Extended Breastfeeding: Is It For You?

extended-breastfeeding-main
Image via Sarah Reinhart/The Sunday Spill

I am a breastfeeder. I nursed my first son for 18 months, and am currently breastfeeding my second son at nearly 17 months old. I did not come by breastfeeding or extended breastfeeding, with great intentions or an agenda. This is what is natural for my children and I. Nor do I feel strongly about how other mothers feed their children – whether they're breastfed or formula-fed – as long as they are being fed, it is not my place to judge. However, there have been many discussions out there about breastfeeding children beyond their first year. Some express discomfort. Many think it's a great idea. Some think that if they don't see it, they don't need to think about it. 

I asked a few moms about their thoughts on extended breastfeeding, and here is what they shared.

Image via Flickr/brenneman
Image via Flickr/brenneman

I’m not hurting anyone with extended breastfeeding. I’ve done the research, trust me — I wouldn’t still do it if it was in any way harmful to my son. And just because some people could never imagine nursing a child this long (5 years), that doesn’t mean my parenting decisions are wrong. They are just what works for us. What I care about is the mom who is relieved to read that she’s not alone, that there is another mom out there who breastfeeds an older child.

What I care about is encouraging other moms to follow their gut when parenting and to care less about what other people think. 

~ Dagmar Beasdale, mother of one, contributing blogger to Everyday Family, and blogs at Dagmar's Home

breastfeeding child
Image via Flickr/moppet65535

Before I had a baby, I thought extended breastfeeding was weird. Heck, I thought breastfeeding at all was weird, but I knew I planned to give it a go. In the end I breastfed my first until he was 16 months old, and I'm now breastfeeding my second and going strong at almost 11 months. With my first, I went back to work (after maternity leave) when he was 11 months old. I intended to still nurse him three times a day – in the morning, after work and at bedtime – but I quickly cut the after-work session because he was too riled up and it didn't work very well. I continued with the morning feed for a little while, but soon enough I was only nursing at bedtime. I was struggling with postpartum depression at the time and my son was a very physical kid who used to bite me and slap my face while nursing, and one day I'd had enough. I quit cold turkey one day when he was 16 months old and that was that. If it weren't for that, I'm not sure how long I would have continued breastfeeding him, but I suspect not all that much longer because the thought of breastfeeding a child over two makes me a little bit uncomfortable for reasons I can't really articulate. I totally support extended breastfeeding and would never say anything against a mother who chose to breastfeed her two- or three-year-old, but I don't think it's for me. But who knows? Maybe when I get to that point with my second it won't seem so weird.

~ Robin Farr, mother of two and blogger at Farewell, Stranger 

MORE: Breastfeeding and the Working Mother }

Image via Flickr/Daquella Manera
Image via Flickr/Daquella Manera

I breastfed my youngest until she was 3 years old and it was a wonderful experience. When I thought about nursing, I never imagined breastfeeding that long, but it was very important to me to allow her to self-wean when she was ready — which came when she was just over 3. I advocate for normalizing “extended” breastfeeding, seeking support, and knowledge on the benefits of self-weaning, but also acknowledge each mother and child should do what feels right for them.

~ Devan McGuinness, mother of three with another on the way, contributing blogger to Everyday Family and blogs at Accustomed Chaos

mother breastfeeding son
Image via Flickr/coat128

Noah and I are nearly two-and-a-half years into our nursing relationship.  I have been weaning from breastfeeding him for over a year. I want to break up. He doesn’t. I want to give him the “It’s not you, it’s me” lecture. He won’t hear it. During times when I have been the most exhausted and frustrated with the weaning process, I have googled “How to wean a toddler from breastfeeding” but really wanted to enter in the search box “How to detox a toddler with a boob addiction”.

~ Mindi Stavish, mother of three, contributing blogger to Everyday Family, and blogs at Simply Stavish 

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Image via Flickr/stockerre

I breastfed both my son and twin daughters. I breastfed my son for about a year and my twins for 8 weeks. In both situations, I simply stopped producing milk, even though I tried various methods to get my milk flow to continue. I absolutely would have breastfed longer if I could have, and I’m not sure when the cut-off point would have been.

I think that breastfeeding in general is such a personal decision that I cannot make judgments on what any other mom chooses to do (or not do). It’s simply not any of my business.

~ Natalie Hoage, mother of three, and blogger at Mommy of a Monster (and Twins)

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Image via Flickr/pusteblumenbaby.de

When my first and second sons were born, I was still working full time outside the home. I nursed as long as I could keep up and that ended both times just short of a year. However, with my daughter's birth, I began working from home. Because I was physically together with her more, she was an avid nurser. I didn't have an agenda with her. That time there was no twelve week maternity leave expiration date. I decided she and I would figure out our nursing journey, just the two of us. Ultimately she chose to nurse beyond her second birthday and gradually weaned herself at two and a half. Many moms I know prefer to use “full term” breastfeeding instead of “extended” and I am of that group. I feel a mother should be encouraged to do what she feels is best for herself and her child. To me, full term breastfeeding is natural, normal and really quite beautiful. I loved feeling that I was able to comfort my daughter and nourish her in such an intimate motherly way well into toddlerhood. Currently I'm still nursing my fourth child; he's twenty-three months old. The plan is much as it was for his sister. I will follow his lead, gradually wean as he needs, and we will figure out our breastfeeding adventure as we go. 

