Mar 192012

I don’t know what “Extended Breastfeeding” means.

Is it breastfeeding past the age of 3 months? 6 months? 2 or 5 years?

A lactation consultant friend of mine said, “‘extended’ is a culturally loaded term,” and I agree. Another IBCLC reminded me that the term “extended” does nothing to normalize breastfeeding past (whatever age…) it makes it seem extraordinary when (though it is awesome) it’s really just normal.

Extended Breastfeeding at a year?

The world average for how long babies are breastfed is 4+. Yes, babies around the world breastfeed on average until they are more than four years old.

I’ve examined my feelings about that. Have you? How does it make you feel to see (or think of, since you probably aren’t likely to see it on the street) a woman breastfeeding a four-year-old? Or a 15-month-old for that matter?

I had a personal breastfeeding goal of two years and I can see it flying by easily. This doesn’t mean, however, that at her two-year birthday party I will give Babe a card that announces she will no longer be allowed to take comfort in her “milkies.”

It also doesn’t mean that we will make it to two years. A while back, Babe spent a couple days striking, but quickly decided she was into breastfeeding again. My daughter will breastfeed until she is ready to stop (or something unpredictable happens and we have to reassess.)

I am starting to feel like Rebecca, who said, “For now, my plan is to bf until she’s two. But lately, I just feel like I will let her decide when she’s ready to wean.”

Breastmilk continues to provide immunity for YEARS, not months. The magic of it all doesn’t stop when the baby turns six-months-old. The nutrition, either. Nor the OH SO IMPORTANT comfort!

Last week I was at my in-laws’ and I breastfed Babe and wondered to myself if it bothered them. They have never said anything negative about my breastfeeding (by contrast, my MIL has, more than once told me she admired my perseverance in those really hard first months). But Babe is more than a year old and for some people, watching a toddler breastfeed is weird.

If you leave a comment saying something to that effect, it’s probably going to annoy me/piss me off. But I understand that most people probably to feel uncomfortable when they see it.

Or, again, think of it, because you really really don’t see it. You rarely see a woman breastfeeding a newborn in public, let alone a toddler.

And the fact that we don’t see it is the real problem.

Super cool to see celebrities like Beyonce breastfeeding in a restaurant, but I wonder if she’ll do the same when Blue Ivy is three? Do you breastfeed your toddler in public?

  • Saraheliza3

    I was just thinking about this last night, we went out to dinner and there was a woman bf’ing her daughter (she wasn’t a toddler but around that 12mnth stage) and I don’t remember thinking a whole lot of it but then you somehow popped into my brain and I glanced around to see if anyone else seemed to notice. There were a few “odd” glances and whispers and I suddenly felt like jumping to the poor girl’s defence (I didn’t, that would have been weirder I’m sure) but it made me think about how I feel about it. I never had any issue with bf’ing in public, J was hungry, he ate. I myself am old school modest so I always covered up but that was for my own comfort more than the general public’s. However, I have to be honest and say that I do find it odd to see someone nursing an older child. I remember a friend’s stepsister’s son ripping her shirt up in a grocery store and yelling “nummies” when (in my mind) he was well past the age of needing it (when he can stand up and demand I thought, enough is enough). My opinions on this (and many things) have changed after having a baby. I think that babies should be allowed to come to certain milestones on their own, there is such a pressure to wean, off this and that and it always feels to me like I’m thrusting my babe into something he’s not ready for yet. I don’t know how I would decide when enough is enough, J decided for us last time around and just stopped so I guess I would let babe #2 decide too. A very interesting question though and great post. I think if more women were comfortable bf’ing in public (older and younger babes) then it would not seem strange. Unfortunately, the idea of bf’ing a toddler in this neck of the woods is represented as something that is perverse and unseemly (just look at any movie or tv show or the like that represents a bf’ing toddler and it comes off as something to poke fun at, to report to authorities or banish into the shadows). We’ve got a long way to go before it’s the norm here but maybe one day.

    • Saraheliza3

      and can I add (and I realize I am overtaking the wall here) that it seems a strange phenomenom to me, how parents are so competitive about weaning their kids. Has anyone else ever noticed this? Like it’s a race to see who’s kid will grow up faster? My baby didn’t need a boob/bottle to sleep at 6mnths, my baby weaned off the boob/bottle at 8mnths, my babe slept through the night at 4mnths etc. Why are we all in such a hurray? and why do we feel bad if someone’s kid beats ours to these random “finish” lines?

