Exploring Holistic Alternatives

Families practicing: Alternative & Natural Health; Attachment and Mindful Parent

Breastfeeding support alone is lacking in our culture and extended breastfeeding is like an underground network. I remember meeting someone at the pool when my son was a baby who whispered to me, "I am still nursing my child (about age 2) but I don't tell anyone."

I believe that how breastfeeding is viewed in the US can not change until women stop hiding the fact that they are breastfeeding their babies and children. I realize there are situations where it is not in your best interests to inform everyone that you are still breastfeeding your 2, 3, 4 or 5 year old (or older child) and yet somehow we must slowly make this jump.

I have decided now that my two children have weaned, I need to make every effort to inform people, especially those who comment on their health or intelligence, that maybe it is in fact because they nursed until they were 6. You may find this funny but it is true. Somehow in our culture it is safer to say this after the fact then while they are still nursing.

I realize many of you are challenged enough with nursing a 2 or 3 year old. Believe me, I never imagined I would nurse both of my children for 6 years. I attended my first LLL meeting when my son was 3 weeks old and thought, I will never nurse past one year. Slowly, over time, I became ok with the idea of nursing him until maybe 2 or 3, after all most kids wean by that age- and yes in fact, many do. As all of you know, once your baby turns one, they are not suddenly grown up, neither does this happen at age 2 or 3....or 6 for that matter. Weaning is a gradual thing. It begins the minute you introduce anything other than breast milk into your babies diet. And so if anyone pushes you about weaning, you can always say, "Yes, we have begun weaning".

Take a look at other things with children. Even schooling (not that i agree with these practices ) but we begin by sending them to preschool for a few days and then kindergarten- in many states for half a day before they begin full day school. Is that not gradual? Surely it is more gradual than the typical America view that once a child turns one year of age it is time to wean. If in fact, they have breastfed for that long. And if they have- kudos to them for that is wonderful! Any amount of breastfeeding, if even for a few days, is far better than none at all. Yet, I challenge the idea that weaning needs to be quick and I suggest the idea that is not in the baby's or mother's best interest for it to be sudden, no matter the age of the baby.

Well, once a child is 6 years of age, and I must add that nursing is a far different experience at this age. My son would go three weeks without nursing and both of my kids were apart from me for one or two nights by the time they were 4 years of age. My son no longer nursed to sleep at night by age four and my daughter was never consistently nursed to sleep from a young age and volunteered to put herself to sleep at a much younger age than my son. I digress, but my point was that by this age and even by 3 or 4 in most children who still nurse, nursing does not happened very often and sometimes not even every day, therefore when they do wean- it has been gradual. Like when my son turned 6 and I told him, “Now you are 6 and no longer need to nurse.” No, it was not his idea, but he did not argue with it either. Ironically, my daughter weaned herself without my suggestion shortly after her 6th birthday.
Not to scare anyone- not all children who wean naturally nurse this long. I believe my kids are just making up for a generation of no nursing- as my siblings and I were not even nursed for one day.

Thanks for listening, I love writing about nursing and hearing others stories of extended breastfeeding. Who knows, maybe some day I will write a book on the subject! (I am an aspiring free lance writer- but I will ask permission to reprint others stories first

Love to hear others views, opinions and stories- even those that differ from my own.

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks for sharing!

I nursed my son till he was 18 months. I did get some pressure to stop, little comments that dug, but I stopped b/c I was TTC and was not having luck so my SIL told me I had to wean my son. Well that did not help at all, I just got FAT. I stopped abruptly and packed on 20 lbs in a week that soon turned into 30 and I still was TTC! Those were the hardest 30 lbs to loosse too!

Now my daughter is 2 1/2 and I still nurse when ever and where ever I want but have made sure we cut back slowly. She nursed every two hours on demand well past 18 months so I had to cut out some feedings and stop middle of the night time feedings. The nursing on Demand was not working for me. So over the past year we have settled slowly into 4 feedings a day. I nurse her to sleep at night and for nap. She is just now starting to miss a feeding every now and then during the day either before or after nap. I think as she gets older and stops napping she will drop both of those.

I have never figured out why 1 yr seems to be the magic number for many moms to stop nursing at. It is like it is written in a book or something. There is no right or wrong here, but the longer the better IMO. There is so much more nursing information and support now for moms with infants than there use to be. And I think that is FABULOUS, but I have watched as the nursing mommies around me have dwindled away to the point that when I find a mom nursing a child my daughters age I am so excited!!! Like WahWhooo!! I am not even sure when that happened last. It is sad to me.

I tried to bring up a discussion about nursing toddlers on another forum. I was hinting at child lead weaning and a member commented on the fact that I was the one that should decided when to wean and I should just do it. So where do the nursing moms get this message that they must stop at 1 year?? Other than from each other.....

