I am breastfeeding a two-year-old and it’s not gross (I promise)

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Photo courtesy of xoJane.
We’ve talked about extended breastfeeding before (see: I’m so happy my kid can breastfeed, I might let her do it forever), so I know plenty of y’all will be interested in this recent post from xoJane contributor Anne Thériault:

The other day I was hanging out with my friend and her four-year-old daughter. My son, the aforementioned two-year-old, at some point asked to breastfeed. I’m trying to cut down on nursing him in public, but he’d just spent his first night away from me, so I figured I could make an exception. I helped him up onto my lap, pulled down my shirt, and let my kid do his thing.

After a few minutes, my friend’s daughter noticed what was going on, and said,

“Oh my God, what is his mouth doing on your nipple?”

I tried to explain that he was drinking milk, but she wasn’t overly convinced.

“The milk is in the fridge. Milk comes from cows. How did the milk get from the cow into your breast?”

I told her that all mammals make milk for their young, and that her mother had fed her this way when she was a baby, but she still seemed skeptical. So I unlatched my son, squeezed my breast, and let a little bit of milk spray onto the palm of my hand.

“Now do you believe me?” I asked, a little smugly.

Read the rest at xoJane.

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Comments on I am breastfeeding a two-year-old and it’s not gross (I promise)

  1. I’m 25 weeks pregnant and my 22 month old still latches on for comfort when he’s hurt, or tired, or just wants a cuddle. It’s basically just at home now. I know other people find it a bit weird and I get all the jokes about him texting me as a teenager to ask for booby but I don’t feel awkward about him doing it and it certainly still makes him happy so I reckon that’s all that matters 🙂 I know it’s not for everyone but I’m yet to reach the point where I feel I need to force him to stop completely.

    • That was my thought, too! My 3 year old son knows that I don’t make milk for him anymore, but that when the baby is born (I’m 7 mos pregnant), the baby will drink “mommy milk” just like he used to.

      Then again, he also went marching off to daycare and told everyone babies come from vaginas and get born in bathtubs, so he’s pretty comfy with anatomy. 😛

    • Maybe if they aren’t around a lot of babies or have a younger sibling. I was just at a 4yo’s birthday party and she was FASCINATED by breastfeeding and asked so many questions — she just never had the chance to see it, I guess. On the other hand, my friend’s 3 yo son was just marching around while I was nursing going on and on about milk and boobies and babies eating boobies. Hilarious.

      • My 4 year old cousin saw his sister nurse, but was STILL fascinated by my son nursing. I think kids are curious…though the kid above seemed like she hadn’t been exposed before?

    • That little girl may have been formula fed (which we aren’t dissing if that’s what ends up working for the family right?) or like my son and bottle fed breast milk. For my son he’s always been used to milk (whether it be breast milk, formula or cow’s) coming out of a fridge.

      • Totally this — if a kid doesn’t see breastfeeding, he/she won’t know a lot about it. I breastfed my son for 15 months, but he’s almost 4 and knows next to nothing about breastfeeding because he’s never paid attention to anyone doing it. He knows my body made milk for him to drink, but for the most part at this point in his life milk = the carton in the fridge with a cow on it.

  2. I breastfed my daughter until she was 20 months and my son until he was 27 months. My 5 year-old daughter “breastfeeds” her babies when they pretend cry. Both my kids know breast milk is important for babies!

  3. I’m really lucky that I have a pretty large group of friends who were all breastfeeders… and half of us are extended and when we’re together with the kids we tell any intruders “It’s like Africa in here… so take any offense you have elsewhere”. It’s been my biggest support. I’ve been breastfeeding my little guy since he was born, he’s now 27 months. We’ve begun to taper down already… I expect that by 3 we’ll most likely be done.
    My best friend has a 6 year old (who was done at about 2 1/2 when her 2nd was born) and then her 2nd little guy who just turned 3 and she’s been breastfeeding since the 6 year old was born. She’s been my number one source of support… plus my little guy has breast fed like a champ from day one. Now is it not only just additional nutrition for him or just an immune boost (he has literally NEVER been sick, not even once) it’s more than just breastfeeding for us… it relaxes us both. He gets into some pretty gnarly tantrums and he just CAN’T self soothe at that point… “ba boo’s” help him calm down… they help him relax to prepare to sleep at night (we transitioned from night eating to now only having them right before bed) and it’s just this time we spend together in a close way before he’s off being the busiest bee ever. I love it.
    It’s been great for us. It will continue to be great for us. And the best and most cute part? “Baaaa Booo’s PEEEEEAAAAS?!” Makes me smile every time.