  • Kate

    I don’t nurse in public anymore, and I guess I haven’t for quite a while, because leo seems perfectly happy to eat his snacks or meals when we’re out of the house. I’m always thrilled, though, to see women nursing, regardless of the child’s age. On the other hand,i can’t say I would be comfortable nursing him in public. He is a very distracted nurser and I can hardly hold onto him because of how tall and heavy he is, which doesn’t couple well with how shy I am of my body. But around family and female friends (my ~22 year old guy friends have always been uncomfortable with it), no problem.

    • Mamanaturale

       I hear you, Kate! My daughter’s super distracted too. She has to be starving to eat in public these days. Too many interesting things to do. Maybe Leo just doesn’t want to fall asleep while out and about. Survival instinct! 😉

  • Cheryl

    I breastfed Dylan until he was 14 months old. He decided to wean. I probably would have like to go to 2 years as well. I’m a breastfeed anywhere, anytime type of person. For ME 2ish would have been long enough, BUT it really doesn’t bother me to know or see others breastfeed until waht ever age they do (although, I would probably get caught staring if I saw a 10 year old bf’ing).

    • Mamanaturale

       There’s a video on youtube of a 10 year old breastfeeding. I’m pretty open to breastfeeding longterm, but, well… it’s not easy to watch!

  • Desirae Rasmussen

    Funny I was just thinking about writing a blog post about this topic… now I might just have to write it….

  • Laura

    Now that you mention it, I hardly EVER see toddlers being breastfed in public! I wonder if it’s largely because they are also eating food/snacks and maybe drinking water at that age as well, so parents go for those options when out and about instead. I don’t know. Anyway, my son weaned himself at about 12 months (possibly due to the fact that my second pregnancy had affected by milk supply, unbeknownst to me), but I never really had a cut-off date in mind. I will say that nursing a 12-month old was a lot more challenging than when he was smaller, as he became increasingly distracted/squirmy, and just harder to position comfortably as he was so much bigger/heavier. I imagine nursing him as a toddler in public would have been a bit more physically challenging (I don’t think I could have just carried him around on the boob like I could when he was teeny!), but I’d like to think I would have found a way! Either way, it would never bother me to see a toddler being nursed anywhere, though I know it does make a lot of people uncomfortable, which is too bad.

    • Mamanaturale

       I rarely do it. But the other day, we were out for a long time (and I never remember snacks.) I popped her in the carrier and fed her as we walked around in the sunshine. Her hat was big and floppy. I suppose someone might have seen the side of my boob, but no one should be that close to me (except for Babe!) 😉

  • Kate Rowan

    I just made it to 6 months, and I have no reason or desire to stop any time soon. I have already been told its time to start weaning. Good thing I never listen to anybody….

    • Mamanaturale

      Many women don’t even make it to six months!  Keep on following your instincts, Kate!:)

      • Kate Rowan

        Thanks! I plan on it!

    • zvezda

      Weaning: get accustomed to something different ? (does not mean you have to stop bfing in order to start solids 😉
       The sense of weaning a child from the breast was generally expressed by gewenian or awenian, which has a sense of “unaccustom” (cf. Ger. abgewöhnen, entwöhnen “to wean,” lit. “to unaccustom”).

      • Mamanaturale

         Who knew? Wow.

  • Andrea

    My daughter is now 11 months, and I’m beginning to find myself ready to wean her. I am tired of nursing her in public. Tired of people looking and having people feel uncomfortable around me while I’m nursing. I have never been entirely comfortable with nursing in public. I’ve always worn a cover, but now, even wearing the cover doesn’t hide my embarassment. I know I have nothing to be embarassed about, but no one in my family has ever breastfed this long, and only one of my girlfriends bfs her daughter at 23 months. When we’re at home, I’m completely ok about it, but when we’re out, I just don’t look forward to it.

    • Mamanaturale

       Hi Andrea, Glad you found this post. I don’t know you, but I will say that I hope you decide to keep on keeping on for a while longer. Especially because the issue seems to be with other people, not yourself. At 13 months old, we’re rarely out when there isn’t something else for her to eat. Breastmilk is always warm and convenient, but if you’re not comfortable bfing in public, there’s still plenty of time to breastfeed him at home. Certainly no reason to make him wean! Good luck!

