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Dec 9 2010

I Breastfeed My Toddler. Got A Problem With It?

By at 10:58 am

Mayim with her son in Las Vegas when he was still just a little baby.

My son is almost 2 1/2 years old and he nurses every 3-5 hours during the day and 4-7 times a night.

I have not slept more than 4 hours in almost 6 years. My son, however, is healthy, happy, and independent, and I see no reason to wean him.

I believe that children outgrow the need to nurse just as they outgrow the need to crawl, poop in a diaper, or the need for holding and cuddling when they are scared or lonely.

Breastfeeding is normal, healthy, nutritionally, immunologically, and psychologically beneficial, and in all primates, nursing continues well into “toddlerhood.”

Not convinced yet? Take a look at my answers to the many funny, embarrassing, and interesting questions I often get about nursing a toddler.

Do you even have any milk anymore?

This may not be true for all moms who nurse a 27 month old, but I have enough milk that I still leak and spray at every nursing session, I still have an active (and forceful!) let-down, and like a new mom, I will get engorged if I do not pump, which for me, can lead to plugged ducts and mastitis. I worked very hard to build up and maintain my milk supply, and I still am diligent about pumping every 2-3 hours when I’m away from my son.

Does he need breastmilk for nutrition?

My son didn’t eat solid foods until he was 15 months and he doesn’t yet consume the amount of food that “most” 27 months olds consume. I am grateful that I can nourish him with nature’s perfect food, which is unable to be replicated by any artificial milk or animal milk. Breastmilk is designed for my child’s needs from birth until he weans; it is full of protein, healthy fat, brain-building substances, and vitamins, not to mention immune and antibiotic properties. It is always the right temperature and it is always on hand. I do not believe in giving my son milk from another animal, and humans are the only animals who seem to think that this is a good idea! The only other thing my son drinks is water, and a little sip of grape juice on Shabbat.

If he’s old enough to ask for it, isn’t he too old to have it?

Well, my son is not verbal yet, and although he has been signing for milk since he was 11 months old, he still needs to nurse. Whoever decided that “when they can ask for it, they should wean” must not have wanted to keep nursing, and that’s fine for them, but it is working for us, verbalized or signed!

Isn’t it weird having a walking talking thinking LARGE child nursing?

I will admit that nursing a newborn or even a 1 year old is very different from nursing a child in boots and a raincoat. But I struggle to understand why it’s not accepted. Besides the fact that it’s not “typical,” I don’t see that there is anything inherently wrong with it, other than people thinking it’s wrong.

Do you place any limits on this?

When a newborn needs to nurse in line at the supermarket, you don’t hesitate. With an older child, needs can be openly discussed and generally worked around. It is important to me that my son learn that we now nurse in some places but not others.

If my son wants to nurse because he is hungry, I offer him a snack first if nursing is hard to manage at that moment. A month ago, I nursed my little man on the floor of the lingerie section of a department store. His need was great, and he could not wait, so I decided to meet his need right there and then.

I don’t nurse in bathrooms, (I don’t eat in bathrooms, so why should my son?), and I try to remember a blanket when we’re out, but I often forget. I have cultivated a pleasant and confident smile to flash while nursing, and while sometimes it is met with icy stares and embarrassed glances, sometimes I get a thumbs-up and that really makes my day.

But you don’t nurse him at night, do you???

In our family, we let our children nurse until they’re done, and the earth’s position relative to the sun does not change our philosophy. Children need us at night as well as in the day. My son nurses 4-7 times a night. Am I tired? Yes! Did my body get used to it once my mind could chill out about it? You betcha! How did I do this? I found the support of like-minded moms who made me feel I wasn’t alone and that I wasn’t weird. And almost overnight, I stopped feeling tired. Once my self-pity lifted, plain old manageable exhaustion set in. I can manage it, and we are fine. And this exhausted Mama is the one who gets up at 4, 5, or 6 am with the kids, so don’t imagine I am sleeping it off while the nanny lets me rest; there is no such nanny!

Won’t this make him spoiled?

There is no respected scientific statistical evidence that children who self-wean are brattier, more spoiled, less independent, less socialized, or less productive in society. To the contrary, studies show that children who self-wean have learned that their needs are important, their development does not proceed according to anyone else’s timetable, and they are confident that love is abundant. These children typically show early healthy dependence that flourishes into healthy independence when the time is right.

What does your husband think?

My beloved, patient, open-minded husband is very supportive of me nursing our boys until they are done, and it took a lot of discussion and research for us to come to this decision. I do not take his support for granted for one minute. Once we hit the 2 year mark with both of our sons, I will admit that my husband thought we could encourage more eating of solids to see if the need to nurse would diminish. If our son weans, though, my husband’s workload will significantly increase, as the preferred method of getting said child to nap is with breastmilk, and the way to soothe him to sleep at night, and to soothe him throughout the night is with breastmilk. Once milky is gone, we have to get creative; and that creativity will be both of our jobs- and that ultimately means less sleep for Dada!

When will you stop?

I don’t know. Hopefully by the time he’s 3. I can’t imagine myself nursing a 3 year old, and I myself see 4 and 5 year olds nursing and I cannot imagine it for me. My first son weaned at 26 months, so I have never nursed a child this old before. I am learning, too, but I am open to really being in touch with my child’s needs and acting for both of our benefits in a compassionate and loving way to the best of my ability.

Is he nursing for comfort?

Sometimes. Mostly, he nurses for a lot of milk, but big boo-boos get the offer of milky, and it is sometimes the only thing that will do. At night, I suppose it’s ‘habit,’ but that’s really just a biased way of describing the easiest and smoothest was to fall back asleep for a small person who has not yet mastered the skills he needs to do it himself. For the record, my older son did not stop waking at night to go potty until he stopped nursing at 26 months. I comforted him by rocking him 4-7 times a night in the early months after he weaned, but very quickly he developed the skills to soothe himself at night and not need to go potty every 2 hours. He now sleeps 10-12 hours a night with rarely a peep.

What do your family/friends/the public at large think?

Most everyone in my family thinks this party should have been shut down yesterday. My Ph.D. in Neuroscience as well as my recent certification as a Lactation Educator/Counselor has quieted many of their attempts to reason with me, since I have a lot of research, support, and education on my side, and most of what they have – with all due respect- is uninformed hunches, personal uncomfortableness with nursing, and just plan old “I didn’t do that, so why are you?” reasoning. Most of my close friends in our community nursed their kids into the toddler years

*

Am I a push-over? A weak mom who needs her son more than he needs her? Not at all. Am I letting my toddler run my life? No way. Am I spoiling him? There’s no evidence of that! Do I enjoy knowing that mothers who nurse longer have lower rates of breast, uterine, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis? Sure. Do I enjoy knowing that breastmilk contains antibiotic, anti-allergy, and anti-obesity properties? Yes. Is this why I do it? No. Those are neat facts, but the real reason we nurse this way, now, all night, all day, anywhere and anyhow, is because it’s not broken, so there is nothing to fix.

