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A Treatise (Almost) On Nursing a Toddler (Not from Me)

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Aside: That may be my record for most uses of parenthesis in a post title...

Now that I'm nursing a toddler myself (Emmitt's over a year and he walks, I guess that makes him a toddler, right?) I'm interested in seeing how my thoughts and opinions have changed over the years.

I remember when I had wrapped up pumping with Elnora (at 13 months) and was writing this blog. My best friend and her cousin were over and somehow the subject of toddler nursing came up. As someone who swore she'd only nurse to six months while pregnant with my first, I had to laugh when I heard those familiar phrases pop out of their mouths.

"If they're old enough to ask for it, they're too old to nurse."
"If they can walk, they should be done breastfeeding."
"I just don't get that, nursing a two year old is gross."

They weren't being malicious, they were mostly just repeating things they'd heard over the years. Neither had kids and I was the first of their friends to venture into baby rearing and breastfeeding.

It was funny to find myself defending toddler nursing and trying to educate them on a few points.

"Well, Elnora didn't talk until she was around two, so I guess that was her cut-off age?" (said with a wink.)

"Then again, she walked at 10 months, so I guess I should have weaned sooner? Would have sucked to have had to pay for formula those last two months."

"Did you ever stop to think that you don't just suddenly nurse a two year old. You nurse a baby who grows older day by day. On what specific day does it suddenly become "gross?"

They thought about it for a minute.

"But it just seems so weird!"

I pointed out that sure, it was weird, because we don't see it very often. Then again, it happens far more often than they'd ever imagine and really...there's NOTHING wrong with it.

It struck me as funny to hear how my own opinions had changed. I still couldn't picture myself nursing a toddler, but I had absolutely zero issues with it if someone else was doing it. (I get a little uncomfortable with the idea when the kid is approaching school age, but hey, to each their own.)

That's why I was interested to read a post over at Compulsive Writer this week called "Nursing Toddlers is the New Black." In it, occasional Lactivist commenter Azucar shares her own experience of nursing a toddler and points out that she did it long before Gwen Stefani made it "cool."

When I told my mom and dad that I was planning on going until El Guille was at least two they were pleased. I kind of joked with my dad that at least Guille would stop by the time he went to school. "Why? The longer, the better." said my dad, quite seriously. School age is a little over the line, for me anyway. My in-laws weren't as openly supportive. My mother-in-law thought it was a little strange, but she's a really good person who believes that I'm the mother and I make the best decisions for my babies. I love her for that.

Some people think that when you're nursing a toddler it's like nursing a newborn: every two hours and time intensive. It's not at all. For us, we nursed twice a day, occasionally three times, from age 16 months to 22 months. At 22 months, he refused to sit still and wanted to play first thing, not nurse. Hey! Fine by me! We kept our bedtime nursing for the next seven months. He gradually slowed down, dropping a session here and there: he went to every other day, to twice a week, then once, and then it was over. El Guille weaned himself: no tears, no drama, and no big deal. So much for the "If you don't wean before a year they'll NEVER stop" crowd. He stopped when he was ready, and that's what I wanted for him.

It was a great post, I found myself nodding along in agreement. I may not feel like long term toddler nursing is for me, but I do wish people were a little more understanding of the choice and respected the mothers who decide to follow their children's cues on the issue.

She wraps it up with a great point:

Here's the deal: until moms start coming out of that back bedroom and telling other people, extended nursing is going to seem strange. There's nothing wrong with nursing into childhood, it's how humans were biologically designed. I know it's not for everyone, but it is natural. I want other women to understand that it's ok to listen to your heart and make decisions that might seem unusual to other Americans.

I've honestly been amazed to find out how many people I know who have nursed toddlers in the last year or so. When I was growing up, the only time I'd ever heard of it was the "crazy mom" down the street who was a LLLL and nursed her boys until they were 3 or 4. I stand by my opinion that she was a little "off" though I no longer think the toddler nursing is cause for that judgement. ;)

It's been especially interesting to learn about extended nursers in my industry. My regular readers know I travel quite a bit speaking at conferences and seminars and teaching small businesses about online marketing. My work with the Lactivist has led to a ton of interesting discussions with folks I've known professionally for years. I remember doing a radio interview last year and finding out that the wife of someone I respect immensely was still night-nursing their 2.5 year old. I've had emails from readers of my industry site sharing their stories and of course conversation about "what I do for a living" has led perfect strangers to share their own stories.

Heck, one of my regular commenters here (Hi Abby!) is a woman I've known through church for years. I had no idea she was a staunch breastfeeding proponent or a supporter of toddler nursing until she showed up here and started sharing her thoughts.

It's out there. People are nursing well past a year. Not very many of them, but far more than you'd imagine.

So what about you guys? How many of you still have issues with toddler nursing and are willing to fess up? How many of you have found yourself supporting it (or doing it) after years of spouting off lines like I listed above?

What changed your mind?

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  1. Anonymous Erin | 7:39 AM |  

    I nursed my first daughter for 15 months, until she was only night nursing and I weaned her because I needed the sleep. Most people I know (at least to my face) were supportive. They might have thought it was a "little weird" but no one harassed me. Except for one woman who said there was no point nursing that long because the child didn't get any benefits from the milk after a year. I guess the vitamins just shut off :-) Personally I never had a timeline in my head of how long I would nurse. I didn't know anyone else who nursed their babies so I didn't have any role model either way. Now I'm on my second daughter, who is 8 months old, and I see no real end in sight. Will I be nursing her when she is two? Maybe not. But mostly because I need sleep and a glass of wine sometimes. But who knows? Interestingly, everyone I work with is much more comfortable with me pumping at work the second time around, maybe becasuse I am as well. I'm much more open with nursing in general the second time around. I guess with experience come confidence.

  2. Blogger Corin | 8:26 AM |  

    It's so ironic that you post about this. I've been getting some flack lately for nursing my sixteen month old. I've been gearing up to post about it myself because it seems like there's just such a lack of understanding on the subject.

  3. Blogger kristina | 8:33 AM |  

    Another solid argument: the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends breastfeeding until 2 years of age (changed from the earlier policy of one year). Hard for nay-sayers to argue with their doctor! (I couldn't find a link to support my claim, darnit.)

  4. Anonymous rinna | 8:41 AM |  

    I never thought I'd breastfeed ever so it really goes to follow that never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd be nursing a toddler. But here we are, at 18mos, still going strong. I really don't know how I feel about it since I only see DS as a baby. The only concern I have is that we want more kids and I don't think I can hack tandem nursing.

  5. Blogger Eilat | 8:46 AM |  

    Great post! This is something that Ive been thinking quite a bit about now that Im nursing a 25 month old. Im literally watching him self-wean and its pretty cool. He only wants it about once a day now and definitely says "no" when I offer sometimes.
    The thing Im so confused by is the hostility that Ive seen in blogs and in general toward toddler nursing. A pediatrician that I had for a short while when my son was 3 months old extolled the benefits of breastfeeding, and told me that his wife, a doctor, nursed both their sons for about a year each. But "once they can ask for it they are too old for it."
    At the time I wasn't bothered by the comment. I didn't really agree, but my son was 3 months old so I couldn't put that statement into context. Now thinking back, Im definitely bothered by such remarks. Firstly, any mom who is tuned into her baby knows that they "ask for it" from the moment they are born. So one day, they can use words, but what kind of a cutoff is that? My son was speaking in phrases by a year, so I guess he should be punished for his great language skills by cutting him off!
    How silly.
    But I have read some comments on Angela's blog (breastfeeding123) that were outright hostile, angry, and mean toward her really cute toddler nursing picture. I don't get the hostility. I don't get putting that much negative energy into something that is at the very least completely harmless. Nursing statistics are so bad in this country, with at least 25% babies NEVER being nursed (based on the initiation stats) and <10% of babies making it to a year. I would think that THAT is something to feel strongly about... The response is so out of proportion. If anyone is to be angry about something, how about the fact that there are at least 10 times more babies who have never been nursed than those who are nursed to age 2.