    • Greengirl0909

      At 12 months I started getting encouragement from those around me to wean.  By 18 months people acted as though I were crazy.  I “weaned” for about 2 weeks, and my little one kept asking for it. One night on a forum there was a girl saying she wanted to keep nursing, but others were telling her to be done. I broke down bawling and my husband was overwhelmed and confused. I told him I wasn’t ready to wean, obviously our baby wasn’t ready to wean, and that I had done it because of outside pressures.  Ironically, shortly after that our son woke up. My husband said, go get him and nurse him you get to make this choice! We just passed 2 years old.  I never thought I’d still be nursing, but it works for us.  If YOU want to wean, then do it, but please don’t let others make this decision for you.  You get to decide about the relationship between your body and your baby.  Good Luck.

  • Jenny

    I think part of the reason we don’t see women breast feeding older babies/toddlers is because they are simply breast feeding less than wee babes. Often just in the morning or before bed? Just a thought. Of course it’s also true that many mothers must avoid it in public at that age because they are uncomfortable by people’s response to them: “You’re still breast feeding??” That sort of thing.

    • Mamanaturale

       I totally agree, Jenny.

    • Tamara

      I was going to say the same thing!  I think that’s the biggest part of it.  For the most part during the day toddlers are eating table food and if they are nursing it might be before nap time and you usually aren’t out and about at that time anyway.

  • katery

    i don’t think it’s weird at all, quite the opposite actually, totally normal.  if i were to see a five or six year old breastfeeding, i have to admit, i might find it a little strange, but most definitely not a one year old, or even a two or three year old for that matter.  you and your daughter will decide how long you will breastfeed and whatever you decide will be right for you and your family.  you’re awesome for sticking with it even when it was really hard.

  • Dagmar Bleasdale

    Thank you for this important and thought-provoking post!

    Yes, I proudly breastfed my 3 years-old in public. I’m an outspoken breastfeeding advocate and  know all about the benefits of breastfeeding, for me and my son, and letting him self-wean came naturally.

    My son still nurses to sleep for a few minutes, at 5 years old. We are doing it in the comfort of our home and are not bothering anyone. And this kid is the healthiest of all the kids in his kindergarten class. I’m so glad to still have breast milk to put it on his scrapes and bumps, in my nose when I’m congested, and to heal scratches he got on his eye. Breast milk is amazing in healing things, no antibiotics needed, so why give that up before the kid is ready?

    I was able to donate breast milk with other moms during BlogHer ’11 and was so glad I was breastfeeding so I could contribute to feeding a baby that couldn’t digest formula whose mother couldn’t breastfeed him. That was so much more important than the feelings of some people who think breastfeeding an older child is odd. Too bad. I’m giving my child the healthiest food there is, that is personalized just for his individual nutritional needs. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to give the best to their child if he or she is still interested in nursing for a few minutes as five years old?

    Dagmar’s momsense

    • Jenn

      Thanks so much for stopping by the blog, to share your story, Dagmar! You are one of THE original naturale mamas!!

    • Mamanaturale

       Thanks for this comment, Dagmar. You are truly a Naturale Mama! I love your blog, and am super-stoked that you found me here :) Happy breastfeeding!

  • Tamara

    With both of my kids I told myself “a year” as a guideline.  No hard line, but just get to a year, if they still want it, and go from there.  Well, with my oldest we got to 14 months and she was down to one comfort feed in the middle of the night.  I had to go on a medication that wasn’t safe for her so we stopped without much fuss on her part.  My son is now a few days from being 22 months and he is still firmly attached.  I honestly didn’t expect for it to go on this long but I’ve just kept going with the flow.  I’m really ready to be done but I’m having a hard time saying no to him.  I’m 10 weeks pregnant with our 3rd child and I would like a break and for him to be able to go back to sleep on his own if he wakes up at night.  I loved the bonding and still do, but selfishly, I wish I could get some more rest before we start the cycle all over again.  I wish there were more resources on how to wean a toddler.  It’s SO hard to tell him no when he signs ‘milk’ and says ‘peeeease’ with those little eyes.  And now he’s starting to say milk too and I just cave.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, because it’s not, but personally I’m ready to be done (till the next one.)