Ultimately, I get to parent the way I want to, and you get to parent the way you want to. I may not have convinced you that extended nursing is as wonderful as I think is, but that’s okay. When I see my precious son gaze into my eyes and grin that milky grin – the same eyes that looked into mine minutes after he careened out of my body; the eyes that convinced me that my only job was to keep this child thriving with the miraculous resources given to me through my body- not much else matters.

Recommended children’s books depicting extended nursing:

Breastmilk Makes My Tummy Yummy by Cecilia Moen

I’m Made of Mama’s Milk by Mary Olsen

For adults:

How Weaning Happens by Diane Bengson

Mothering Your Nursing Toddler by Norma J. Bumgarner


Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on Kveller are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

249 Responses to I Breastfeed My Toddler. Got A Problem With It?

  1. Glorya says:

    Fantastic!! As the mother of two daughters, 28 & 23, who both slept in my bed and nursed until 4 & 4.5, I am so very glad to see that women are still raising their children this way! My daughters have become unbelievable human beings and we are extremely close. They are both successful, capable, compassionate and healthier than their friends; they’ve rarely ever gotten sick. You are doing the right thing! The right thing for you and your family! I know that when my daughters have children they’ll be raising their children the exact same way, they’ve said so over and over. Thank you for letting the world know your compassionate way of raising your children. Don’t worry about the naysayers…You’re doing a fantastic job!

  2. Margie says:

    I second the standing ovation!

  3. Adrianne says:

    Thank you so much for writing this so elegantly. I appreciate so much your posts and being a public figure normalizing extended breastfeeding, bedsharing, and other attachment parenting ideals. I am a thandem nursing mama of a 2 month old and a 28 month old. Continuing to nurse my 28 month old daughter has made the transition to having a new brother so much smoother.

    I write this while nursing my 28 month old for her nap. :-)

  4. Carolyn says:

    Oh Mayim, please please don’t let these negative comments get to you.

    Why, oh why can’t people let go of all of the myths about this topic?

    I breastfed my oldest daughter until she was 4-and-a-half years old, after tandem nursing for 18 months.

  5. Sary says:

    Love this post. Thank you!

  6. annieology says:

    I nursed my youngest for two years and quit only because of family pressure, and mostly because they started turning their rants towards my husband when they didn’t work on me. When he got upset about it, it was harder to defend my position. I do think the transition was a bit traumatic for the both of us. I basically had to start telling my son that something that was ok yesterday was not at all acceptable today. He was already losing interest and I wish I had let him wean himself.

    I have never heard anyone say they nursed too long. I do hear a lot of people who weaned too soon. Must be something to that.

  7. Nursing Vegan Mama says:

    I think somewhere in my reading of your posts, I read you are a vegan :) I have two sweet babies and I am a nursing vegan mama.

    Can you suggest any vegan foods/recipes that will help sustain my milk supply?

  8. Heidi says:

    No problems with the breast feeding at that age, none.

    But if my 2 1/2 year old was still non verbal and waking up 4-7 times a night, at that age, I would be worried a bunch. I would also be slightly worried that he couldn’t eat enough table foods at his age to obtain enough nutrution that they needed to breast feed 7-12 times a day to gain enough nutrients to grow.

  9. Mary says:

    Mayim,

    Thanks for this! It’s so nice to see someone in the public eye “coming out,” so to speak, about something that is still viewed by so many with such misinformation and myth.

    It’s nice to see that you’ve blossomed (sorry, lol) into such a wonderful woman and mom. WTG!

    Mary

  10. Here’s a HUGE thumbs up! Thank you for saying so eloquently all the things I believe and try to relate to the breastfeeding moms I help. You are my new fave!

  11. Vero-Mi says:

    Hi, I still nurse my 5 year old 2 times a day (in the morning in bed, at sleeptime and sometimes a 3d time around 16-17 o clock.
    I tandemnurse him with my second son, who is 2y and 4 mo.

    I NEEEEEVER thought I would nurse this long.
    My second son also nurses 4-7 times at night.
    We cosleep, me and my sons.

    I am proud to be a nursing mom!

  12. Kerry says:

    Glad to see someone still has the courage to listen to their instincts.

  13. lorelei says:

    I am currently nursing a 14 month old, and thankful there are people like you out there sharing that it’s not some freakishly disturbing thing to do. My goal is to keep going at least to two since my son is sensitive to dairy and goat’s milk must be made of gold, plus the little guy is super strong and hasn’t been sick once, even with his grandmother bringing home foreign germs (she’s a nurse who seems to always be sick). I am hoping that the long-term benefit for me will be that maybe the four-generation curse of breast cancer will skip me… if not because of the nursing, then perhaps because of the lifestyle changes I have made to nurse my son. I appreciate women like you, Mayim. Please keep learning, growing, and sharing with us! :-)

  14. danielle says:

    *standing ovation* thank you for being a great role model for the next generation!!!!

  15. anna says:

    My mom nursed me until I began to ask her for a cup instead of the breast. One of my favorite photos is of her nursing me, and my hand is touching her face. I don’t remember experiencing that, but I look like I’m at least 2 at the time. She just did what worked best between the two of us, and I think I turned out well – physically and emotionally very healthy, no problems. :)

  16. Crystal Gilstrap says:

    How TOTALLY REFRESHING to see such a positive article in support of extended breastfeeding! I am an IBCLC in a hospital and I’m constantly amazed at the lack of understanding that we are designed to nurse our children AS LONG AS THEY NEED TO NURSE!!!! The number of even medical professionals that just don’t get this is unbelievable. Other cultures seem to get it, so why can’t we?? Formula companies have done a marvelous job of convincing the public that, after a few days/weeks of “the good stuff” (colostrum), their product is just as good. And, after that first year, the dairy industry has done the same thing to promote their product. It astounded me to learn how completely inadequate cow’s milk is for our human bodies. I nursed my daughter until she self-weaned at 28months! I feel like moms don’t know what they’re missing to end this experience so soon.