    But the hostility is unnerving (and so misplaced, when I see little ones leaving starbucks with frappuchinos or being yelled and hit in public). Extended nursing is a loving nurturing act, and people act like it is a form of abuse.

    "There's nothing wrong with nursing into childhood, it's how humans were biologically designed."
    Is exactly on-point. I realized this when I came back from my son's 18-month well-baby check up and got a little handout on things related to 18 month olds. "Drink 16-24 ounces of milk" was one of the recommendations. My son dislikes cow's milk (he says its not milk). But it occurred to me then that if the dr. recommends that much milk, then from a biologial perspective it ought to be human milk. So, biologically, a kid should be nursed until they no longer need milk.

    That said, I have zero judgment towards a woman who weans at a year. Bravo! I say. Its a big deal (given the statistics) and she should be proud. I am equally bothered by some of the super crunchy moms out there who judge moms who wean before 4! (Ive seen it) Heck, I say you've earned a degree at six months. Only ~10% of babies get that far.

  6. Blogger The Lactivist | 8:53 AM |  


    I think you are quickly becoming one of my favorite commenters. :) You have a great way of looking at things and you're an excellent writer. The fact that I often find myself saying "geeze, wish I'd worded it that way" doesn't hurt either. ;)

    Do you have a blog I don't know about? It's not in your profile. You can email me if you do and don't want to share it publicly.

    Back on topic...I find myself thinking about this a lot lately. I'll be posting later this week about having hit the one year nursing milestone and what my thoughts are moving forward.

    Keep the comments coming folks! Interesting stuff!

  7. Blogger JudyBright | 9:21 AM |  

    I think the whole issue goes back to seeing breasts as primarily sexual. Breastfeeding is awkwardly necessary but should be wrapped up as soon as possible in this line of thinking.

    There's also something sort of animal and primal about breastfeeding that people in our culture don't like. It's not neat and clean and scientific. There's a certain amount of shame associated with most bodily functions.

    My initial gut reactions to seeing mothers nurse their kids is influenced by these attitudes and the fact that I almost never saw anyone nursing a baby of any age let alone a toddler growing up. So it's just strange.

    That's my initial reaction before my mind kicks in.

    I believe in God. He designed the universe. Mankind is the highest form in His creation. He designed breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has been essential for centuries for the survival of mankind. It's no coincidence that breastmilk is the best nutrition for babies that has benefits that are impossible to replicate. Breastfeeding also has emotional benefits that can not be replicated.

    So, even if my gut reaction may be all like, "Ew, gross!," or just feeling a bit uncomfortable, I have a mind with an informed opinion along with the self control of an adult that allows me to adjust my behavior. And with practice even my initial gut reaction will change.

    I also don't care enough about what other people do that doesn't affect me at all to make them feel bad about it.

  8. Blogger Jill | 9:38 AM |  

    I find the "once they can ask" statement amusing. Some babies who are taught sign language can sign "milk" by 8-10 months. Since that's "asking" for it, should they be weaned then? In fact, babies "ask" in many ways other than saying, "Gimme some breastmilk!" Newborns root. Infants fuss. A young toddler might lift up your shirt. All those things are a request for milk! So since a newborn can "ask" by snuffling around with an open mouth, we should wean at birth?

    I know, I know, I'm being ridiculous. But honestly, that argument holds no water (or should I say milk?). I don't know any moms who, upon hearing their baby say "milk" or "baba" or whatever nickname they have for it for the first time, would say, "Well, that's it: no more nursing for you!" Heck no! They'd be exclaiming how wonderful it is that their baby added another word to his vocabulary.

    Like your daughter, my son didn't start talking (beyond "mama" and "dada") till he was 2. Although he self-weaned before that point, according to the "ask for it" logic, I should have kept nursing him till that point. ;)

  9. Anonymous Noble Savage | 9:46 AM |  

    I had never known anyone who breastfed a toddler until I did it myself! I had a few aunts who breastfed their babies and a friend who did until the one year mark, but I had never heard of it going beyond that.

    I remember how when I was pregnant with my daughter, my goal was to breastfeed for 6-12 months because that is what I kept reading was ideal in The Books. When it was more difficult than I thought and I developed mastitis numerous times in the first 6 weeks, I readjusted that goal to 3-4 months. Luckily, the problems cleared up by month 3 and we kept going.

    As my daughter approached her first birthday, I considered whether I was going to wean her or follow her lead. It took only a few minutes of looking at her and thinking about the ridiculousness of forcing her off of my milk for the sake of some societal standard to decide that it was her decision all the way.

    Sadly, she self-weaned a few weeks ago, just shy of 18 months. I would've liked to go for another 6-12 months but I respected her decision and needs.

    I've been incredibly lucky to have the unfailing support of my husband, my inlaws, my own parents and sibling, my friends and my doctor. Any suprised comments about her 'still nursing' with a raised eyebrow were answered with a warm smile and a gentle explanation of the new recommendations and of the benefits of milk for toddlers. More than once, women with their own small babies told me that they hoped to feed their own into toddlerdom as well.

    The best comment about nursing that I ever got came from a Japanese man on a plane. I had flown with my 13 month-old daughter to Chicago and nursed her quite a few times during the overseas flight. The Japanese man sat behind me and I imagine must've known that I was nursing her from the way she was laying in my arms. As we were getting our luggage out of the overhead compartment, he smiled at me and said "Breastfeeding is magnificent. You feed her until she is 3, yes? That is what's best for her."

    I believe that there IS acceptance of nursing a toddler but the negative stories seem to gain the most attention. Slowly, with lactivism and nursing in public making it a common occurrence, we will make a difference and hopefully make it even better for the next generation.

  10. Anonymous Bethany | 11:50 AM |  

    I used to be one of those people who thought you should stop nursing when a baby could walk or talk. I was grossed out by a friend of mine who was nursing her baby who was 10 months.

    Then I had my daughter, and never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined how strongly I would feel about nursing her. It's just such a natural thing for us, and everything that I've read says it's what she needs more than any other food.

    My original goal was to nurse for one year, not a day past. But here I sit with a 16 month old who still nurses 3x a day with no signs of slowing down- and I have no intentions of trying to wean her any time soon. I have no timeline in my head of when we will stop.

    I truly think nursing is one of those things that you have to experience in order to understand. This is why, as hard as it is, I try not to be too upset when I hear negative comments about extended nursing- because they just don't get it, and won't ever get it unless they nurse a baby themselves. And it's something that evolves as your baby grows- I don't think most nursing moms of toddlers (while some may) wake up one day and think "I want to nurse my 3 year old," I think it just sort of happens because it's right for them. And what is right for one family may not be for another, what's important is that we are confident and comfortable with the decisions that we do make.

  11. Blogger Cagey | 12:31 PM |  

    I find it interesting that no one asks when I will stop using my stroller and my crib, but folks have no issues asking when I will stop breastfeeding.

    Before I had kids myself, I was a 12 Month Sharp kinda gal when it came to weaning. Now that I have children, I believe mostly in the child-led weaning approach. My son weaned himself at 15 months. I am hoping my daughter weans around 18 months. I will admit I am not very comfortable with the idea once a kid approaches and passes the two year mark . I try hard to not be judgmental, though.

  12. Blogger The Lactivist | 12:33 PM |  

    I find it interesting that no one asks when I will stop using my stroller and my crib, but folks have no issues asking when I will stop breastfeeding.

    Now THAT is an excellent point!