    • Jenn

      Selfish isn’t the right word in your context, mama! But I get what you’re saying. I imagine it is sooo hard to be pregnant and nursing at night. Pregnancy is tiring even when you get to sleep through the night. If you figure it out, please do share. I think so few of us get to the point where we’re nursing toddlers that we don’t really know how to stop! The one little piece of advice I can give (not in the same boat, my daughter is only 13 months and I’m not pregnant) but we’ve been trying as much as possible to rub her back and shush her to sleep. Papa’s been taking a bigger role at nighttime too. It’s been going surprisingly well, because I think my daughter is ready and eager to fall back to sleep without (always) going for the boob. I only nurse her at night now when she really wants to, not just because it’s the easier thing for me a that moment. Thought some nights she is really needy and I have to work the next day and, oh boy! Does that make sense? I’m sure it’s stuff you’ve read before. Best of luck with the rest of the pregnancy and the new baby! there is a group on Facebook called INFORMED CHOICE: pregnancy parenting and beyond (or something similar.) I think you would find some answers there.

    • Mamanaturale

       Thanks for sharing, Tamara. I don’t think I can efuse when my daughter says “milk” either. Well, it’s more like “miw.” But she means it!

  • Sharon

    I never thought that I would still be nursing my son still, but here we are at 5 years plus.  As already mentioned, it’s typically at night/early morning.  My daughter weaned when she was close to 3yrs old.  It’s a good example for other women, to see that it is not problematic to allow the child to wean on their own schedule.

    • Jenn

      Thanks, Sharon. It is inspiring. I don’t have many real life friends who nursed into toddler hood and allowed the baby to wean on his own. I appreciate your story, and love hearing form bedsharing mamas in similar situations. Do the kids ever REALLY choose to sleep on their own? Apparently, yes!

    • Mamanaturale

       A great example. Thank you. I think I will keep it in mind when we start to wonder when our daughter might like to sleep in her own bed too. All in due time, right?

  • Inbal

    for me it’s not about whether we’re out or at home. these days it’s about setting some boundaries (like with many other things). there’s a lot of communication between us at this point (14 months old) and she is able to wait for some things or accept that sometimes it’s not the right time to play/eat/breastfeed/do certain things. i felt that breastfeeding a million times a day (and night) was the main way she knew to get food+drink+comfort, so now i decided to help her to transition (in order to help myself) and i try to offer those in some other ways (something to eat / water/ hug/ all of the above). she very often accepts the alternatives! (oh yeah, for the last 4 nights there was no breastfeeding between bedtime and 6am, yes!).
    all that actually made breastfeeding times very special moments for us. she loves it of course and for me it’s no longer draining (because i don’t have to satisfy the appetite of a 14 months old with only breast-milk 24 hours around the clock).i’m hoping to continue breastfeeding for as long as both of us enjoy it.and i have no problem doing it outside, i’m almost happy to respond to the questioning looks (and questions) because i feel so great about breastfeeding, so absolutely confident about how amazing it is for my daughter and for our relationship – it makes it easy to deal with whatever people say. more than anything, simply doing it, as if it’s not a big deal (you said it – normal!) is the best thing. she’s a toddler and she’s breastfeeding – what’s the big deal?

    • Mamanaturale

       Thanks Inbal!!

  • MightyMighty1

    I nursed my son till he was 2.5 years old, and then weaned because I wasn’t getting pregnant. People definitely thought it was weird. I would nurse him at church if needed, but mostly he didn’t need to nurse in public.

    I do have a friend who is obnoxious about nursing. She knows her in-laws are uncomfortable with her nursing her near-two-year-old, but she loves to explain to them how comforting it is. I think part of the issue is that her daughter is a bit bratty, so people think it’s because my friend treats her like a baby, and breastfeeding is part of that.

    I feel like people need to relax about nursing in public, especially with babies. Part of that though is that moms need to be both brave and thoughtful. Go ahead and nurse a young toddler in public, but not a 4-year-old. Why? A four-year-old doesn’t “need” to nurse, whereas a toddler may. If you push people too hard, like my friend, they’ll end up blaming their uncomfortable resentment on nursing, rather than the real source.

    • Mamanaturale

       That’s a really interesting point, Mighty. If a kid behaves badly, then certainly it’s because mama’s still spoiling her by breastfeeding!! (groan) And I see what you mean about the difference between NIP for a newborn and a toddler. Perhaps we need to take baby steps, eh? Thanks for commenting!