  17. MamaBrownBear says:

    THANK YOU for this wonderful post Mayim :)
    My youngest daughter is 42 months old now, and is still nor sing at night, and a few times during the day. It is her preferred method of falling asleep, but will sometimes ash for me to write on her back, or kiss her eyes til they won’t open anymore. We believe that when she is ready to be done, she will be. She eats a very healthy organic local omnivorous diet, in addition to nursing on demand, and she is incredibly healthy. Rarely having anything more than a mild cold, sniffles, or low grade fever. We do not vaccinate. Because our children have a naturally strong immune system, from full term nursing and it’s immunological benefits. She is happy, well adjusted (despite having an older sister that has SPD, and JBPD), and incredibly bright. This is what works for our family, and we will continue to do what works for our family. I am a strong supporter of informed decisions, self education, and making choices for our families based on what we truly feel in our hearts is right based on the information given, and our own biologically given mothering instincts.

    • MamaBrownBear says:

      That should read nursing. Not nor sing. Too tast fingers, distraction, and auto correct make for amusing typos.

  18. Sharon says:

    Thank you. Never in a million years did I expect to nurse a 2yo, yet here I am thinking that my newly 5yo may have FINALLY decided to wean.

    I totally “get” the defensiveness too; and I have a great circle of friends who EBF’d. It’s hard when even the majority of “supporters” feel the need to qualify said support with a “but”. EBF is great, but should be done by 2yo. EBF is great, but shouldn’t happen throughout the night. EBF is great, but is it really necessary to do it throughout the day? EBF is great, but…

    Anyways, I loved you as Blossom, I love you as Amy Farrah-Fowler, and now I love your blog posts as a well spoken, intelligent, loving mother. <3

  19. Michelle says:

    What a refreshing article and what refreshingly positive comments (on the whole) on this ‘taboo’ subject.

    I remember clearly, sitting on the sofa struggling with the first few days of breast-feeding with my first-born daughter, and asking my sister-in-law how long breastfeeding went on for. I remember so clearly being shocked when she said ‘around a year’. Goodness – I had no idea it would be that long …

    Well – six years later my lovely bright, empathetic daughter naturally weaned, just around the time she lost her first tooth. Her little brother who came along when she was nearly two is also just now in the final stages of natural weaning, at six and a half. I wonder if he’ll have that first wobbly tooth soon.

    I never intended to breast feed for this long, but just followed my instincts. I tandem fed for the first 4 years when my little boy arrived, and the closeness of my son and daughter was incredible from the start, and still is now. My son slept with us for most of the first four years. And we all slept, peacefully, for those years. He latched on as and when he wanted to, and neither of us (nor hubby) really stirred. It just felt ‘right’.

    The reason for my post is that, even though extended bf felt right, I still had a niggling doubt as to whether either of my children would ever naturally wean. I’m so pleased to say that they both have, without an coersion from me, and I hope this will give other Mums (and Dads) with that niggling doubt, the confidence that it will happen.

    Someone else has already given this link, but if you haven’t seen it, please read the article in the link below about natural weaning age predictors based on those from other mammels. Makes interesting reading.

    http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html

    For anyone in doubt, follow those intincts – they are there for a reason.

    All best wishes,
    Michelle

  20. paxye says:

    I never thought that I would nurse past a year… now I am in my 103rd month of breastfeeding (8 1/2 years)… ok… I am 4 kids later.

    My two oldest both weaned just after their 5th birthdays…. #3 weaned just after his fourth and my little one is still depending on me for most of her nourishment.

    I would have never thought I would be at this point but I would never have it another way…

  21. Sara CC says:

    Breastfeeding was common everywhere before formula was invented, and the age at which it might have been considered “extended” was much older. It’s amazing how much of humanity has been so thoroughly brainwashed by corporations.

    I am particularly amazed by the comments that once the children are old enough to ask for it, they don’t need it anymore, or that it’s not nutritive past the age of ___(fill in the blank) months. If your child is old enough to ask for a peanut butter sandwich, does that mean s/he doesn’t really need it, or that it isn’t nutritive?

    I am also puzzled by those who question using breastfeeding for comfort…in place of a pacifier?? Wow, have they got it backward!! Breasfeeding, as designed by G-d or Mother Nature, is not solely a calorie delivery system. It is baby’s nutritive, immunological and emotional support all wrapped up in one neat package.

  22. Gauri says:

    Oops forgot to say, here is the post in which you are tagged: http://blessingtree.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/one-award-and-seven-things-you-didnt-know-about-me/

    and should add that my daughter is only 12 months but still nursing probably 10 or 12 times a day!

    Thank you!

  23. Gauri says:

    I am blown away by your writing style. It is a gift to be able to write so clearly and simply about such emotionally complex issues. Thank you.

    Meanwhile I have tagged you for a blogging ‘award’ (read virus-meme thingey). ’tis a bit of fun, really but the rules state I need to contact everybody I nominate and you are most definitely on my list. It would be great fun if you played along, of course, as we’d learn a few more (deep or trivial) facts about you and perhaps equally as interesting what blogs you rate most highly. Anyway, I understand you are busy, so, really, just following the rules and saying: I admire your style – and now I am talking about the mothering and not just the writing.

    Ta,
    Gauri

  24. Pingback: Blossoming as a mother – Mayim Bialik « The Blessing Tree

  25. Pingback: You Didn’t Really Expect Me to Keep My Mouth Shut on This One, Did You? | Adjustment [and] Disorder

  26. Jen says:

    I can see you have a ton of comments already! I nursed my son until he was 3.5 years old. It was definitely his way of cuddling, and it was a great way for us to get close and snuggle as I work full time. (My choice and love it!) I had plenty of milk when he was two as well. ;) While I originally intended to let him self-wean, two things encouraged me… The first one was his third birthday. I didn’t push hard, but I didn’t want to go until four years. And it was getting uncomfortable. My supply was so low, I couldn’t hardly stand the feeling of having him on me anymore! So after a collision of events where I hadn’t nursed him for five days (he crashed out early a couple nights, then I went out of town on a mommy getaway), I just jumped and weaned him. He sniffled a little, but was totally okay. I wasn’t engorged in the slightest. We still talk about the mursies and how misses them, but it looks like I picked the right time. ;)

  27. Nancy says:

    Love the post. Thanks for being a public advocate for extended nursing. I tandem nursed my girls and both nursed way past 2 years. Both (6 and 9) are now well-adjusted, smart, and caring.

  28. Becky says:

    Great post my son is 34 months and although not much now cos I’m pregnant and it hurts he still breast feeds a few times a day and wakes once a night I’m hoping to do child led weaning this time.

  29. Chanda says:

    Thanks for this. I’m still nursing my last baby and she’s just 4. I remember almost 7 years ago, when my first daughter was born– I thought I’d stop when she was 1 becuase it was weird to nurse past one…. well she self-weaned at the age of 5 (summer before kindergarten).

    She is at the top of her class in 1st grade now and an amazingly empathetic and wonderful girl.

    My youngest still likes to nurse to sleep and when we’re at LLL meetings but doesn’t ask out and about anymore.