  13. Blogger Cagey | 12:35 PM |  

    Also chiming in regarding Eliat's milk comment. I, too, find it ironic that whole fat cow's milk is pushed on our children to the age of 2 because of the need for the high fat. Breastmilk is high in fat. Coincidence? I think not. Once I read about that, I changed my 12 Month Sharp stance.

  14. Blogger ImpostorMom | 1:19 PM |  

    When I was pregnant I attended LLL meetings every month. I remember seeing a 2+ year old that was still nursing. I thought, to each his own but I certainly won't be doing that. The little girl came over and lifted her mother's shirt and stood in between her legs to nurse.

    I always said I'd go to a year and then I'd stop. Now that a year is approaching I've changed my tune a bit. I'll go as long as my son wants to but I do intend to cut out the pumping. He can have cow's milk during the day and I will be liberated from the breast pump.

    Now about retreating to the back bedroom I do that now but not because I am compelled to hide what I'm doing but because he simply can't focus unless I minimize distractions.

  15. Blogger ImpostorMom | 1:20 PM |  

    I do find this somewhat creepy though.


  16. Blogger Melissa | 2:07 PM |  

    I am really struggling with this right now, because of random comments I've been getting. Like the coworker that asked how long ago the AAP recommended 2 years. She didn't BF, and literally turned up her nose when she found out that I want to be an LC. My OB, MIL & SIL have also given me grief.

    DD is almost 21 months. She nurses in the morning and before bed. About 4 months ago we had a talk, and I told her that "Baby Na-Na" was only at bedtime and when she wakes up. I was going insane from all of the times she wanted to nurse during the day so we had to limit it. My close friends know I am still nursing, and some people who ask I will tell. However, people with ulterior motives I just change the subject. I know I don't have to justify my actions, but when "DD's Ped wants us to keep going" isn't a satisfactory answer, then those people aren't looking to educate themselves, they just want to rail against EBF. (I'm trying to get into nursing school, so this conversation comes up frequently with my classmates.)

    My original goal was to get through the first feeding, then the next feeding. Then 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 6 months, etc. At this point it's going to be easier to let her wean than try to wean her.

  17. Blogger 2-10 | 2:25 PM |  

    I'm tandem nursing my 2 1/2 year son old and 16 month old daughter. Weaning my son when I was pregnant with my daughter was not an option for me, since he was nowhere near done nursing. To this day he happily nurses about once or twice a day. Sometimes we miss a day, sometimes I can't nurse him cuz his sister is crying or needs me, but it's ok. My daughter nurses several times a day and I cannot remember one time when I have NOT nursed her to sleep (we co-sleep).

    One day I'll look back with fondness at nursing two babies. One day I'll miss it. For now, I will take every opportunity I can get to nurse my babies, until the day they decide they no longer need to do so.


  18. Blogger Tuan's Princess | 3:48 PM |  

    2-10 - That was so beautifully said. I feel the same way. Some days I wonder if my 31 mos dd will ever wean. But then I think about her not ever nursing anymore and get really sad.
    At other times I am just sure that my 12 mos ds will wean before her! lol

  19. Blogger Strawberry | 4:05 PM |  

    I remember when I was about 20, I met a woman who was breastfeeding a 3-year-old, and I thought that was crazy -- verging on disgusting. He asked for "breast" and unbuttoned her shirt on his own. Horrors!

    Now, I have two breastfed daughters of my own and my perspective has changed completely. I breastfed my first until she was 16 months, and only stopped because it was getting so painful to feed her with my growing bump. I hope to breastfeed my second for as long as she wants.

    The thing that really sold me on breastfeeding was the fact that *as soon* as I stopped breastfeedng my first daughter, she came down sick. It was like clockwork -- she had been such a healthy baby until then but, within a week of stopping, she had a constantly runny nose and was fighting some bug or another all the time. It really drove home to me how much a baby/toddler's immune system is dependent on the mother's immune system -- how much it's *designed* to be dependent on the mother's. I wish now that I'd tried to carry on for longer, bump or no bump.

    Now, when people ask questions or give me hassle about extended breastfeeding (and they do already, even though my second daughter is only 8 months!), I explain this to them -- that a baby/toddler's immune system is immature until they are in their 3rd or 4th year, and it is designed to rely on and be supplemented by the mother's mature immune system. I don't know if that wins them over (I hope so!), but it has shut them up, each and every time. :)

  20. Blogger Ali | 4:55 PM |  

    Nursing toddlers are everywhere. But as you said, they're hiding in the back bedroom.

    For my family, we never had a cutoff in mind. We struggled so much in the beginning with breastfeeding that discussing when it would end seemed almost disrespectful. And, too, once my daughter finally got the hang of it, nursing was so incredibly important to her - it was sustenance and comfort and love all in one.

    We made it until she was 3 1/2. We were well on our way to weaning, but had to abruptly terminate breastfeeding because of some hardcore medication I needed to take for a chronic condition. My husband, daughter and I all wept at the unfairness of it.

    We are very open about the length of our nursing relationship, because it was so important to us. There are a lot of mamas out there nursing toddlers, and they need to know that it's not only normal, it's also wonderful.

  21. Blogger Lesley | 4:58 PM |  

    I've always thought the "when they can ask for it" argument to be ridiculous.
    I was at a hallowe'en party when dd was about 9mos old, and said no to an alcohlic beverage because I was breastfeeding. I got into a chat with the host of the party about breastfeeding, and he said "well, you know, when they start to ask for it, I think they are too old" and I replied "define ask. Because she's been able to tell me she wants milk since she was born." I then followed up with the WHO recommendations and a few other points and by the end of the conversation he was totally agreeing with me on it :)

  22. Blogger JK | 5:25 PM |  

    Daughter #1 was 15 months when she weaned. She was a great nurser, amazing actually, but that's a whole post (someday I'll write it on my blog).

    Daughter #2 loved nursing. She weaned with a little encouragement (not much at all) at 3.

    This post gives a little insight to the toddler view of nursing...


    Daughter #3 is still nursing at 25 months but is weaning herself (as I type this even--I am so full it's not even funny!). I predict she'll fully wean by Christmas. She's once a day right now.

    I totally imagined I'd do 1 year of nursing for all my kids (I only thought there would be two). I love nursing now. I decided I'd try for 2 years with #2 and went for three years. Now I'm just going until my last nursling decides it's time to quit. It's actually going to be sooner than I would have choosen.

    The only slightly not positive thing about nursing for me is that I can't finish losing the pregnancy weight until I stop nursing. It's okay. I've only got about 3-5 pounds to go. The minute I stop nursing they should come off. I will be happy to see them go but I'm okay with my body as it is because I know it's doing something VERY important.

    I talk about nursing the girls some, but it doesn't come up that much since they don't ask about it in public... they are (or were) night or morning nursing girls. If it came up, I'd talk about it.

    Yes, our culture needs to get over its hang-ups about breasts as sexual objects. I do what I can, when I can. Someday I have to send you an assignment I do in my introduction to development (College Level) class. I would love to see other folks in development do similiar things (if they don't already).

    More soon as soon as I get a chance!

  23. Blogger Darlene | 5:36 PM |  

    May I interject some comments from the perspective of a Grandma who breastfed both of her children but now has the benefit of hindsight?

    As someone who had never seen anyone breastfeed until I attended a LLL meeting at the ripe old age of 22, I was quite shocked when a child who had been running around playing with another child simply walked up to his mother, lifted up her shirt, stuck his head under, and quietly nursed for few minutes. When he was finished, he pulled her shirt down, gave her breast a loving little pat that seemed to say "stay right there, I'll be back soon". I took it all in and let it run around in my pea brain for awhile and all I could come up with was "Hmmm..I never knew you were supposed to nurse that long. How can I do that? I'm going to have to go back to work when the baby is two months old."