  • hobomama

    I was still nursing in public at 2, and occasionally at 3, but I drew the line at 4. :) I think it’s whatever makes you comfortable, though. My son was an avid nurser still at 2 and 3, nursing several times a day, but I knew I didn’t want any negativity directed at my son, who rightly doesn’t know there’s supposed to be something weird about his extended breastfeeding. We’re now down to mornings and nights, and some skipping of that, so nursing him in public isn’t a question anymore.

  • Jennifer Duffy

    I’m still nursing at 18 months and starting to get increasingly harrassed about it from my parents in particular.  THanks for the support.

  • Peacefulparents

    I nursed my 1st for 22 months, 2nd for 34 months, and 3rd for 30 months. I found that they nursed less in public, as toddlers, because they were busy or eating regular food. I still nursed them when they needed it, wherever we were. I guess I was really discreet because I never got a negative comment or weird look. I remember a few times, in restaurants, when I ordered a meal for a toddler, who was nursing at that moment!

    I am currently bottle feeding my 4th baby because we adopted him. We “bottlenurse” which means feeding on demand, not letting him hold the bottle (to mimic breastfeeding), etc. The looks and comments I’ve gotten, now that he’s over 1, are way worse than any I got for nursing. Guess bottles aren’t discreet 😉

  • Mindi

    I still nurse my 23 month old daughter and am planning on letting her decide when it is time to ween. We don’t really bf in public, but it is only because I like to relax in my recliner so we can both get the most comfort out of the experience… I do however nurse on airplanes to sooth her for the flight. She has flown in 9 airplanes in her life to visit family and enjoys the pre flight bf time! :)

  • Vicki

    I prefer the term ‘full-term breastfeeding’ rather than ‘extended breastfeeding’, I think it helps in normalising it to some extent.  My little girl is 17 months and feeding heartily, I prefer to think that I am doing the normal thing by letting her decide when to wean rather than the abnormal forced early weaning that has been the cultural norm in our society.

    We still feed pretty much anywhere and everywhere, without shame, although I do sometimes ask her to wait a few minutes if it’s more convenient.  For example, the other day we were in the car, I was driving, she was buckled into her seat in the back and we were five minutes from home.  I asked her to wait until we got there, which was fine.  When she was tiny I would stop the car, get in the back, take her out of the seat and feed her no matter how near home we were!

  • Kori Penkert

    I am still nursing my son who will be three in June.  We have another on the way in August as well.  My son doesn’t nurse often so I rarely have to nurse him in public unless he gets hurt or we happen to be out at nap time, but I try to avoid that.  I unfortunately live in one of the only two states that don’t have legal protection for public breastfeeding so it makes me uneasy to try it with him.  We are working to change that though.  Hopefully we will have legislation on the table in 2013.  Here is to hoping! 

  • Hollyberry13

    I agree with Mighty. I had a friend that nursed her child when she was around 3 and that kid was a brat. I thought it was partly to do with my friend nursing her but I also knew that the child wasn’t given ANY rules and did everything they wanted and her brattiness was a result of a child wanting boundaries and not being given them. I always thought it was odd back then, but now that I have my son, we are at 4 months and I know I want to go for at least a year and possibly longer, depending on my son and if I get pregnant again.

  • Yolanda Rico

    still nursing my 32 month old.  i nursed in public probably until about 18 months and after she turned 2 she is only allowed to nurse at home mainly because she usually wants both boobs out and won’t allow me to keep the non nursing one covered up (now i’m not comfortable with that).  planning to wean at 3 just because i’m ready to be done.  i love seeing mamas nurse in public but its few and far inbetween.

  • Jacquelinbutte

    I do not have a toddler breastfeeding but i do have a 10 week old who YES i feed him in public. im proud to be nursing him others around when im nursing out in public tend to leave but i feel that that is their fault not mine I will not be ashamed of what im doing . helps that i have an udder cover tho=) i will nurse my son until he is done how ever long that may be.

  • Melissa Cohen

    I nursed my son until he was close to four.  And it was HARD.   Not just because I was ready to stop long before he was but also because of the social pressure to stop.   I didn’t often nurse him in public as he got older.  My almost two year old is still nursing, and I hesitate over nursing her in public more and more – because there is enormous support for breastfeeding infants, and enormous pressure to stop nursing as they become toddlers.  