    She’s told me that mama milk makes everything better. And I agree!

  30. Kati says:

    Thank you from a fellow toddler nursing mom! My son is 2 and still nursing much like yours, and I nursed my first until he self weaned at 26.5 months. It is moms like us who openly nurse their toddlers that will hopefully make others aware that it is perfectly normal, and what is best for our children.

  31. denise says:

    Mayim –
    thanks for the blog, thumbs up!
    as an ibclc myself – congratulations on your certification.

    i have 3 kids – now 19, 16, and 8. Child-lead weaning worked for us. They nursed until 6, 6, and 5.5 years old, respectively. Just as you can’t imagine nursing an older child – others can’t imagine nursing a two year old. You spoke up for extended nursing without alienating anyone. When my second child was almost 4, she was nearly weaned – skipping feedings for up to 48 hours. Then, she got sick – Kawasaki’s Syndrome – and could keep nothing down. I relactated with her increased nursing, and was able to provide her with nourishment and hydration. She went on to nurse almost two more years.

    thanks for speaking up!
    -denise

  32. Kirstin says:

    What a wonderful, thoughtful article. It’s rare to have such a non-confrontational intelligent response to questions about extended nursing. I have a still nursing 32 month old son. I never imagined that I’d nurse this long but I cherish that special bond. He’s a higher need child and one of those needs is nursing.

    In the last few months he has started the weening process, he’s down to only wanting to nurse when he’s tired or has a big booboo. Part of me is a little sad, part of me is admittedly ready to have a full night sleep. I know that when he’s ready to be done, it will be on his terms and he’ll be ready.

    Thankfully I have a very supportive husband who has become quite the advocate for breastfeeding who even advises his soldiers (he’s a career soldier) with new babies about the benefits of breastfeeding.

    Keep going mama!

  33. StorkStories says:

    Good for you! It is so wonderful that you have shared your experience and help to normalize breastfeeding!
    Thank you!!!

  34. Deni Bell says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing!

    I’m still nursing my 29 month old son and you’ve hit on all the questions I’ve encountered by prolonged breastfeesing naysayers.
    He only wakes me several times/night if still wakes me at night when he isn’t feeling well. Do you know about ferritin testing? I got my sons tested at 18 mos because he wasn’t wanting to go to sleep at night an was nursing all night long. I learned that he was quite low. Ferritin is stored iron and while my son passed a regular iron test he failed the ferritin test. http://bit.ly/fHOE65

  35. This is such a wonderful post about extended breastfeeding, and the comments are providing even more information I wish more people would know. Thank you for this!

    I’m still breastfeeding my now over 4-year-old son. No mom starts out thinking she’d nurse that long, I didn’t, but I’m so proud and glad about it.

    http://dagmarbleasdale.com/breastfeeding/

    I’ve become a very outspoken lactivist and blog about breastfeeding and list resources for moms who are interested in breastfeeding or are running into problems with it. I frequently help moms who reach out to me on Twitter about breastfeeding or co-sleeping.

    So glad to see a “celebrity” be so outspoken about extended breastfeeding. Thank you and bravo!

    Dagmar
    Dagmar’s momsense

  36. Katie says:

    Love your post! I am also nursing a 2 1/2yo and am shocked at comments people make like it is any of their business. I applaud you for speaking out. My friend found your blog when she was researching (without telling me at first, scared I would be upset) and was so excited about it that she linked it to me. We nurse VERY often during the day and all night long. I know she will stop when her needs are met, just like a baby with a pacifier will give it up on their own when the sucking need goes away. ( I know this first hand as all 3 of my kids gave them up on their own. One was a day before she turned 4yo, the other was 3 1/2yo, and the youngest (and my longest nurser) have up her thumb at 14months). Keep up the good work!

  37. Kara Dudley says:

    Great, great, great post! I really enjoyed it and will be sharing it with my friends and family. I’m still nursing my son (who will be 3 years old in 2 weeks) and he’s not showing any signs of being done. Another plus to child lead weaning that I’ve experienced is being able to nurse a toddler when they are sick. My son had H1N1 twice (!) last year. He would not eat or drink anything but breast milk. I feel that nursing him allowed him to recover faster and avoid dehydration. I didn’t have to worry about his nutrition or fluid intake because I KNEW that he was getting everything he needed by breastfeeding.

  38. Tanya says:

    Couple of comments:
    Babies don’t have a need to poop in the diaper. They have a need to poop. We are the ones that are making them go in the diaper. It is not a need, it is our convenience. Many many children around the world, including the US have never pooped in a diaper ;) but have used potties, toilets, grass, sand etc. from birth.

    Sorry to be anal about it ;) but I am passionate about letting the babies go diaper free, just as much as I am passionate about breastfeeding!

    Don’t exactly like what you said about nursing a 4-5 y.o. I know you didn’t say anything bad, just that you don’t see yourself doing it, but you don’t see yourself doing it only because you’ve never done so yourself and even though you’ve seen others who nurse older children, it is still very very uncommon in our backward society, so search yourself, could be the same feeling as what others feel when they see you nursing your toddler? I am not saying I am right on this, I am just sharing an observation. I would LOVE to be wrong on this ;)))

    LOVE LOVE LOVE what you said about night nursing:”almost overnight, I stopped feeling tired. Once my self-pity lifted, plain old manageable exhaustion set in. I can manage it, and we are fine. ”
    I am convinced that a lot of tiredness, irritation and early weaning happens just because people expect to be done by now.. may be just subconsciously, but it is really hard to nurse at night when everybody around you has long weaned and are sleeping through the night. Sigh.. You are right, having like-minded people around you really really helps with that.

    Thank you so much for your post. It is really awesome and very very!!!

  39. Laura Sutton says:

    Great information!! Thank you, Mayim, for sharing!! I think though a better response to the question: “When will you stop?” would be “I’m letting him/her self-wean”. I have 3 children. I nursed my first child until he was 2 and 3/4 years young, and I definitely played a big role in weaning him, beginning with night weaning. I nursed my second child until he was 3 years and 2 months young, and only weaned him because I was 5 months pregnant with my third child, and my nipples began to hurt. My third child was born 3 months early, and I think that is why I really am trying to make up for it with the most excellent mothering I can muster. She is 2 years and 10 months young now, still nursing somewhat (a few times during the day, and a few times during the night), and a very healthy, normal, and independent little girl. This time I am planning to let her completely self-wean, and proud of it!! It really helps to attend monthly La Leche League meetings. The support I receive there from like-minded nursing mommas is wonderful and immeasurable!! I am no longer shy about nursing her in public, because I realize I am representing something I deeply believe in…that human children are born to breastfeed as long as they want to!! …and who knows how many people I have influenced in a positive way! Blissings, Laura

  40. Cathy says:

    Some people are picking up on the not starting solids until over a year and not being verbal thing. BUT what I think is weird, is that they seem to thing that stopping breastfeeding with help.