I have always nursed in public, when ever and where ever I needed to. I don't really nurse in public anymore, but I am never ashamed to tell people she is still nursing. I am glad to give her that extra dose of good health and extra bonding time. At one point I considered weaning her for my health but after I stopped nursing on demand every two hours and got a good night sleep I was doing a lot better LOL.
I am thrilled by your story. Thank you so much for sharing. You are the first person I have found that actually nursed longer than me (so far...). My son (who will be 4 in January) is still nursing, along with my 1 year old daughter (still on-demand with my daughter, trying to limit my son during the day). When I was pregnant with my son, I thought "well, I'll try the nursing thing, and we'll see how it goes...". Then I thought, "well, maybe I'll wean at 6 months..." and then it was one year, and then I said "never mind, I'll just let him wean himself" because he seemed to really need the closeness and calmness that nursing gave him (I also work full time). The only hard part, really, has been that he does not sleep well, and he would wake up every hour to nurse, usually just staying attached through most of the night (I became very adept at figuring out how to sleep and nurse at the same time). We went through a period where he slept with his dad in his own room (when my daughter needed to nurse on both sides at night, since he would not share), and he would try to sneak into my room several times a night, but now we're all back together, and he's actually latched-on most of the night. My daughter will nurse and then roll-off to go to sleep again, and she's up every few hours or so. My son, however, is literally attached as much as he can be. I have a nifty little pillow system that allows me to nurse both of them at the same time while sleeping :) I'm just a bit sleep deprived...

I still nurse them both to sleep at night, together, too. They giggle and blow bubbles and are adorable as they drift off to sleep. I love that time with them.

I also am finally completely confident in nursing my daughter in public. With my son, I was terrified I would offend someone. Now, I think "if you are offended, that is YOUR problem, because my daughter deserves to be able to nurse when she needs to". Makes trips out much much easier.

It amazes me the lack of support out there for extended nursing mommies. I am so happy to have found a forum where there is some support. None of my friends nursed past 6 months. I am now trying to find new friends :) Hee hee. Seriously, though, I think it really is important to find friends who are supportive in whatever lifestyle it is you are trying to implement. And it's not helpful to have friends who think you are looney for nursing past 1 year.

I have been getting a lot of pressure to stop nursing my son. I keep saying that I'm going to try, but then he is so incredibly happy and content when he gets "nummies" that I can't bear the thought of breaking his heart by telling him that he's not going to be able to have them anymore. I just keep hoping he'll slowly start diminishing the amount of times he needs nummies. Since I work full-time, there's not a lot of opportunity during the day, which helps. But hearing that yours nursed until 6... I can very easily see him going until then!

How old are you children now?
I enjoyed reading your story as well Christine. (And now I know why your picture looked familiar when I approved you on my charlottehomeschooling website- i saw it here first:)
My daughter is 6 1/2 bday in Feb and my son will be 11 in November.
I am due with my third child in early Jan.

I worked outside the home full time until my son was 2 and then part time regular hours until about 2006. I do think that babies and children make up for not nursing during the day when mom works outside the home by nursing more at night.
Wow- you nursed at night through your pregnancy. I did wean my son of nursing to sleep at age 4 when I was pregnant because it was so uncomfortable and I would get angry. My favorite advice on issues like reducing nursing sessions and nighttime parenting comes from Dr. Sears-
he says try something and watch how it affects your child and your relationship with your child- if the change is made smoothly then it was more a habit than a need (but if you see a negative changes in your child's behavior or your relationship with them after making the change- then maybe it is not the right change as it may be more of a need than a habit.

You can tell all those people that your son is weaning...it is a process and slower for some children then for others.
Have you ever gone to a LLL meeting? It is great place for nursing support and you can find others who have nursed past a year. There may be a toddler group in South Charlotte- I can check for you-
link to area LLL groups:

I can't imagine continuing for as long as I did without support I received from LLL- attending meetings and conferences and other events. The annual NC LLL conference will be the first weekend in April this year in Raleigh.

I am glad this group meets a need. Nursing is such a cultural thing- in so many other cultures it would not be a big deal to nurse to age 2, 3 or even 4. I read somewhere that in the time of Jesus- children were likely nursed until about age 3- I remember sharing that with a friend who was getting trouble from her family.

I so agree on the need for being around like minded people. It is easy to underestimate what you are doing- be it extended nursing- or homeschooling/ unschooling- whatever if you are not getting support from the people you regularly interact with esp. if they are criticizing you or even just doing it a different way- that leaves you questioning yourself.

I know there are others out there who have nursed a long time. Katherine Dettwyler, an anthropologist, has spoken at LLL events. she did some research on extended nursing and a cool survey several years back. She survyed people who nursed past...i forget the age exactly- but she found moms who nursed their children (in the US) to as long as 9 years old.
Here is a link to her home page:

I am not sure what is all on her site- as I have only just found it but have loved hearing her speak. She also talks about research she has done comparing other mammals and the length of nursing and based on how long humans live- she estimates the natural age of weaning to be between ages 3-7.

I also love the book "How Weaning Happens" by Diane Bengson. It can be purchased through llli.org
and I also found it on Amazon.

I look forward to meeting you! do you work during the weekdays?
Your nursing story was very inspiring to me. I have plans to continue to breastfeed my now 8mo son, after he turns one. I practice ecological breastfeeding and find it to be as rewarding to me as it is to my son and believe it will only enhance our relationship as he enters the toddler years. Thanks so much for sharing views that should come naturally to mothers...just meeting the needs of our children. This most primal need- is the most natural way for a nursing mother to ensure that so many other emotional needs are met.
How beautifully put Melanie. Nursing is a great way to ensure other needs are met and that benefit is often overlooked. I never thought I would nurse my son past one year, but then could not imagine not nursing him through his toddler years- it calmed him so often with tantrums and the challenges of toddlerhood.
It is wonderful reading everyone's stores and thoughts on this. It is one of those topics that I don't get to talk about often.
I am glad to hear others find it helpful for me to share my story.
tell your nursing friends about this group and invite them here. I find it exciting to see this group grow. I believe there are more moms out there nursing past one year than we realize- due to our cultural taboo.



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