  • Tia Christopher

    I’ve seen mamas breastfeeding toddlers. I think it’s wonderful that they can continue on past the recommended year. With my first I dried up before my year base goal which I felt really sad about. With my second, she’s 7 months and I’m still going! I’m really hoping this time to make it to the year mark and beyond. 😀

  • Redcobra219

    I’ve never had an issue with others breastfeeding in public, but I’ve had some self-consciousness when I’ve done it.  Anytime I’ve seen anyone breastfeed in public I think “Wow, I wish I had as much confidence as that woman.” 

    When I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed for AT LEAST a year.  Unfortunately I had to go back to work when she was 3 months old and I was unable to pump anything remotely close to a supply, so at around 3.5 months old she had to be supplemented with formula while I was at work.  (At that time I was only able to pump about 4 ounces per day at a 10 hour work shift.)  We nursed as much as possible on days we were together.  Anyway, we’re still nursing, but not nearly as much and she is now 9 months old.  I know by law my employer is supposed to allow me time to pump, but my responsibilities at work are many and I feel guilty for “choosing” work over my baby.  I’ve had many struggles with that..

    Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent here, but the point is that I wish I was fortunate enough to be able to have been able stay home with my baby to nurse and never have given her formula.  I want to make it to that year mark and then go from there, but we will see if she’ll have it.

  • Libbi Ayers

    I am still nursing my 18 month old in public as I always have (no cover either, but I am discrete).  I am planning on about two years, but I am very open to his signals on the weaning process. I won’t “cut him off”. I wasn’t sure on the etiquette here, but I  nursed in a pew through my uncles funeral last week. It was a very simple way to ensure  him quiet and comforted (he was a little freaked out by all of the adults crying and hugging ans such). Let me be clear also that I didn’t BF just to make him not talk or fuss; he signed for milk and cuddled in my lap in position. It doesn’t help that it was during normal nap time. No one seemed bothered by it, and my mother and aunt even encouraged it. My husband thinks its a bit weird that I am still nursing but supports me the same. 

  • Rozee_pozee

    My twin daughters turn two yrs old on Friday. I breastfeed in public although they don’t nurse as frequently as a younger toddler. I would once have thought this wierd. Now it would feel cruel to place some arbitrary denial on a behaviour which is clearly meeting a deep biological & emotional emotional need for my girls. Other people’s opinion on the subject are irrelevant to us.

  • Meggie

    I’m breastfeeding strong still at 22 months…the longest of my 3 kids.  My goal has always been 2 years old as well.  For me it’s strange…it feels completely normal to feed her and not weird at all…but when I see my friend feeding her 28 month old, it’s strange for me. LOL.  I feel the bond with my child but don’t see or feel the bond others have with their kids…but they do! So no judging on my part, all the power to the mamas who go past 2 with their kids!  It’s great!  Not sure how I’ll feel when we get to the 24 month range but we’ll see how it is when we get there. I can’t imagine myself saying ‘no’. :)

  • Amberhill1018

    I believe most state laws only protect you until the child turns 1. That’s the main reason I do not breastfeed my 2 year old in public unless she gets hurt and I can’t make it to the car quick enough (lesser reasons being my own modesty—-which has been a factor since her birth, not just recently—-and that she feels she has to have both breasts out to properly nurse :P) . We spend the majority of our time in our home or our family-owned business, so luckily it isn’t a huge issue for us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman nursing in public around here.

  • Amelia Dempster

    I breastfed my daughter for 34 months and the last time she nursed in public was at the aquarium the week before she stopped completely. While she definitely nursed in public more as a tiny baby but there seemed to be at lest once a week right up to the end where she needed it right now; whether it was due to tiredness, overstimulation, injury, or just because.

  • Kelly

    I had an original goal of 6 months. Then I learned more about the benefits and became an advocate. I’m still nursing my 30 month old, but frankly, I’m getting a little tired of it. It’s only at bedtime/naptime, but I find it uncomfortable. Still, I believe he needs it and will let him continue this way. That’s why you won’t see us doing it in public, it’s reserved for sleepy time :) 

  • Amyj125

    I am nursing a 23 month old. My initial goal was 2, but now that it’s a month away, I don’t think its going to come easy! LOL!  I’d rather allow her to self-wean than have to wean her unnaturally. :)

  • CC

    I’m nursing my first child 8 months now and we’ve hit a rough spot with biting but I hope to get through it and continue.  I’m the first in my family and my husbands to breast feed and although no one complains I do get the questions about when we will stop.  My own mother told me it’s time to wean but I know for sure my brothers and I had bottles over 1 year old but I guess the boob is a little scary for her.  I love to see articles like these since it gives me the courage to do what’s really in my heart for my daughter and not to fall to family criticism. 