    Fast forward, 32+ years later and a full year of reading posts from young moms trying to find their way through all the choices. Now I can offer this as someone who literally aches sometimes to have that experience again and with the memory of how wonderful and fulfilled I felt each and every time I nursed, and how sad I was 'cause I just couldn't keep going beyond about 3 or 4 months.

    Moms, do what your heart tells you to do but please don't stop until you and your baby are both ready. You don't get a 'do over'. Don't waste one moment worrying about what others think is right for you and your child. If the naysayers are family and friends, be patient with their inability to understand and know that a year or two down the road, it will be a non-issue with them, but you will have the beauty of the experience in your heart.

    It all goes by so fast and then you're standing there watching them go to prom, head off to college, and start their own families. Hopefully, your family and friends will be there too, and the breastfeeding issue (if there was one) will be long forgotten. But you will NEVER forget how beautiful it was and you will have the pleasure of knowing you gave your baby the best. Whether your breastfeeding experience is three months or three years, you will ALWAYS know that you gave the best of yourself. All those other issues will really seem so minor looking in the rearview mirror of time and in the context of your friendships and family history. Savor the experience now, extend it as long as you want to, and you won't have decades of 'woulda coulda shoulda' when you look back at your decisions.

  24. Blogger The Lactivist | 6:12 PM |  

    Darlene, that was so beautifully put! Thank you so much for sharing that perspective. :)

  25. Blogger Dana | 7:29 PM |  

    I've been trying to remember how I viewed breastfeeding before my son was born. I saw a mother nurse her 3 year old, when I was a day care worker and was slightly uncomfortable with that. Did I discuss it with anyone? I don't recall, but I am sure the smart ass college student, who wanted to be a career woman (why in the world was I going to college, if I wasn't going to go far in my career, right?),that I was, I made a stupid comment about it. Well, fast forward 7 seven years and I am a stay at home mom and still nursing my 15 month old son. When it came to deciding to breastfeed, it wasn't really a decision at all, it came natural and there was no question about it. Did I think about how long I would breastfeed? I guess I thought at least a year was reasonable. Now, I think whatever works for us is reasonable. I look forward to extended nursing with some anxiety, as I know that soon I will have to endure increasing questions about just how long I plan on nursing. I have prepared an answer something along the lines of that "This is not a subject open for discussion and I will do what works for our family." Of course, with my like minded friends I will discuss these things further, but for those who are just nosey and uninformed, that answer will have to do.

    I can easily see myself nursing until he's two and perhaps beyond. My motivation to do so will depend on his attitude about it. I can foresee us night-weaning sooner, however, the interrupted sleep is really messing with my temperament. I am beginning to seriously think about night-weaning. I question whether that would be the right move because he still nurses quite a bit at night, so I figure he must still need it. So, who am I to put an end to that? But that's off topic for now.

    So yes, while I don't think I had an attitude about breastfeeding or extended breastfeeding before I had children, I sure have an attitude about it now. I think extended breastfeeding is great. Even if I screw up this parenting thing in the future at least I increased his chances of a healthy future and a continued strong bond with me.

  26. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:02 PM |  

    I think most of my friends and family would think I'm a great mom, except of course, they've been overheard saying that I nurse too long! I really find that amusing coming from my MIL who nursed her kids until about 18 months! Who gets to decide how long is too long??

    Anyway, I think they've pretty well given up on me with this issue. I nursed my first for 3 years and 2 months. He turned out pretty great despite the fact everyone was sure he would never wean, so I think everyone was reassured. My second was just a week shy of 3. They were tandem nursed for 16 months. Now my third will be 3 in a few months, and I'm wondering with no baby in the wings, will I encourage him to wean as much as I did the others or will I allow him to truly self-wean?

    I guess I should mention that my original goal was 1 year with my first. And that seemed truly daunting! There are so many great things about toddler nursing, especially the first 2 or 2 1/2 years, I wish more people would feel comfortable and accepted enough to give it a try. I always tell people nursing after a year is all of the benefits with very few of the difficulties. I think the best part is that I have no regrets in this (and probably only this!) one area of mothering. I feel that our nursing relationships were full and satisfying. Jennifer

  27. Blogger Elizabeth | 8:39 PM |  

    I'll admit that I still have some minor hangups with the idea of 2 or 3 year olds nursing, but we'll see how I feel when my 2 month old is there.

    I do, however, find it strange when NIP issues arise around older toddlers. Certainly they have the right to do it. But when it's just as easy to hand over some yogurt, why make such a big issue about nursing?

  28. Anonymous rinna | 10:22 PM |  

    Hi Elizabeth,
    sometimes it is not as easy as just handing over some yogurt when my baby wants to nurse. Most of the time that we are out and he wants to NIP it's more of a comfort thing. Whether he feels anxious with the new surroundings, tired, cranky or what-not.

  29. Blogger Azúcar | 11:43 PM |  

    I'm glad that you all liked the article! It's been an interesting experience "outing" women who nurse their babies into childhood. I think the prevalence I've run into is simply geographic. I live in the Western US where the rates of nursing have always been higher, including the rates of extended nursing. If women who nurse longer than the norm begin to speak up, I firmly believe that we will turn the tide.

    All that being said, get ready to arm yourself with humor, or at least Chutzpah if you continue nursing into toddlerhood. I've been blessed (or cursed) with a loud Latin mouth, so defending my decisions has never been a problem.

    I've been really enjoying the Library of Congress pictures on Jennifer James' Black Breastfeeding Blog showing women openly nursing older babies and toddlers. Wouldn't it be amazing if self-weaning became the norm instead of the exception?

    I, of course, don't say that everyone should nurse past 12 months, but I hope that no one ever weans simply because it's been 12 months.

  30. Anonymous Jessica | 5:22 AM |  

    I have no intentions to wean my daughter. I, like other moms, have noticed that since she is busier with playing and exploring she tends to be less interested at certain times of the day. Yesterday while trying to walk, she fell head first onto the floor and banged her head pretty good. Of course she started screaming, and I scooped her up and lifted my shirt. It's not just about the nutrition; nursing (especially for toddlers) is also about the comforting. It must be such a wonderful feeling to know that when something hurts you, that Mommy will scoop you up, give you a hug, hold you in her arms where it is warm and smells familiar, with the sound of Mommy's heartbeat, and you can nurse (and if you're hungry, you can get something from Mommy to eat too).

    When I was pregnant I thought I would give nursing a "try". I had no idea how much I would enjoy it or how well it would work for us. Now that I have some experience and have grown wiser, I have no timeline for weaning. I hope it doesn't come anytime soon, because it is just as soothing and comforting to me after being away from my daughter for 11 long hours on a work day, to be able to snuggle and comfort her in a way that no one else can.

    Sure she could soon be getting whole milk from a cow per medical guidelines on child nutrition, but I see no reason to artificially hurry up what will naturally happen in due time.

  31. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:42 AM |  

    Can I just comment on the toddlers NIP?

    I really try not to nurse my toddlers in public. In fact, nursing becomes subject to limit setting the way most behaviors do in toddlerhood. But nursing to a toddler becomes a lot less about nutrition and a lot more about comfort. I would not nurse my toddler in public because he was hungry or thirsty, but if he was getting tired and cranky and approaching meltdown phase, it would be nice to be able to nurse him without any concern or embarrassment. After all, that's part of the beauty of nursing toddlers. It's a wonderful calming tool that helps them cope with their world which can be overwhelming to them at times. It seems to center them and help them gain some control of themselves. And while I don't use this tool often in public, I truly wish it was more accepted as it would help to avoid a lot of public unpleasantness with toddlers.

    I really wish that yogurt had the same magical effect! LOL!

