Extended Breastfeeding, how long is too long?

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-07-2001
Extended Breastfeeding, how long is too long?
7
Mon, 08-18-2014 - 4:02pm

I am presently nursing my 3Yr and 3Mon old son. Recently I have been going over and over in my mind what should I do if he turns 4yrs old, and is still nursing. How long is too long, and if one continues past 3yrs of age...can there be harmful affects. I've read about mother's nursing 3yr olds, but not many if any. 4yr olds. My son is still nursing strongley...usually first thing in the morning, and right before bedtime. I'm happy with our relaationship...but very confused about nursing 4yr olds. I would appreciate any words of wisdom anyone would care to give. Thank you..

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Mon, 08-18-2014 - 4:17pm

After a child can walk, sit at a table, and hold a sippy cup, nursing of any kind is inappropriate.  Breastfeeding even more so.

Community Leader
Registered: 07-26-1999
Mon, 08-18-2014 - 4:30pm
I would disagree with Sabr's definition. There are plenty of kids that can walk, sit at a table and hold a sippy cup at 9 months old. That doesn't mean its inappropriate to stop BFing and in fact there is a host of research showing that BFing well past one year is beneficial. The BFing relationship is up to the child and mother to decide. I tandemed my two, my older one was 26 months and the the newborn. I would have continued on, but the older one was too demanding and wouldn't "move over" when the infant needed to nurse. Maybe someone with more experience can pop in, I have not seen any articles or research on adverse affects of BFing after the age of 3, and many other countries nurse their children well into the 3 and 4 year old range.
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iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2011
Mon, 08-18-2014 - 10:59pm

Since you asked, I think by age 2 one should stop. Helping a child outgrow something is part of our job as a parent.

These days I am shocked to see kids as old as 7 and 8 still riding in strollers. 12 year olds using sippee cups. I see these on a regular basis. When I was a kid, we didn't even have a stroller and I don't remember sippee cups at all. I think you went straight from a baby bottle or nursing, to a regular cup back then. And also we should stop referring to our childrens' ages in terms of months by age 2. Its silly for parents to say "my 36 month old" or my "48 month old". 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2011
Mon, 08-18-2014 - 10:59pm

Since you asked, I think by age 2 one should stop. Helping a child outgrow something is part of our job as a parent.

These days I am shocked to see kids as old as 7 and 8 still riding in strollers. 12 year olds using sippee cups. I see these on a regular basis. When I was a kid, we didn't even have a stroller and I don't remember sippee cups at all. I think you went straight from a baby bottle or nursing, to a regular cup back then. And also we should stop referring to our childrens' ages in terms of months by age 2. Its silly for parents to say "my 36 month old" or my "48 month old". 

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Tue, 08-19-2014 - 1:10am

This is obviously an issue that stirs strong emotions.  However, even MD's think there is little reason to breastfeed beyond a year.

But there is little evidence of any health benefits beyond the age of one. Breastfeeding babies is natural and normal – but in my opinion, breastfeeding your child up until three or even later is unnecessary.

Toddlers develop independence and evolve from the natural stage of separation anxiety to become explorers of the world around them. Parents need to be close by but they don’t need to be attached.

The worry of many developmental psychologists is that extreme breastfeeding dampens this natural stage of a child’s development and serves only to indulge the mother: it gives her attention and a purpose.

Children go to nursery aged three, so they need to be able to cope without their parents. This is why we toilet-train them, teach them to feed themselves and encourage them to voice their opinions.

If Jamie Lynne Grumet advocated keeping her son in nappies or letting him outside only in a buggy, would she be applauded or would people realise she was harming her son’s natural development?

Children are sexually aware from a young age. They become interested in body parts and what they do. Breastfeeding a child old enough to walk over to his mother and open her shirt creates a confusing message about personal boundaries and our bodies.



iVillage Member
Registered: 05-07-2001
Wed, 08-20-2014 - 10:23am

Thank you all for your reply's. There seems to be two different opinions as to nursing a child beyond the age of 1Yr. I still haven't come to a conclusion of what I will do...but all the really good information, gives me lots to go on. Thank you all.



iVillage Member
Registered: 07-02-1998
Wed, 08-20-2014 - 4:24pm

OH MY!!  So much false so-called- information being poured out into one space!  I thought this was a breastfeeding SUPPORT board - not one for people to air their own misguided opinions re: breastfeeding and discourage parents from doing what they feel is best for their child!

Children all over the world nurse well past the age of one with the average age of child led weaning being between age 3 and 5.  Children of this age can cope very well without their parents.  And even attend preschool and daycare on a regular basis.  Breastfeeding in no way inhibits this.  

As far as it being "selfish" to nurse past a year - well, in over 13 years working with nursing mothers I have never heard one say she was encouraging a 2 year old to keep nursing.  Most mothers continue breastfeeding because the child still has a need or want to nurse, and she wants to do what is best for her child.  In fact, by the time child is ready to be done - most moms are ready to move on as well.

And anyone who has ever breastfed can tell you - there is nothing sexual about breastfeeding.  Period.  Either for the mother or the child.  It is a nurturing act.  Not one of sexual affection or action. 

That said.. Breastfeeding should continue for as long as the mother and child are both happy with it..  And it sounds as if perhaps you are starting to reach your comfort level.  If so, then it may be time to encourage weaning.  If not... then it'sup to you when the time is right!

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