    The thing to notice is that this kid might have a “condition” (or not) but that breastfeeding is HELPING to deal with whatever problem might be there. Autism? Breastfeeding helps to heal the gut. Digestive issues or allergies? Stopping the most easily digestible food and giving other hard to digest foods might see this baby stop thriving and start to have malnutrition.

    Breastfeeding does not cause kids to be “delayed” in taking solids! It helps those kids deal with it in a healthy way that keeps them growing.

    Breastfeeding does not cause kids to be “delayed” verbally, it helps them grow their brain even more so that they will be better off in their language development than they would have been otherwise.

  41. Anon says:

    I think its amazing to breastfeed for so long and i hate the attitudes towards long term feeding BUT in this case i feel she may be hindering his development? He didn’t eat solids until 15 months old?? Still doesn’t eat solids like he should at 27 months old and doesn’t talk either. Im just not sure this is completely best for the child.

  42. Janeen says:

    http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html
    I find it sad that I have to keep this link on hand and have since around the time my older daughter was born. It’s necessary though because there are still too many people who do not understand that humans are not programed to wean at the age of one year or even two.

    It was MY HUSBAND who first told me that he did not want me to wean our daughter before the age of two. NO, he did not get some kind of perverse pleasure from watching me nurse or something but it was because he had done research on the benefits of nursing that long. The World Health Organization recommends AT LEAST two years and then beyond that as MUTUALLY desired by mother and child.

    I did not expect to nurse as long as I did. It was past two. In fact, my daughter was 28 months old when we decided we would go and spend two years in South Korea. I decided I would not force her to wean before that. I did cut down quite a bit before she turned three though due to family pressure. I was living with my sister while we waited to join my husband and she had rather strong opinions on nursing a little one that age for more than once or twice at day at the absolute most.

    We continued to nurse the whole time I was in Korea. She had a break while I was gone for one month last year (went back to the US). She barely even mentioned it and I figured we would be done when I came back but I was quite surprised to find out we weren’t. Since I ended up finding out I was pregnant during the month I was gone, I also discovered that nursing hurt again so I cut it down more to just once a day on one side. I returned to the US 30 weeks into my pregnancy, once again leaving my daughter with her dad, to have the baby. They returned five months later, almost three months after my second daughter was born. My older daughter did want to nurse then but by that point, both her dad and I felt it was time for her to be done.

    She does co-sleep with us but that was more due to the fact that co-sleeping (at the very least all of us sleeping in one room) was necessary due to the lack of space we had in our apartment, not to mention, co-sleeping is VERY common over in Korea due to the small amount of living space over there because housing is so expensive. Babywearing is also very common because strollers are obscenely expensive (oh, and so are cribs) and it’s much cheaper to just wrap a blanket around you and the baby and go (plus, babywearing makes dealing with public transportation MUCH easier).

    And yes, my daughter was eating solids (though she was older before she really got into eating them, past a year). She was drinking from a regular cup by the age of 2 too. She did stop nursing at night around the age of 10 months on her own. To be honest, I’m not sure I could have nursed her for so long if she hadn’t and I’m not sure I will nurse this baby as long. For sure, I still plan to go to two (unless she has other plans, some babies do wean on their own before that) but after that, we’ll have to see. I definitely don’t nurse for myself, if I did I probably would have weaned her when she was biting me around a year or even earlier when I deal with nipple pain (to the point of blanching) the first three/four months. I nurse for her and for the benefits that nursing brings. And it DOES have benefits even when she was older. She has very rarely been sick and the worst thing she has had has been a bad cold and an ear infection or two and she’s almost 5, has lived in a foreign country, has been on public transportation, and went to day care for four months while I was gone.

    It’s hard not to feel defensive when you have people basically say you’re sick or twisted or even go far as to say that you’re abusing your child! When you’re trying to do what you feel is the best thing for your child and you’re under attack for it, how can you NOT feel defensive? And the question that is asked has definitely been answered, many people DO have a problem with her breastfeeding her toddler (and have a problem with ANY mother breastfeeding her child past a year or two or whatever age barrier they have in their mind).

  43. Lori says:

    I am a new mother again after a 20 year space in between.
    I didn’t breastfeed the first one because no one in my family had breastfed, it wasn’t even an option for me at the time. I chose to breastfeed this time and I am glad I did. I have had some concerns about night time feedings because she sleeps with me and she eats whenever she wants during the night. I was a bit worried about that maybe I was doing something wrong.. but after reading this article, I realize that there is nothing wrong with this practice. And even though I plan on giving her solid foods when she is old enough, I will let her decide when it is time to stop nursing. Thanks Mayim!

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  45. Dr. Heather Wolfson says:

    Dear Mayim,

    I hope that this email gets to you! My name is Heather Wolfson and I am a chiropractor in Scottsdale, Arizona and my husband, Jack, is a cardiolgist. We have a 3 1/2 year old son, Noah, that I nursed on demand and around the clock until he turned 3 and now nurses for a minute here or there when he wants. Usually in the middle of the night so that he is comforted when he wakes and can easily fall back to sleep. When he was still nursing full time, I would nurse anywhere and anytime and would never cover myself up. This is what nature intended for our children and it is very educational to see a pretty, successful, and intelligent woman nursing a toddler in public! We still co-sleep with our son and has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life besides nursing and giving a homebirth! Don’t stop nursing your son until HE is ready! It does not matter what other ignorant and selfish people think! You will have the very best bond and relationship with your very healthy children! My one concern is that your son is not verbal yet at 2 1/2 years old. My husband and I lecture nationally on the dangers of vaccines. I see many children in my practice with delayed speech due to vaccines. I hope that he has never been vaccinated but if so, please either attend one of our seminars or read the book, The Vaccine Safety Manual by Neil Miller. You can reach me at drheatherwolfson@yahoo.com. I would love to meet you sometime! Yours in Health, Heather Wolfson

  46. Kol hakavod! He is a lucky boy :)

    I had to laugh when you said you hope he’ll quit before he’s 3, because you can’t imagine nursing a bigger kid. That used to be me … until my daughter hit age 3 and kept right on nursing. (She did eventually wean herself, somewhere between her fourth and fifth birthdays.)

    It’s true, nursing a toddler is completely different from nursing a baby, and nursing a preschooler is something else again. But if they need it, they need it.