  4. Just wondering if we can not use the term “extended breastfeeding”. It’s an inaccurate term and it also gives the impression that there is something abnormal about nursing a toddler.

    • What do you suggest as an alternative term? That’s a real question — we use extended breastfeeding to separate posts about breastfeeding a newborn and breastfeeding a two-year-old, so people can find posts about what their experience is. The last time I breastfed a baby was 2.5 years ago, and I certainly haven’t made it a point to stay up to date with terms to use. Totally cool with a shift if it’s justified, but from an editorial standpoint I don’t want to lump all posts about breastfeeding into the same archive. As far as I know, “extended breastfeeding” is still regularly used, but I could totally be wrong/behind the times on that.

      • You’re right, it is still a commonly used term. I threw this question out there in my breastfeeding support group and got some mixed responses. A few mamas nursing toddlers mentioned not liking the term “extended nursing” because of the reasons I stated above. Some had taken to using the phrase “full-term nursing” for any child breastfeeding between the ages of 2 and 7 (since that’s the biological weaning age for humans) . But many of us thought that sounded too judgey, as if weaning before age two was somehow a failure if it was not “full term”.

        In my ideal world, there would not need to be a distinction between nursing a newborn and nursing a two-year-old. I think it would be a progressive step to move away from having to sort the two into different categories. Breastfeeding posts would just be “breastfeeding”. But I can definitely see how the distinction matters when you’re trying to find a post to relate to. I support any way you choose to tag posts. A suggestion would be to label them as “infant/baby breastfeeding” and “toddler breastfeeding” since it just signifies the age group and doesn’t throw in any loaded words. But I’ll continue reading regardless of what you do or do not change 🙂

        Thanks for the great breastfeeding articles and thank for listening!

        • I agree that tagging with an age (infant/baby/older baby/toddler/preschooler) might be useful. I definitely think that it is useful for you to separate them, though; I’m currently nursing a one-year-old, and the newborn (wouldn’t latch! I didn’t know what to do! I needed another set of hands to hold everything including the baby!) and early baby (first experience with plugged ducts, still dealing with engorgement/leaking) difficulties were very different from my toddler concerns (why does he think he can latch on and then climb all over me and the couch while he’s still attached to my breast??? How do I handle the logistics of nursing a wild gymnastic-performing child in public? When can I cut down on the 45 min long nursing sessions from six times in one night?). So, when I’m looking for answers or help, I definitely like the separate tags.

          And while I understand that “extended nursing” might be felt offensive, I also do agree that “full term” is at least as much so. I think another key difference is that many of us have the complete support of our pediatricians and even family members/general public when nursing a 3, 6, or even 9 month old; but we don’t really often get that support past a year. So some term could be useful, because there is a sub-group (nursing past one year) that especially needs that particular kind of support.

          • The more I think about this, the more I like it. We face different challenges as our children age and we nurse. It normalizes the process to an extent.

            Last night, for example, I was talking to my father on the phone. I’m nursing my 17 month old and could not take some pain medication because the nursing relationship is more important to me than the pain. He responded that I “could quickly end” the nursing relationship. I responded that the WHO, her pediatrician, my doctor, and most importantly, my husband support my decision. What was his problem? He responded “It just seems so long.” I then told him that was because he was an American of his generation.

            Different conversation than what we would have a year ago

        • Cool! I dig the idea of splitting it by ages… or at least changing “extended” breastfeeding to “toddler breastfeeding.” or soooomething… we can also maybe move away from using “extended breastfeeding” as a description.

          And thank YOU for replying!

          • I dig tagging by the kiddo’s age group/range/life devlopment/etc.

            Let’s just maybe not name it by Frued’s developmental labels… just sayin’ 😀 That makes for awkward tags.

