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  1. #1

    How long is too long?

    I have read stories or hear other mums say that they support extended breastfeeding, but they would never keep breastfeeding a child that was three, or four, or five, and so on. I have seen videos and read stories of women who still breastfed when their child was seven or eight, and the response to some of these articles can be quite rude. I also read a story recently where a mum started breastfeeding her five year old in front of her partner's family, and the family members were disgusted and offended. It made me wonder how many mums do feel that there is a certain age when breastfeeding should stop.

    In your opinion, how long is too long? If you were still breastfeeding a child that was older, do you think it would still be OK to do it in public or in front of family?

  2. #2
    The natural age of weaning occurs between 2-7, with 4 being the world average. In my experience, most mums who breastfeed past two or three are only doing it a few times a day, usually to get their children to sleep. I also read the story about the five year old at the dinner table, the one that you are talking about Jessica. I hate how judgmental people are at times and the fact that the Internet seems to really bring it out.

    For me, I am not sure I would be comfortable beyond three. I bring my own set of issues to the table, with that. However, I also have never been lucky enough to make it that far- who knows maybe with this baby we will reach three and I will sail past it without a second thought. I have realized over the years that doing something greatly changes your perspective, sometimes in a surprising way, especially with the parenting related stuff.

    As for other people, I think there is no cap on age as long as both the mom and the kid are comfortable. I can tell you that I probably would not continue to NIP after two, because of the culture that I live in. I would just not want to deal with it and at that point, I don't think it would be necessary that often.

    However, if I saw a mom nursing her three or four year old at the grocery store, I'd certainly never think negative of her. In fact, I'd think she was pretty awesome.

  3. #3
    I agree with mom2many. I found that my children naturally weaned between 2-3 years (except my first) but I never put a "cap" on how old they should be. They naturally started being interested in new things, and they naturally were eating our "adult" food and drinking raw goat milk, so the need for my milk was minimal to non-existant by the time they weaned.

    I knew a woman who was still breastfeeding her 5 year old and she would just go out to the car for their "quiet" time together. I do feel it's important for mums who are breastfeeding their older children to take into consideration how others around them feel and could react. There's nothing wrong with breastfeeding an older child but discretion is important.

    Often times an older child will continue to breastfeed because they simply need the security that it offers (or mom does if she's in an insecure relationship with her husband). Being open and non-judgmental is always a good idea.

  4. #4
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    How Long is a Piece of String?

    My answer to the question How Long is Too Long is... How Long is a Piece of String?

    If we assume for a moment that we are referring here to a child from whom cues for sleeping and feeding have been taken thus far, then the cue for weening can also, quite reasonably, come from them. Having said that, the older a child is, the more factors become involved in breastfeeding decisions. These could include:

    • Mum returning to work
    • The child moving into daycare (and eventually school)
    • The birth of another child (or multiple children)
    • The number of children being fed
    • Pressure from a partner, family or friends
    • Feelings of shame or guilt (mostly stemming from the opinions of others)
    • The amount of support the woman has (both for extended feeding and in a general, practical sense)


    I read an article on this site - The Pleasure of Extended Breastfeeding written be the esteemed Dr Sarah Buckley - an amazing person who is the author of the beautiful book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering (also available on this site).

    The article makes fantastic reading and really reinforced for me the views I already hold about extended breastfeeding - that it is natures' intention. It is a practice we in the Western World have largely deserted, not some new-age hippie idea or proof positive of an 'overly-attached' or otherwise dubious parenting relationship.

    At the end of the day, I believe a breastfeeding woman should be guided by what she feels in her heart and soul, not by what others say, and by her child's needs, not those of the general public.

    That said, no woman wants to be publicly shunned or humiliated, so placing some boundaries around the where and when of breastfeeding, I feel, is perfectly reasonable for an older child. This is also developmentally appropriate, given between 2 and 5 the ground work for future self-regulation in children generally takes place (I have my Early Childhood Professional hat on now).

    Go with your gut, listen to your heart, talk to your child and most of all... enjoy your breastfeeding relationship as an oh-so-special, too-quickly-gone few years in a very long life.

    Mumof2IVFmiracles
    Last edited by Mumof2IVFmiracles; 14th February 2012 at 10:24 PM.

  5. #5
    Very well said, Mumof2IVFmiracles! Excellent thoughts to consider.

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