  32. Blogger Lesley | 6:51 AM |  

    Elizabeth, here is why it's not so easy just to hand over some yogurt: you want what you want, and a toddler does not have the ability yet to understand that "now's not the time" or "have a yogurt now, milk later when we're home." Given the choice between the food that brings you the most joy and one that's "ok", which are you going to pick?

    Also, by your line of thinking, why make such a big deal over a blanket? It's "just as easy" to toss a blanket over you and your nursling, right? Nope. No it's not. In many many cases (both my children included) the child will not tolerate a blanket put over their head. The same way a toddler may not accept that they have to take the yogurt over the nurse that they want.

    But as you said, you'll see where you are when your 2 month old is at that point. I talked a lot about what I thought was right before I was in those situations too, and I've eaten my share of word ;)

    Oh, and Darlene...thank you for sharing your story. I will keep in my mind whenever I need some inspiration to keep going. Thank you.

  33. Blogger The Lactivist | 8:37 AM |  

    DOH! Accidentally just rejected two comments. Sorry guys!

    Here they are...

    From Mary Joe:

    Before my son was born, I knew I'd try to nurse, but I didn't have a goal in mind. My mom nursed my sister and I for the first few weeks, and my sister nursed her kids about that long too. I knew breastfeeding was best . . . but I didn't think much about it. (I think I prepared as much for motherhood as I did for marriage - too much focus on the pregnancy/wedding, not enough on the long term!)

    But when Jack came, and struggled with starting to nurse, well, something about that made me fight to be able to give him milk. And when postpartum depression set it badly, nursing was the only thing I still felt like I was capable of doing, so there was no way I would quit that!

    So, a few weeks became a few months and I found a great breastfeeding support group. The leader talked about nursing her boys - one until 3 1/2, the other still at 3. There were a couple of moms of young toddlers who showed up sometimes, still nursing. (Those of us with infants were there almost weekly - we always had questions!) I thought it was a little weird - but I didn't think much more about it. And then Jack started approaching 1. And the questions started coming - when are you weaning? You know he doesn't need that anymore, right?

    I had two people with big problems with my nursing - my mother in law and my sister. My MIL mostly didn't like that her grandson was dependent on me - she wanted him all to herself! But one day, a few weeks after he turned 1, she told me she had read an article that said breastfeeding past the age of 1 protects children against diabetes. And suddenly, she didn't care anymore.

    My sister has not been so easy to convince. She thought it was weird that we never switched to formula. She always felt like a cow when she was nursing - she couldn't imagine that I didn't. And nursing past 18 months? That was just gross. (She could understand that just because a baby was 12 months, that Mom might still need time to wean - but 6 months was plenty.) This, despite the fact that our cousin, a good friend of my sister's, nursed her daughter until well past two. Even now, knowing that Jack nursed 20 months and I have no intention of nursing any less with the little one on the way, she still tells me it's not right. I've given up. Some people will just not be convinced.

    From Shay:

    Thank you for this post. In a couple weeks my son will be a year old and we have no plans to wean. I'm starting to warm up to the idea of child led weaning which is so odd since when I got pregnant I didn't think I'd want to nurse at all. My husband thinks I should be done by two. Is two years old really that grown up?

  34. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:32 AM |  

    Sorry to keep commenting! This is a subject near and dear to my heart! I just wanted to recommend the book, How Weaning Happens. I think Diane Bengson wrote it. Iread it when my first baby was 9 months old and we were getting close to my preconceived goal and I was starting to get all the, "When are you weaning?" questions (even from my pediatrician!). By that point, I couldn't imagine stoppping! It seemed as if we were just getting started on something really good. I was so relieved to read this book. It really changed my whole perspective on weaning and on breastfeeding in general. Jennifer

  35. Anonymous Abby | 10:42 AM |  

    I don't know if my other comment went through, but I did remember something about toddler nursing that was very encouraging to me when many people seemed to want me to stop.
    My grandmother had children from the 50's through the 70's in an era that I think most women really didn't nurse as much, and she nursed 4 of her 6 children, several of them well past a year. Two of those daughters and a daughter-in-law also nursed their babies until they self-weaned, some at 10 months and some at a couple of years. My grandma was the best encouragement for nursing of anyone I know. I am really glad that I have someone like her to support me when the rest of my family just looks on in confusion!

    On the flip-side, my mother-in-law (from Egypt) wanted me to wean at a year, because that's what women do there. Most Egyptian women breastfeed, but almost all wean BY twelve months, if not by 10 or 11. She thought it was really weird and whenever she had the chance she would ask why I was still nursing my (at the time) 13 month old.

    I had a great excuse, she was allergic to dairy. Whew! That's an easy way to get around it. I just said that I couldn't possibly stop giving her milk if she couldn't drink cow's milk! I hate the smell of soy products, and avoided them as much as possible for my daughter, so it was breastmilk or nothing. She drank lots of calcium-enriched Orange Juice, but Momma's milk is what got her through. She didn't seem to mind. :-)

  36. Blogger Mademoiselle Oulla | 10:47 AM |  

    I nurse my 19 month old, although I never really thought I would nurse a toddler. I used to think extended nursing was weird, but now I am a lot less ignorant.

    Breastmilk IS nutritious. And contrary to popular opinion, it does not suddenly become un-nutritious at 6, 12, or 24 months. Here is a link to info about nursing toddlers and the nutrition of breastmilk: http://www.kellymom.com/bf/bfextended/ebf-benefits.html#nutrition

  37. Blogger Lesley | 1:01 PM |  

    I think the idea that breastfeeding beyond a year is "no longer about nutrition" comes from the fact that toddlers are typically eating a full range of foods and therefore getting nutrition elsewhere.
    And I think it's funny that I have heard the same people who think babies don't need to nurse past age one (because it's not about nutrition anymore) also extoll the virtues of toddler supplemental formulas (you know, to boost their nutrition intake)(LOL)

  38. Anonymous Holly | 1:34 PM |  

    I'm guilty of saying a couple of those comments your friends had said. Growing up, I was never exposed to breastfeeding (not that I remember), so I used to think anything past 6 months just seemed strange. After my sister had my nephew, she taught me about the benefits of breastfeeding, and now I look forward to being able to breastfeed when I have a baby. I see her breastfeed her 1 year old, and it seems perfectly normal. My goal is for 1 year, but I wouldn't be surprised if I pushed it up to 2 years. I still get a little weirded out by the thought of a 2 year old breastfeeding, but I think it's just a matter of letting myself get comfortable with the idea over time.

  39. Blogger Elaine and Mike | 6:13 PM |  

    The thing I find interesting is why nursing suddenly becomes an issue at all after one year... is it mainly because it was always recommended for one year and people took that as, "stop after a year"? I wonder, do other women not like nursing and just can't wait to stop? I can't say that it causes any difficulties in my life to nurse, and seems like a nice way to connect with my 13 month old daughter, so I just don't feel like weaning is necessary or right. That being said, I do have a good friend who weaned her 9 month old baby because she thought it was weird that her baby could wiggle around in her lap and pop her head on and off. She said it was "creepy" to nurse a baby that old. I wonder if she, and other women who are uncomfortable nursing a toddler, have body issues? Perhaps they have internalized our society's fetishization of breasts? I say bravo to any women who follows her baby's cues and her own gut instincts where nursing is concerned, regardless of what in-laws or friends or the pediatrician says.

  40. Blogger Jen | 7:14 PM |  

    I left a comment yesterday. What happened?

  41. Blogger The Lactivist | 7:23 PM |  

    Jen, I've published every comment that's come in on this thread, save the two I accidentally blocked and then posted myself.

    If your comment isn't here, I don't think it came through...