  • Magni Onsoien

    Thanks for an interesting entry. I agree that the term extended is culturally biased, it all comes down to the norm of the society we live&nurse in.

    When it comes to public nursing of toddlers, I guess it’s uncommon simply because most toddlers in our part of the world (I am in Norway, but I suppose it’s the same in the rest og Europe and North-America) don’t nurse much during daytime. So not nursing them in public is for most people a sign that they don’t nurse at times when we’re out in public, not that we’re afraid of nursing them in public. My daughter’s morning and evening sips are not at times when I go out of the house :) I am active in the Norwegian equivalent of LLL and know quite a few mothers who nurse for 2-3 years there, and I also “find” some women outside these circles from time to time, but it’s not very common. In Norway 5-6% nurse for 24 months, but there is no statistics beyond that. (Add to that that I am 7 months pregnant, and I am clearly a minority :-))

    But I was wondering about your claim that the average weaning age worldwide is 4 years. Do you have any sources for that? I have seen that claim before, and I have done quite a lot of research into it to find any reliable sources – but I can’t find any. I think this claim comes from a misintepretation of Katherine Dettwyle’s  “A Natural Age of Weaning” which looks at when humans would wean *if we weaned at the same pace as primates*, or as she writes herself, “My research has looked at the various
    “life-history” variables (such as length of gestation, birth weight, growth
    rate, age at sexual maturity, age at eruption of teeth, life span, etc.) in non-human
    primates and then looked at how these variables correlate with age at weaning in these
    animals.” She also says that talking about an average weaning age makes no sense since there is so much cultural bias there, but that “inn
    societies where children are allowed to nurse “as long as they want” they
    usually self-wean, with no arguments or emotional trauma, between 3 and 4 years of age.”. But her article does by no means say that the average weaning age is 3-4 years, just that this seems to be the age if kids are allowed to self-wean at their own pace.From my knowledge of breastfeeding rates throughout the world – UNICEF has some statistics on this for many countries – an average weaning age of 4 years is also unlikely. BF rates are depressingly low in many of the most populated parts of the world (including China and  most of Africa). India and Indonesia (with ca 17% and 3.5% of the world poulation) are pleasant exceptions, with 66% and 50% nursing to 2 years and a median weaning age of about 25 and 21 months respectively.(I wrote an entry about this in my own blog, but it’s in Norwegian only. I think I’ll translate it to English soon, as it’s in my not so humble opinion is a good reference to this research.)

  • Jen

    Love your post!! It’s a thing of beauty on all accounts!

  • Christina ‘Chris’ Vaughn Cawth

    Comforting words for moms who are still figuring out how they feel about baby-led weaning.  For those who are nursing past two years, obviously you’re not alone with the worldwide average weaning age at more than four years.  Be encouraged to do what is right for your family and ignore the negative people.  With my three children I was continuously lactating for ten years.  My eldest and youngest are five years apart.  Do the math.  That means nursing through two pregnancies (actually nursing two when I became pregnant with my third); tandem nursing; and experiencing complete weaning at ages 4, 3 1/2, and 4 1/2 from eldest to youngest.  The best ten years of my life.

  • Shannel

    I am right there with you! I had planned until he was 2… We are nearing 2 (3 weeks, actually) and it is still so very handy! Like we just had a little trip to visit a friend and both there and back we had plane changes and each flight was around 2 hours. His poor ears and my poor nerves when he would start to get crabby because of his ears and the poor passengers around us… Alas, “milkies” arrived and I did not one bit feel embarrassed as I have in other places when nursing my very active toddler that whats both breast completely exposed! 

    I remember when people would ask how long I was going to nurse (why was it anyone’s business in the first place?) to which I happily replied to 2yrs! This was met with looks like “Are you kidding me” and a statement about how long 2 yrs is. So, now I am shy about it but don’t feel like I am ready to be done, well, I wouldn’t mind if he decided to stop now, but that would be on his terms. I also wonder about emotionally how it will affect him…

    So here I sit and enjoy other mom “milkie” posts!