  47. Penelope says:

    I found this article on helping babies sleep through the night: Perhaps Dr. Jay Gordon’s method can help you and baby get some more consistent Z’s through the night! :)

    http://drjaygordon.com/attachment/sleeppattern.html

  48. Laura says:

    Well done you! Still nursing my just over two year old here – and so pleased to see you posting this and going some way to normalising full term breastfeeding. Only today my daughter asked for milk whilst we were at my sons pre-school Christmas concert and I felt REALLY self conscious feeding her there. Why? Why should my daughter be less entitled to having her comfort that the children being given juice in a bottle to keep them quiet?

  49. Lauren says:

    Thanks for the post! More of this is needed to normalize extended breastfeeding, toddlers need mom’s milk too! Hopefully one day we all won’t have to deal with the comments about STILL breastfeeding our young children!

  50. Sally says:

    Giving you a virtual thumbs up!
    I am still nursing my nearly three year old son and I loved reading your article. Good stuff!

  51. Erin R. says:

    Kudos to you for not only making such a beautiful commitment to your children, but also for sharing your experience. After being terrified that I wouldn’t be able to nurse my daughter at all, I’ve been blessed with supply enough to donate to our local milk bank. Thank you so much for putting your story out there for the public!!

  52. Lila says:

    My son was a month premature. He has always been thin and there have been mild concerns about his nutrition and growth. He started testing solid foods at 8 months, walking at 1, talking in sentences at 2. He is developing normally. But he never showed an inclination to stop nursing. He is now 3 years and 1 month and he still nurses several times a day and through the night on demand. He also eats tons of bacon, fruit, veggies, crackers, nori, and meats. I offer him food first but when he refuses I nurse him. First thing in the morning (at 6am) he partially wakes and nurses (we co-sleep for sanity) and then sleeps for another 4 hours, wakes up and asks for bacon and milk. He nurses to sleep every night.

    My son has had pneumonia 4 times in his 3 years and every time I am so grateful that I still nurse him because of the comfort he gets from it when he is otherwise suffering. Also, he stops eating when he is sick and if he were not nursing, he would be in much more serious trouble.

    I have gotten tons of crap from people I know and people I don’t know for nursing my 3 year old son. I was even thrown out of a courtroom for quietly nursing my son (who was 1 at the time). There is a lot of anti-breastfeeding stuff in our culture. The World Health Organization says nurse til they are 4 around the world. Here, if we nurse past 1 year we get flack. Its just so wrong.
    Thank you for your article.
    -Another Exhausted but Natural Mom.

  53. Sarah West says:

    Thank you for your article. It scares me that so many people think nursing a toddler is so wrong. Many people in the medical field see the benefits of breastfeeding, esp past year 1. I am shocked at the misinformation people are spouting with saying there is no benefit to breastfeeding after a year – do your research people and then come back and comment. The ignorance is scary, and these people are doing nothing to support the NATURAL way to feed your child. People who support breastfeeding past age one are not insane, they are providing optimum nutrition for their baby. My words are not coming out as I would like because I am so amazed at the negative feedback on here. You go girl!

  54. Katie says:

    Great article and congratulations on your lactation consultant certification. I wanted to share this Fact Sheet from the World Health Organization http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs342/en/index.html where it states that the healthiest and best option for a thriving child is “continued breastfeeding up to two years and beyond.” I also fully believe in breastfeeding for comfort as well as food- that’s why it is called nursing. If one more person tells me I am going to ruin my child if I don’t let him cry himself to sleep I am going to scream!

    Thanks for being so candid :)

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  56. Linda says:

    I nursed our now 8 and 1/2 year old daughter until she was 4 and 1/2 years old. Albeit she had a rare medical condition but I wouldn’t change it for the world. You nurse that baby as long as he needs it. You and he will know when its time to stop. You’re doing a great job!

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  58. melli_fera says:

    where do we draw the line between a child’s NEED vs. a child’s WANT? What is a 2.5 year old’s NEED that requires mom’s breast? Food? He should be eating a whole lot of solids now. Comfort? It could be time to start teaching coping skills. Just for the hell of it?? That = want. I mean, come on… A kid of that age doesn’t have a need for a breast… he has a need for something else that moms are just using the breast to get the kid to quiet down. Children and mommys alike need some good stretches of uninterrupted sleep too. As this “movement” moves on, I’m more and more convinced that moms are A) making themselves feel better because they’re needed in such a way that NO ONE ELSE CAN PROVIDE (mystical, magical, SPECIAL!!), B) playing martyr over the whole situation (especially on facebook). It’s this sort of movement (and holier than thou attitude) that turns other people off from breastfeeding alltogether.

    • not a martyr says:

      “playing martyr”? I don’t know who’s doing that, but it wasn’t Mayim Bialik. She seems to be glad and proud and grateful for the ability to continue nursing her son. The exhaustion piece. . . she is saying that it is common to most parents of young children, with or without the nursing.

    • Carolyn says:

      “they’re needed in such a way that NO ONE ELSE CAN PROVIDE (mystical, magical, SPECIAL!!”

      You say this like it is a bad thing. What you say is TRUE, but it is not BAD!

  59. lou says:

    thank you for this mayam! my lovely 32 month old daughter is breastfeeding at the moment as i type!

    with all the family visits at this time of year, i sometimes find myself second-guessing my decisions to give my daughter milky whenever she needs it. it’s so fantastic to read something like this article that is so well written and gently explained.

    thankyou!!

  60. Margaret says:

    Before I got pregnant. I was determined I was going to formula feed.

    I had a friend’s mother give me the holy -what-for and I was convinced that I would breast feed.

    My initial goal when I had my baby was a year.

    A year is swiftly approaching and I don’t want to give it up.

    My next goal is 2 years.

    My boy is 8 months old and already I’ve heard the “when are you weaning him” my response? “he’ll be weaned before his Bar-mizvah”.

    Thank you for posting this. Extended breastfeeding is such a joyful amazing thing that so many people are afraid to talk about.

  61. A says:

    I will give you a thumbs up for your article and trying to explain extended breastfeeding! Those of us who have done it know our children do self-wean (although some may need to be encouraged in it when they can understand that) and learn to sleep by themselves. Co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding do not mean a child won’t be independent or that we don’t want them to be!!
    However, I really would strongly encourage you to follow up with a speech eval, which could lead to a developmental eval. I only say this with my full support and having “been there”. Don’t hold off on it. As I discovered, the need for frequent comforting and all-night nursing were tied into autism. And certainly no doctor told me that, but that type of need for emotional regulation help and speech delay were signs, looking back. Keep following your mommy gut and nurturing your child as you see fit, but due to the speech delay please get your child an evaluation. You have my best of luck!

