

    Hello All mothers,

    I am father of 20 month old little girl who bows down his head to you all ladies that you are giving the most precious thing that you can ever give to the little one by nursing long.

    I wish it was a positive experience as for some of you have for my little one here at home.

    Bless,
    J

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