  42. Blogger Azúcar | 11:29 PM |  

    Elaine & Mike - I do have a couple friends who dislike nursing. They simply don't like it. They nurse for a year because they know it's best, putting their own feelings aside. I don't begrudge that they aren't going past a year, they went as far as they could go (which is still better than most of the US.)

    Abby- how fascinating about your Egyptian mother in law! I've been told that the Koran states that it's the right of every child to nurse until they are at least two years of age. Not that I'm saying your Egyptian MIL is necessarily Muslim, or perhaps if she is, she's more secular?

    One of the benefits that most stands out is that I didn't ever have to worry about my toddler's nutrition. Yes, nursing toddlers eat regular food, but they don't have to be force fed cow milk or other fat-substitute.

  43. Anonymous Abby | 5:01 AM |  

    This is for Elaine and anyone else who has ever asked those questions:
    I know that at times I wanted to quit nursing, not because I didn't enjoy it, but there were times when I felt like it took over my entire world, and I resented it. I got over it quickly, but there were often times when I thought, "why am I doing this to myself?" when it got too stressful. I don't think that the pressure always comes from the outside. Sometimes the pressure from stress can cause a mom to say "One Year, that's it. I can't do it any longer." But that doesn't make it right for them to say it's weird for other moms to continue on. I know that even though my first nursing relationship has ended, and I still bond with my daughter in other ways, I miss it, even though I recall the times when I was sick of it and wanted to quit. I wish I hadn't let anyone push me into quitting at 19 months. She could have gone at least a few more months. This time, I really hope, no matter what even my husband says, I can make it 2 years nursing. But that doesn't mean I won't have times when I'm feeling too frustrated to go on.
    It's important for us to be honest with ourselves about our feelings, and I think it can help to say that you're tired, because it means that you need even a little break. Your body may be made to carry and feed a baby, but that's not its only job! When it becomes the only thing you do all the time, at least for me, it made me feel like I was just a factory, and less of a person. The times of stress just reminded me that I was meant for more than JUST feeding a baby.

  44. Blogger Heather | 9:16 AM |  

    Elisabeth self-weaned at 17 months. I would have liked to go longer, but she was just... done.

    I do get a little annoyed when someone pulls out the "no longer necessary for nutrition" card when stating that toddlers shouldn't be nursed in public.

    Have you ever tried to feed a toddler? Seriously. I would love it if she would still nurse, because then on those days she decides that everything I offer is evil, I can be assured that she will still have the nutrition she needs.

    The fact of the matter is, toddlers should be nursed in public because there's nothing wrong with doing so.

    Although I think what would help is if more extended nursing moms would practice nursing manners. Yanking on shirts begging is never appropriate... I've seen some of these same mothers reprimand children for behaving that way about toys or candy... nursing should be no difference. Manners are paramount, and I think it's bad manners that often exacerbates negative perceptions. No child should be rude under any circumstances... (yeah, I know it happens, but a habit is a habit) nursing is awesome, but shouldn't be the exception to that rule. If my daughter nursed now (23 months), she would be expected to say "please" and "thank you" just like she does with everything else. :)

  45. Blogger Laura McIntyre | 3:33 AM |  

    Pre-child i never thought about it much but i guess i thought it was weird. I mean breastfeeding someone old enough to ask is just sick right?

    Well my 28 and 11 month old daughters are both still feeding with no end in sight. I had no idea i would go this long but also had no idea i would love it so much

  46. Blogger Jen | 6:00 AM |  

    well my first try disappeared, but the gist of it was...

    I had so much trouble with nursing and birthing and high blood pressure, and children with early eating disorders (infantile anorexia) and so I urge all of you who are able to nurse as long as you can or want. Do it in public, do it in private, whatever, wherever. Because I wanted to nurse and nurse as long as I could and I couldn't. So I support you all.

    I think it was a little more elegant the first time, but this will do.

  47. Blogger Elaine | 8:26 AM |  

    Abby, I appreciated the response. I wonder... I'll bet that personality has a lot to do with the nursing relationship, how the mom feels about nursing. I tend to be kind of a low-key person, not incredibly driven, content to sit around on my arse most of the time, so weirdly, perhaps that is why I've never felt like weaning, whereas my friend who weaned her 9-month old because she complained that not only was it creepy but also inconvenient to her is a busy-busy person. I guess it's so easy to judge other people when all we really know is ourselves, our own personalities. I'm so content to nurse for however long, to spend hours in bed nursing and reading, and I suppose this might just drive a lot of people crazy.

  48. Blogger Ms D | 5:59 PM |  

    I Alway let my children self wean. with our first child my husband start to push toward weaning at a year, because he wanted more "alone" time for us. but now with our 5th child he is more supportive - call it experience (he figured out we would quit breastfeeding when we were ready not ewhen he was ready.)
    I feel very strongly about breast feeding & the thought of not being able to makes me very sad. I know eventually my baby will be weaned, but I want it to last as long as I can. I am sorry for those who don't get the chance to experience breastfeeding.
    One thing that really bothers me is when people give me suggestion on how to get my baby to sleep through the night -so I don't have to get up & feed her. THey don't realize that I she sleep with me I don't "get up" & besides I love breastfeeding. It helps my baby & me & it is very relaxing. I truely don't look forward to the days when she will sleep through the night, because I work full time & that is when can be ther just for her, she can nurse whenever she wants.
    I encourage all of you to stand up for breastfeeding. I got some of the best (& strangest) reactions when I poeple asked me what I was going to do after baby was born & I told them I planned to come back to work but if it got to be difficult working & nursing I would quit my job. Many were supportive & many could not believe I would give up my job in order to nurse my baby- after all baby would only be nursing for a short time. & to them I would say;" You exactly right my baby will only be a baby & nursing for a short time in his/her life, I will never get that oppertunity again, therefor I will make every sacrifice for my child."

  49. Anonymous Rose | 7:00 PM |  

    I didn't nurse my first baby. I tried but had literally no support and so I weaned at around 6 weeks to formula.

    My second baby was another story. This time I was married and I decided to nurse. Honestly, I never "put my mind to it." I just figured I would do it, and that was that. And it turned out to be super easy, so we stuck with it. She turned 3 in August and is still nursing.

    Did I mention I have a third child? She's 3 months old and of course is nursing. I don't tell many people that my middle child still nurses. I personally have no issue with it but I don't feel like dealing with the comments.

    Before Emily was born, I had an acquaintence who was nursing her 18 month old. I thought it was so gross. I couldn't believe anyone would do that. And now I can't believe anyone wouldn't! I couldn't imagine how hard it would be to wean a 1 year old! They are about the most rigid people there are ... one year olds don't like change, especially one so important.

    Nope ... now we are all for child led weaning. Its just sad that there is such a taboo about it.

  50. Anonymous Jenni | 8:16 PM |  

    I was only able to nurse my son for 5 months, due to high work stress and him going on strike at the same time. My supply vanished. I still get emotional about not letting him wean himself, especially considering after a week on formula, I found one last bag of breast milk in the freezer. He gulped it down, wanted more, and when all I had to give was formula, he bawled.
    I am expecting baby #2 in February and wonder how he will react. He'll be 22 months, so I don't know what he might remember from breastfeeding. He still wants me to kiss his hand when he drinks from a bottle at bedtime (he always reached up while nursing for me to kiss his hand). I do know that if he wants to resume breastfeeding, I won't stop him. I can hardly get him to drink "normal" milk and will pump for him regardless of him wanting to nurse or not. I don't care what people might say about him resuming breastfeeding because if I didn't overstress and dry up, we'd never have stopped to begin with.