  62. Kim says:

    Your party- keep it going however long YOU and your CHILD want to. Who cares what anyone else thinks?
    I see the bigger concerns are that 1) at 2.5 your child isn’t eating enough solid food. This is when they are developing life long eating habits, food aversions, etc… so you aren’t doing him any favors by encouraging breast milk instead of solids (IF thats what is happening). And 2) Non verbal at 2.5 is a problem. If he hasn’t been evaluated by a speech language pathologist he should be. Speaking and eating use the same muscles, motor skills, etc… so there could be some connection worth exploring.

  63. markfitzp says:

    Pretty neat post. And nice site too.

  64. vouvoune says:

    wow… How interesting. First of, what ever WORKS for you AND your children is what matters, everyone has opinions and different ways and that’s great.

    Although I think BFing is wonderful and a source of great nuitrition/comfort for infant and young toddlers, I think it should not be a substitute for table food. Her kid didnt start on solids until 15months old and still not eating regular food at 2.5 yr old. I have a family member doing the same and her kid is 17mo old and has a texture aversion from not eating table food early enough and they are struggling to get him to eat table food just like her child is. I think eating together at the table can be bonding too. And as the people who commented on “pacifying” with the brest vs the pacifier, I think past a certain age, it should be neither. My daughter (21mo) has always had the paci for sleep only and I taught her to cope on her own, the same way I taught her to soothe herself to sleep. It was seemless and she never cries or makes a scene if she falls or bumps her head.
    I think a rested mommy is also VERY important as when I am tried I just dont have the energy to offer her my full enthusiasm and self. That to me is also a very important component.

  65. Jill in San Diego says:

    A link to this was posted on a parenting board I frequent, and I couldn’t read it without posting a big thanks!! I nursed my first child to 14.5 months (at which point HE decided he was done), and I am at 11 months with #2. It is so very different this time around and I cannot imagine he will be done in a few months. We co-sleep and he is up the same 4-7 times a night as your son (though, the thought of another year or more of the sleep deprivation is…daunting). I am planning to nurse him as long as he needs, although my hopes are that he won’t nurse much past 2 since we’d like one more child and I’d like a few months between weaning and trying to conceive again.

    I find that other breastfeeding women (even past a year) are few and far between in my area…but they are still out there. It’s always encouraging to know you are not alone. Thank you so much for sharing your experience so openly!

  66. KRG says:

    Oh God. Shut the party down indeed. This is absolutely ridiculous.

  67. Jaye says:

    As an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) I am very pleased by this article – Thank you Mayim! There is a lot of good sound information here – although from some of the comments it seems that not everyone is up to date on what is normal for human development. As an IBCLC it bothers me tremendously that so many of us professionals have such a wide difference in up to date education on not only normal breastfeeding but also biologically normal human development. We should be on the same page with this and often times we are not with some using personal opinions as fact. This is a problem because it confuses parents terribly.

    The fact is that kids are different. There is a range of normal for everyone and everything. Some norms: Not being really into solids even up to 15 months. Nursing until age 3,4,5,6. Asking for nursing (newborns do this!). Nursing for hunger and/or comfort at age (in years) 2,3,4,5… Waking and/or nursing several times a night at age newborn to 12mo, 2 yrs, 3, 4 etc… These are just a few examples of situations that are actually biologically normal…but, due to societal pressures seem abnormal. The research is there if you just look for it.

    And really, why do I still hear from time to time that breastmilk is not nutritive for a toddler! Please! Show me your references that breastmilk somehow loses its nutritional value at any age. It doesn’t turn into water at 12 months folks. And for those kids who are lucky enough to still be nursing at the toddler stage breastmilk can be very beneficial nutritionally and emotionally if they get sick. They stay hydrated and fed properly as well as get comfort when feeling yucky. Again – the research is out there…Anyone who states that human milk has no nutritional value after any given age in not up to date on that education.

    And for those who believe that nursing a toddler is for the mother…quite frankly, you are wrong. The simple fact is, if a child (regardless of age) does not want to nurse – they won’t. You cannot force it – period. If a mother is willing and able to allow her child to nurse until s/he is ready to wean, then the child will wean when s/he is emotionally ready and not before – and weaning age will vary. However, there are times when Mom is ready to wean and therefore speeds up the process because SHE is done – not because the child is. And yes – the research is out there on this one too.

    To those who see fit to judge and be rude – why? If you don’t agree with what someone is doing why be rude about it? Those who have an issue with Mayim even talking about what she does as a parent might want to simply try to understand that many of us have felt the need to justify how we raise our children to people who are not educated in this area. It is helpful to many to see that there are those of us out there doing things they way we feel good about – and that we are OK with others not doing it our way. It isn’t about right or wrong: It is simply about making your own choices and being OK with them. We can agree to disagree – respectfully. And I am saddened to see some not able to do that.

    Many people base their parenting and child-rearing on everything else BUT what their heart tells them. They are listening to everyone else and ignoring that what some are saying may not feel right to them. And I feel badly for them because I have been in their shoes and I know how frustrating that is. But many of us have taken the time to do A LOT of research, look at studies, look at normal human development, normal child development, study Lactation, talk to lots of people and then make a decision that works for us – regardless of how society thinks it should be done.

    The fact is that children whose needs are met grow up to be emotionally strong and stable humans who will in turn meet the needs of their future partners and children. They grow up able to form healthy attachments and have healthy self esteems. Children whose needs are met will be able to have healthier relationships, withstand bullying and will have a strong sense of self and an ability to take care of their own needs successfully when they are ready. Those are things that many of us adults had to learn in adulthood…when we should have learned that in childhood.

    I have one request to the parents in my Parent Support group: Come and Play with us – but Play Nice. No judgment – no disrespect. Parent in your own way – do your research – educate yourself – and don’t judge others for doing things differently than you…you may find yourself eating those judgments down the road – or even worse: Being judged yourself.

    Blessing to all…
    Jaye

  68. Wendy says:

    I am the mom of 4 beautiful children – each one nursed a little longer than the last one – 18 months, 22 months, 26 months and my last one just weaned at age 3 1/2. So I am a big fan of extended nursing. I did have them eating a LOT more when they were nuring toddlers, and did not wake in the night with them past a certain age (but we did co-sleep, so if they woke in the night they could have comfort to help them return to sleep, but not milk.)

    I would caution though, that if your son is not verbal at this age, you might want to have him assessed for autism. My 9 year old has autism and he was my child who nursed for 26 months, also the one who did not want to eat table food, and he was not verbal either at that age. I believe that children should have 50 words by age 2. If your child has a simple delay, it will not have hurt him to be checked – but if he does have autism, the sooner you find out the better. I am a believer in biomedical interventions and I honestly wish I had started my son when he was younger. Please ask your doctor about this.