~ Sarah Reinhart, mother of four and blogger at The Sunday Spill

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Image via Flickr/LizMarie_AK

I don't see why extended breastfeeding is something anyone has an opinion on. I mean, unless you are deciding for yourself and your child, you shouldn't really care what other people do.

I didn't breastfeed at all. It was my choice from before day one that I just didn't want to breastfeed. Both of my boys were formula fed. That said, my sister-in-law breastfed my nephew until he was around two-and-a-half years old. She is currently breastfeeding my niece who is 9 months old with no plans to wean any time soon. This has zero effect on me. I love that she is confident and comfortable with her choices. She is in tune with her body and what her limits are and truly loves breastfeeding. I don't find it weird. It's her choice.

~ Katie Sluiter, mother of two and blogger at Sluiter Nation

In conclusion, do what is right for you and your child. If it's something you are comfortable with, then continue to breastfeed your child, regardless of age. However, if breastfeeding is not something that is physically or emotionally possible, or if your child chooses to wean, then by all means, stop. And if you don't breastfeed? That's okay too. This is a personal choice that should be made in the best interests of you and your child, and no one else should have a say.

Are you breastfeeding your baby beyond a year? 

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What do you think?

Extended Breastfeeding: Is It For You?

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, she traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison is a former blogger (Writing, Wishing), and her writing has been featured on Mamalode,On Parenting at The Washington Post,The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, Club Mid, andDrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists ... More

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5 comments

  1. Profile photo of Anndrea Anndrea says:

    I weaned my third child by squeezing some lime juice from a bottle onto my nipple and then wipeing it dry(while i turned my back quick so he wouldnt see). I told him it was time to eat at the table and that the “nu nus” were all gone. I had a severe vit D deficiency and a few other issues and he was 2 1/2. He repeated “nu nus all done?” Two different feedings and he didnt like the lime taste so he sat at the table and ate. No crying!! I was so relieved! I really love breast feeding but it was our time to stop ; )

  2. Profile photo of Theresa Theresa says:

    “I have googled “How to wean a toddler from breastfeeding” but really wanted to enter in the search box “How to detox a toddler with a boob addiction”.”

    This is the part I am most familiar with. My daughter is 14 months old. I have tried to wean her from my breast for the past 2 months. Not working out. My baby is completely addicted to my breasts. I want to know how to try to break her from her addiction.. I think that the “feeding on demand” thing did not really help because now she wants my boobs whenever she wants. She world rather drink from my boobs than to have some water or juice.She won’t even drink milk- be it soymilk, cow’s milk, etc.. She only wants human milk.. I loved the entire bf experience up until now.. I want my boobs back darnit.. and my hubby does to!!

    • Profile photo of Sara McTigue, CLCEditor Sara McTigue, CLC says:

      I love the “How to detox a toddler with a boob addiction”! I know that this can be a huge challenge, especially since now that she knows what she wants she doesn’t want to be told “no.” A few things that helped for us and others –
      – talk about new things she’s able to do because she is growing up (maybe she can choose from two books to read or help you “clean” the house, and then talk about how she doesn’t need mama’s milk so much now
      – allow her to choose her own special cup for water and keep it on hand all the time
      – replace feeding sessions with something else that involves closeness and cuddles (reading a book, singing songs, calling grandparents) so that she’s giving up the nursing but not the closeness
      – begin talking about certain times of day when nursing is and isn’t going to happen (Yes, we can nurse before bed, no we can’t nurse right now (mid-television show or phone call) – mama’s milk isn’t ready, it will be ready before bed!)
      Congrats on making it this far and best wishes on a happy and stress-free weaning for both of you!

  3. Profile photo of Theresa Theresa says:

    Extended breast feeding isn’t for me. I admire women who able to do it. The longest I was able to with any of my kids is 6 months. It seems as soon as I get back to work it’s nearly impossible to keep my supply. However what I don’t understand with extended breastfeeding is this. When a child is bottle fed, a pediatrician recommends weaning from the bottle at age 1. What is the difference between giving the bottle and giving the breast? Why is it not “ok” to continue giving a child a bottle or pacifier after age 1, but people find it acceptable to breastfeed until the age of 3, 4, 5? If you saw a child that age running around with a bottle or pacifier wouldn’t you judge the parent? Just food for thought.

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