          • aquitenonnymouse: Check our Phases drop down menu in the navigation bar of Offbeat Families! Every post on the site is tagged by age.

        • I generally refer to the fact that I am breastfeeding a toddler, but the term “full-term breastfeeding” does not inherently have an age attached to it. If a child continues to feed into the toddler years, then they are allowed to do so until they wean themselves. But if a 9-month old decides to stop nursing without discouragement, the mother has nursed that child full term. It’s up to them, not us, regardless of age. That’s the point of the term.

          I would guess people with older children would use the term more often, simply out of need. I know I have pulled up a few people close to me that make a big deal that I am nursing a child who can hold a cup. I am not “extending” anything. I am just carrying the process out until it has run its course.

          But yeah, what works for me when using Google-fu: toddler (nursing OR breastfeeding)

  5. I’m still breastfeeding my 22 month old, just two sessions a day most days now, and almost always those are at home.

    It’s been a gentle, slow weaning process. There are times when I feel….annoyed isn’t quite the right word, but less-than-joyful about it, let’s say. Sometimes I feel soooooo touched out (I didn’t even understand how that was possible pre-baby but holy hell it REALLY is!), sometimes I just want my body back. But she loves it, and I know it’s good for her, and other times I really do enjoy the closeness and having the ability to quickly get her to sleep without much effort. I’m feeling much better about it all now that it’s only twice a day, I have to admit.

    My goal was 2 years, and we’re almost there. I don’t have a specific end date in mind, but I would like her to be fully weaned by 3 I think.

    This morning, I brought the kid in the shower with me, and she was all, “Mama boobies! Milk!”. We’ve never referred to it as milk before so I thought that was interesting…we use the term ‘lait-laits’ which she pronounces as ‘yeddies’.

    • Definitely relate to this. I feel badly because we had a rough start with breastfeeding, and now at 2 years he still totally loves it – but I am making a concerted effort to wind down. The biggest reason is that I have not been one of those lucky women for whom breastfeeding helped them lose weight. Since I gained 70 pounds during pregnancy and have not been able to lose a single *OUNCE* since giving birth I am definitely ready to get my body back!

      • Thank God I’m not the only one. I lost the baby weight (aka, what the baby weighed) but despite a healthy diet and exercise the rest will.not.budge and I think I’m like my mother-in-law who didn’t lose her baby weight until she weaned.

    • I was addressed as Lait-Lait long before Mama was used! She occasionally still calls me Lait Lait even when she does not want to nurse, even though I am now Mama or Maman. It bugged me the first few times she ever did it – I guess I had been waiting to her Ma/Mama/Mommy – but now I think I will be sad the day I realize she never slips anymore and calls me Lait Lait. ;_;

  6. I just want to say that it is awesome that people extended breastfeed and are so awesome about all the negativity that comes their way. My son ended up with a two week NICU stay, most of which he couldn’t be jostled around, and then I went back to teaching at two weeks (I teach at a university so it was only 15 hours a week). Needless to say, we never exclusively breasfed and stopped all together when spring term started up again. Rock it out ladies and know that even though I might be bottle feeding my kid, it does NOT mean that I disapprove of breastfeeding in some way.

  7. We’re going strong at 15 months and I’ve noticed it ebb and flow. For awhile were totally weaned except for 2 middle of the night nursings. But now he happily is nursing again after naps and in the morning and on my days off from work. I have started to get some questions, but just let the negative comments (or tones) roll off my back. Most are from people who don’t have kids and don’t know how awesome it is to have such an easy way of comforting my kiddo!

  8. I am all for breastfeeding, I don’t even think 2 years old is really “extended” breastfeeding, 2 year olds are still babies. But I really think that at 3 years old, if you wouldn’t give a child a bottle at that age, why would you breastfeed? If you’re hell bent on feeding them breast milk at that age, by all means pump, but latching on a child that old? Naw, man.

    And I don’t think there are any sexual connotations to it at all, I just think that by that age your kid should be learning and doing kid things like drinking from a cup and learning to soothe themselves without nursing.

    • I think for me the key is that a 3 year old who’s still nursing (hopefully) DOES drink from a cup and can soothe themselves in other ways too.