  51. Anonymous Abby | 10:22 AM |  

    Azucar-- My mother in law is actually a pastor's wife. She's not, and never has been a Muslim, but I didn't know that about the Koran, either. I don't know if what she sees is that Christian women in Egypt don't nurse past a year, and Muslim women don't nurse toddlers in public, so she just thinks it's weird, who knows?? I know that her opinions have rubbed off on my husband, who really wanted me to "start" weaning at a year, and be finished by 18 months, maybe, but I just wasn't ready to give it up that quickly, and knew that OUR daughter needed the extra boost it gave her. I won't be pushed that easily!

  52. Anonymous Anonymous | 1:33 PM |  

    I just happened on this blog and I am fascinated with this thread! Thank you for all the open discussion!

    Now, I don't intend to threadjack, but I have a few (apparently) ignorant questions. I am currently nursing my 9-month-old son. We are really eager to get pregnant again but have not because I thought the milk stops if the mother becomes pregnant. Reading some of your comments, I see that must not be the case. I wonder where I got that notion if it's just plain not true. Or is it so for some people but not the usual?

    Second, it has not been easy for me to nurse. My son never did learn to latch properly. Working with an LC helped only to a degree. Now that he has so many teeth, it is only more painful. He has a real stubborn streak, too, and these days when I try to correct his position, I get bitten outright. I can't imagine going for a year or more at this rate--let alone a two year old with a mouth FULL of teeth! So what is the trick to this? Am I just being a marshmallow about discipline?

  53. Blogger The Lactivist | 1:43 PM |  


    Re: the teeth thing...you DO have to be very careful about setting limits for your baby if they start to bite.

    Things like loudly saying NO when baby bites to startle them, pulling them INTO you (instead of pushing them away) when they bite, or simply ending the nursing session can all be effective ways to (eventually) deal with a biter.

    When Emmitt is teething, he tends to try and nurse with his teeth holding the latch. It hurts like heck and I don't stand for it. Sometimes I stick my finger in there and break the latch half a dozen or more times before he "gets" it and starts nursing properly.

    It hasn't solved the problem completely for us, but it sure has helped.

    Remember, breastfeeding is NEVER a valid reason for your baby to abuse you with bites. You aren't obligated to nurse a biting baby. Tell them no and set them down and try again later. They'll get it eventually.

  54. Blogger Lesley | 7:56 AM |  

    Not all mother's milk dries up, but many do have that happen. I was breastfeeding my toddler when I got pregnant again and while my milk supply remained the same, my breasts became incredibly sensitive and it hurt like heck to nurse her. And I know others who have had no problem whatsoever, and others who have said the child stopped because the milk tasted different.
    My point is that it's different for everyone and it's hard to know where your body is going to fall on the supply spectrum.

    And I wanted to second everything Jenn said about biting.

  55. Anonymous elderberryjam | 8:55 AM |  

    The religious subculture I grew up in had many who nursed past 2, nursed in public and even home-birthed. I had the unique issue, as it appears here, of being detatched from this subculture when I had my first 3 children, having a very low self-esteem, and going at it alone with lots of questions from in-laws and friends, and little support. I weaned my first at 2 months; the second two at 10 months. I had no LC to explain to me the laws of demand and supply, so once my supply was compromised, that was that.

    This 4th baby is still nursing at 16 months, and I'm 43 now. I am back in my subculture, and have the support of a good LC. It makes a world of difference. I wish there had been the online support in the 1980's that you have today. Blogs like this and the Yahoo groups have helped immensely. It is wonderful to be finally able to nurse a toddler. I think that we are all turning the tide because of this great venue of communication. The public contraversy is an indication of it; and I do think that in the end, our culture will change for the better.

  56. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:49 PM |  

    Jenn and Lesley--thanks for your feedback! Consulting our LC can take DAYS depending on how busy the doctor's office is. It's just so nice to know there's a more immediate place to ask wacky questions like these. :)

  57. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:30 PM |  

    I'm a little late chiming in, but here's my story. My opinion on "extended" nursing has definitely changed since I've had kids. I wasn't grossed out by it, I just didn't see why anyone would want to. When I was pregnant with my twins, I was shooting for nursing for 6 months or a year. One of my girls was A LOT of work, we finger-fed, used a SNS, etc. Next thing we knew, their first year had flown by, so we decided to shoot for the WHO recommendation of 2 years. Now, here I am with 3 year-old twins, one of whom nurses sporadically (and I'm sure would have self-weaned if she never saw her sister nursing), and one who might skip a day if we're extremely busy, but will make up for it the next. We only nurse at home, and I don't volunteer to people that we are "still" nursing (as someone else said, it's just easier...) but most of my friends are aware. I'm the only person among family/friends that has nursed this long. Some people are comfortable with it, some wonder if they aren't "a little old for that now". I have some days when I really wish they'd wean, but I know that part of me will be sad when they do. Above all, I am confident that when they are ready, they will wean, and I will be glad I let them decide the time.

  58. Blogger Chloe | 8:46 PM |  

    Not directly related to your post but thought this might be of interest. Check the link for an adorable picture: http://www.boston.com/news/odd/articles/2007/10/08/golden_retriever_nurses_stray_kitten/

    Golden retriever nurses stray kitten

    October 8, 2007

    STEPHENS CITY, Va. --A stray kitten has found a new mother in a golden retriever, who began producing milk for the gray tabby after hearing its cries.

    The hungry kitten, found in an old tire at a concrete plant, refused to drink from a bottle and her rescuers feared she would die. That's when Honey, the family dog who hadn't given birth in 18 months, stepped in with her motherly instincts.

    "She started licking her and loving her. Within a couple of days, Honey started naturally lactating," said Kathy Martin, whose husband, Jimmy, brought the kitten home six weeks ago. "The kitten took right to her."

    Initially, the family worried such a big dog would be too rough for the tiny feline named Precious. But Honey showed her elation at Precious' presence, wagging her tail and prancing all over the house.

    Precious now sometimes plays with dog bones, and Honey lets the kitten gnaw on her like a puppy.

    "She thinks she's a dog," Kathy Martin said. "She's really fit right in."

    © Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

  59. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:44 AM |  

    Wow! This post and the comments so hits the spot with where I am at the moment!
    My darling daughter is 13 1/2 mths and is still breastfeeding and not looking like weaning at all. I don't want to wean but as I am in the very early stages of being pregnant again, was a little concerned at how this would affect my feeding for the new baby if/when we get there.
    My mum comments often and asks what I am going to do if my daughter doesn't wean herself and I am in hospital giving birth to a new baby and daughter wants to feed. Not sure how I will tackle that, but at least I know from this blog and some other stuff I have found tonight that it is possible to tandem feed and produce colostrum for the new baby.
    Daughter only feeds 3-4 times a day, but is hugely reliant on her morning and evening feeds. She has begun do sleep thru so I don't have the issues that some others have discussed about needing a good night's rest.
    I am expecting some comments from my friends in the future. I have asked them previously about what they did - i.e. wean or continue to feed and even my most alternate friend who home birthed both of her children stated that she weaned when she fell pregnant as she was too tired otherwise. The tiredness hasn't kicked in yet but I don't plan on stopping.

    Thanks so much for your blog, and also a big thanks for all the suggestions on how to handle unwanted comments when they crop up!

  60. Anonymous Laura | 9:58 AM |  

    I'm still nursing(naps and at night) my 26 month old. I never thought I would have before having a kid of my own.

  61. Blogger Jess3kids | 9:07 PM |  

    Wow, Jennifer I didnt know our boys were so close in age! Luke turned 1 on September 30th...no plans on weaning for us anytime soon. Morgan, my middle one self-weaned at 21 months. I never thought I'd nurse a toddler but in all honesty when we hit 1 neither of us were ready to wean so we just kept going. I have no idea how long Luke will go but for now we are happily nursing.
    ~Jess from Reynoldsburg

  62. Blogger Amy | 11:17 PM |  

    LOL! Boy have my views on breastfeeding duration changed! My first I weaned at 15 months, and couldn't imagine nursing past that age. When my second was born, my first was 20 months old, and I remember telling my friends, well, I think I'd nurse until 18 months, but not until two! That's gross!! (looking at my little nursing baby and my big weaned toddler). That baby I nursed until 25 months ;) My third baby took her last sip of nums on her third birthday. My fourth is 9 months old, so I'm interested in seeing how long we'll go. I no longer say, "I'll nurse until..." It's not just about me, it's about the both of us.

  63. Anonymous Karen | 8:24 AM |  

    Just one more extended nursing mom here. My son is 39 months and still nurses most nights (before bed) and most mornings. I thought he was weaned last May when he went for 2 weeks without asking, but then he started up again. Occasionally he gets so upset he can't control himself, and then if he will nurse it calms him down right away. It's a version of "time-out," in the original, time-to-calm-down sense, not in the punishment sense that time-out has evolved to.

  64. Blogger Becky Miller | 2:42 PM |  

    I could feel my whole body relaxing as I read this post and thread. My first just turned a year old, and at her one-year check up, our pediatrician seemed surprised she was still nursing and asked how long I planned to go. I matter of factly said, "Oh, at least until she's two, if she's interested." He gave me a funny look, but thankfully didn't say anything about it. I'd been wondering how much food she should be eating vs. how often she should be nursing, and the ped said it's a toss up between milk and food - she'll eat till she's full, whichever one she's getting.

    It's so encouraging for me to hear from other extended bf moms! You've encouraged me to keep going - my daughter still loves nursing and signs "milk" often throughout the day. Sometimes she only wants a "snack" and sometimes she nurses for a long time. I almost always nurse her to sleep for her afternoon nap. And in the morning when she wakes up, she frantically signs milk as soon as I go into her room.

    I'm now determined to let her lead weaning. And I'm not afraid to discuss personal issues with people, so I'm going to start being more vocal about extended bfing, so other moms know they're not alone.

  65. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:01 PM |  

    I am so glad that I found this blog. I am pretty late to this, so hopefully I will get some responses.

    My 2nd daughter just turned one, and she is not even close to weaning. She still nurses about 8 times a day (she doesn't nurse at all at night anymore). That seems like a lot for her age, but maybe it's not.

    (A little background---I breastfed my 1st daughter until she was 13 months. I kind of felt I had to wean her then because her sister was due in 2 months, and I just couldn't wrap my mind around the idea of nursing a very clingy 15 month old and a newborn. She actually weaned fairly easily (I did the cut out one feeding a week method), and I still wonder how much milk she was even getting towards the end. Okay, totally off-topic and probably seems random, but I thought I should share that. The point being that at her first birthday, she was down to 4 times a day and not 8.)

    I can totally relate to other people saying that they never thought they would nurse a toddler. I even said it after I weaned my first daughter---"Now that she's 18 months (or whatever), wouldn't it be so weird if she was still nursing?!"

    This time around, though, I really don't want to quit. I am getting pressure from a lot of people, but I am going to try not to let it get to me.

    All that said, I have a question. : ) I have not been away from my girls for more than a couple of hours since the first was born over 2 years ago. I really would like to take a girls' trip with some friends (or can you imagine---a vacation with just my husband! What is that?! haha) in a few months. How can I do this, if my little one is still nursing? Or maybe I should say, did any of you ever have a weekend away? How did your little ones react? My mom says, "I would love to watch the girls for a weekend, but if you're still nursing, how can I?" Please give me encouragement that my daughter will be just fine, and if I am out of sight, nursing will be out of her mind. : )

  66. Blogger The Lactivist | 6:05 AM |  

    My mom says, "I would love to watch the girls for a weekend, but if you're still nursing, how can I?" Please give me encouragement that my daughter will be just fine, and if I am out of sight, nursing will be out of her mind

    Probably depends on whether or not she takes a bottle. Babies who will take bottles (while in day care, while being babysat, or even from dad) are probably going to be ok if you go away for a day or two.

    If you have a baby (like mine) who didn't take bottles (he's just now starting to do well with sippies) it's another story. If I'd gone/go away, it would be a situation where whoever I left him with had to basically let him go nuts until he gave in and drank from the bottle or sippy.

    I wasn't ok with doing that. So I've waited. My husband and I have had about 4 quickie (less than 2.5 hours) dates in the year since my son was born. I've taken my son (and a sitter) on every business trip I've taken. He's been on five or six biz trips. (I work from home.)

    The difference is, my one year old now nurses only before bed time and once or twice during the night. I at least have the option of "freedom" during the day. Just have to be home by bedtime. I'm doing my first all day biz event next Tuesday while my mom keeps him.

    Can't go anywhere overnight until he's weaned though. So I wait. I guess it will make me enjoy the overnight trip that much more. ;)

  67. Anonymous Anonymous | 12:25 PM |  

    Hmm, I am bummed. : ( That wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear! haha My daughter will not take a bottle (she has had maybe 3 in her whole life, and those were a LONG time ago). She drinks out of a sippy just fine, but she'll only take water from it. Just last week I tried all different kinds of milk---whole, goat, rice, soy, combos of each, watered down versions of each, and she gagged on all of it or just let it slide out of her mouth. Little stinker! : ) I also put some of my frozen breastmilk in there, and she gagged.

    I wonder if anyone else will chime in with their experiences with this. I don't think anyone wants to risk her crying all weekend while I am gone (and I would feel terrible too!). I am not sure what to do. I will keep working on the milk in the cup thing, and we'll see. : )

  68. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:18 PM |  

    This is the first time I've commented on a blog. Can't even remember how I got here.... My 2 year old was still nursing at least 3 times a day and several middle of the night nursings when I was pregnant with my second. We slowed down toward the middle and end of the pregnancy because of the pain, but he was old enough that he understood and we could talk about it. That was pretty cool. He's four now, and still asks to nurse and tells me he wants to until he is "at least eighteen, maybe thirt-four." His brother is NOT willing to share and cries if his older brother gets started. This has limited the older's nursing quite a bit and I feel quite bad about that. The youngest is almost two now and has no interest in stopping. He nurses several times through the night and always nurses to sleep at night and for naps. He also nurses several times during the day.

    Several times recently I have been nursing the younger guy and people have come up to me and commented on how sweet/beautiful/etc he was sleeping in my arms so comfortably. I'm always tempted to say, "Yea, the nipple helps" but just smile. Most people have no idea what he is doing. My first son trained me in ignoring the public interst when people are rude. A lot of people have stared at me nursing but I'm starting to think in many cases they are just looking at something unusual and find it curious. I try to be discreet but also hope that when others see older toddlers nursing it helps to de-mystify it or make it more "normal." "Normal," to me, is not filling your child with the milk of another animal and then turning up your nose at what your body was designed to give him.

    Just wanted to add more from a mother of an older nursling!


  69. Blogger Kerri | 6:46 PM |  

    What an absolutely wonderful post!!!

    I am currently nursing who is to be my last child, a daughter finally and she LOVES to nurse. It's going to great this time around and I've often joked that she and I will someday have to have a talk about the benefits of weaning ;-)

    I copied and pasted this statement so I can commit to memory, it truly says it all:

    "Did you ever stop to think that you don't just suddenly nurse a two year old. You nurse a baby who grows older day by day. On what specific day does it suddenly become "gross?"

    BRAVO! I'm a new reader and I just want to tell you that I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog. Nursing is a huge commitment for me as I work full time and she is exclusively bf. It pins an awful lot on me, add on the lack of sleep and my two older children...just reading has given me so much comfort...the fact that bf is now a subject for discussion!

    Keep up the great work! :-)

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