      I went away for a week without my kid (for work) in December, and at that point she was still nursing 3 or 4 times a day, including nursing to sleep every night. But she was totally fine without me, and my wife was able to get her to sleep with little fuss. so yeah, at this point (she’s 22 months) it’s definitely not that she NEEDS to nurse, but it does still have health benefits for her, and she enjoys it.

    • I think it’s totally reasonable to breastfeed even if you wouldn’t give the child a bottle – even if the child can self-soothe and drink from a cup, that doesn’t mean nursing isn’t also soothing and comforting. Pumping and storing breastmilk is a total pain, so once my kid is only drinking breastmilk periodically I will definitely throw out the pump and just nurse him.

    • You’re equating breastfeeding and bottle feeding and that isn’t accurate. Not to mention that a nursing three year old nurses quite sparingly and is nothing like a nursing 6 month old…just not the same thing.

      Breastfeeding a toddler isn’t just to give them liquids. My 31 month old is still breastfeeding, sure. But he does about once every day, maybe every two or three days. The rest of the time, he’s drinking from a cup, eating regular meals and snacks, soothing himself in a large variety of ways, plays wildly, and is a normal 2 1/2 year old.

      Nursing is not necessarily food. For him, it’s not food at all. It’s mama comfort, like a hug but more, for him. I’m not “hell bent,” it’s the normal way humans work considering our actual biological, evidence based time of weaning is really when kids start to lose their baby teeth (6-7ish). A three year old latching is no big deal. It just is in our culture where we aren’t used to seeing it.

    • Breastfeeding still has a lot of advantages after 2 years. For the child, it still helps his immune system and can help him to overcome difficult, scary moments. It’s also a nice moment, with a lot of affection between a mother and a child. For the mom, breasfeeding past 2 is very good to lower risks of breast and ovaries cancer.

      As for me, my daugter is almost 2 years old and I’ll breastfeed her until she wants (or until I’m tired of large t-shirts and in urge to only wear dresses that doesn’t open upfront). I also think that if you are unconfortable with breastfeeding past that age, there is no problem. You can choose to stop anytime. But please, don’t judge a situation that is still perfect for a lot of parents and children.

  9. I’m still breastfeeding my 24 mo old. I never started out to do “extended breastfeeding.” I don’t even attachment parent. I work 50-70 hours a week with regular overnights on call since she was 8 weeks old. And yet I’m still breastfeeding. I only pump first thing in the morning so my wife can give her some milk when she wakes up, unless I’m on call and miss her evening and bedtime nursings. My wife is more weirded out by the extended nursing than I am, but as she is nursing our 5 mo old son, I don’t see my daughter stopping anytime soon. At this point, the nursing is for comfort, from routine, and because if I’m nursing her, I can’t be holding the baby. We’ll stop nursing eventually. But right now, it’s important for her in her little toddler world of changes and growth and development, so I’ll happily keep doing it.

  10. “Suddenly, breastfeeding assumed this huge, looming importance in my life. I had to breastfeed, to make up for the fact that my son was born early, to make up for my failure to have a natural birth. ”

    This was my experience, exactly. My son is 23 months old and I don’t imagine him quitting breastfeeding any time soon. And while sometimes it is annoying, most of the time I really enjoy it. But, like the author, I do it because he still enjoys it. (Except when I travel and have to pump — that sucks.)

  11. How did your friend feel about your method of “proving” this to her four year old?

    • I am getting a lot of negativity and comments that I need to wean from my inlaws. My son was in NICU and I had no maternity leave and went from a natural water birth to a c-section 🙁 I’m very proud we made it this far but at 13 months I am getting unsolicited comments that I need to wean him now.
      Recently I nursed him in front of a nephew who is nearly 4 and demanded to know what he was doing. I said he was drinking his milk. He replied “He’s drinking milk! From your shoulder! Through his nose!” His mother was nearby. She did not correct him. I didn’t think it was my place to teach him. I’m pretty sure she would have been upset if I had expressed milk into my hand to show him! If it’s your own 4 year old that’s one thing, but I don’t think I should demonstrate how my breasts work to someone else’s child. Certainly not without permission!

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