    Kudos to you for nursing for so long though – that for sure will only help him if he does have autism. I truly hope that he does not. Best wishes to you and your family.

  69. Michelle says:

    I am speechless at all of the ignorant comments. Mayim, you are amazing. I know you are waaaaay too smart to even read these comments because you are aware of the ignorance surrounding this topic, but in any case, if you do read this, CHEERS! I am one of the “whackos” who believe in the biological needs of children :)

  70. BUG says:

    I have nothing against breastfeeding, or extended breastfeeding. However, I don’t believe it’s healthy, for a child of that age, to get up at night that often for food. It could be, for a bottle, or a breast. Not only, is the child not sleeping enough, but the mother isn’t either. Not to mention, there seems to be an unhealthy emotional attachment, if he is waking that often to eat. I would have said the same thing, if he were bottle feeding. She really seems, to be adding to his attachment to breastfeeding. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with a child being attached to breastfeeding, but this kid is WAY too attached. AT this age, he should be able to cope in different ways. Good luck to her, in the future…

  71. Kim says:

    I nursed all three of my kids till they were grown toddlers, at one point i was nursing an 18 month-old and a new born at the same time, no hassle just a matter of explaining to the older one she had second dibs :)
    This was all 20 years ago now, and i have healthy, happy, well adjusted young adult children, with no allegries or weight problems. Back then i was shunned by Wic and the doctors, but I was a strongwilled mother who believed in following her instincts rather than a manual.
    I have no regrets , and truly enjoyed the close time it gave us.

  72. Jay says:

    I am a mother of two and could never imagine breastfeeding so long! For all of the mothers saying it is for nutritional purposes, why not pump the milk and put it in a cup? If your child is not verbal at the age of two, then obviously the breast milk isn’t work as great as you think huh? I think a child that is completely verbal and can question why you’re letting them breastfeed, is definitely old enough to be “weaned”. The feedings seem to be more of a comfort for the mothers than the children. What if your children want to feed until they were 15? Would you still be okay with it? 2 should definitely be the cut off point!

    • Shawn says:

      I totally agree with 2 being a cut off point!!! I am hearing a lot about the needs of the children, well isn’t being able to verbalize at the age of 2 important as well? Why are these kids waking up 4-7 times a night to be breast fed? I would want my child to have a full tummy before he/she went to bed and get a good nights sleep instead of getting up all hrs of the nightto eat and are these kids sleeping in the parents bed as well? I started reading about the child who was 6 and still breast feeding? Is that ok? I think not, I think that would be more harmful down the road for this 6 yr old. All moms want whats best for there kids and we all have are own way in parenting, but kids can get the same nutrition from table food and still have that bonding with your little ones you want, you don’t have to breast feed your child for years to bond with them, and there is the negative issues in breast feeding toddlers, why are they being overlooked?

  73. ChristineMM says:

    Just read a few comments and can’t take any more. Modern society still generally has a problem with non-nutritive nursing, they need to get over it. There is scientific evidence of the good that comes from the sucking action (lowering stress chemicals in the brain) but some doctors still close their ears to that good benefit. I recall the pediatrician telling me to “not use my breasts as a pacifier”. Huh? The pacifier is a substitute for the breast not the other way around. It’s weird how the new and manufactured starts to take over as “normal” and “right” and the traditional and typical thing is viewed in an abnormal light.

  74. ChristineMM says:

    I also followed my children’s lead. The older weaned himself at 30 months when I was in month 6 of my second pregnancy. The younger weaned himself at 31 months.

    In my volunteer work as a La Leche League Leader I noticed babies and toddlers and older kids even, had different nursing patterns but generally fit into certaing categories.

    Those who nursed frequently through the night (more than once or twice in the night) past age 1 or 18 months, and those who nurse when upset or injured and those who seem to be picky eaters or food allergy kids or food sensitive kids tended to nurse longer (if allowed to), some that I knew nursed to age 4, 5, or 6.

    Those who nursed mostly before a nap, maybe right after waking from a nap and then before bed and once or twice in night (if at all) tended to finish some time at age 2.

    I know those are broad categories but I saw the pattern over and over. There is no one right way.

    I believe that what Americans term as extended nursing is fine so long as mom is okay with it and if it is not causing some other problem in the family (i.e. husband going nuts over the issue and causing marital stress).

    I love “How Weaning Happens”, it’s a great book.

    Glad to hear you are happy with your mothering journey. Keep following your heart!

    (I wonder if homeschooling will follow as it did with us…)

  75. What a wonderful article to educate anyone opposed to breastfeeding past the infant stage! You are listing so many great arguments for nursing your child as long as you both desire. Most people are just opposed because it’s not what they did or because they don’t see enough moms nurse older children — and that’s why articles like this are so important.

    I blog about breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding and list resources for moms interested in it or struggling with it at Dagmar’s momsense – http://DagmarBleasdale.com.

    http://dagmarbleasdale.com/2010/10/the-benefits-of-extended-breastfeeding/

    No mom starts out thinking: “I’ll nurse him until he’s 3,” but with some kids he or she just doesn’t self-wean when you’d expect them to and there you go, nursing a preschooler. I’m a very vocal breastfeeding advocate after having such a wonderful experience nursing my son and learning a lot about the amazing health benefits for child AND mom, but I never thought I’d still be breastfeeding a 4-year-old (he just turned 4). But I am and I’m glad. He won’t be this little much longer, and I’m sure he’ll wean soon, and I’ll miss it very much.

    What you are doing for your child takes a lot of dedication and you should be applauded for it instead of criticized, mama! :)

    Dagmar
    Dagmar’s momsense

  76. Claudia says:

    I would say that I understand the desire to want to provide for your cchild nutritionally, however, it is a reccommendation that children begin using a cup by the age of 1 so instead of physically nursing why not pump & provide breast milk that way. There is very little nutritional suppport gained from milk be it human or otherwise which is why iron deficieny anemia & malnutrition is seen in children who live on a diet primarily of milk past the first year of life. I am surprised that a lactation consultant wouldn’t be awre of that information. Also, the need for sleep is absolutely crucial and side effects from insomnia can mimic disorders like ADHD. So, you may have the credentials behind your name to support what you do, but I think you are utilizing on certain facts to support the needs to physically nurse other than a comfort measure.

    • Honey says:

      Thankfully shes in America, eats an organic diet, and Im sure takes whole food vitamins if theres a need. Iron deficiency/anemia isn’t an issue for the whole foods eating momma, her babe be he nursing or in utero. Anemia is a result of mommas following advice that leads to pills that cause constipation. Check out some oat straw, nettles and other natural foods rich in iron if you’ve worries of anemia. I can’t beleive a LC wouldn’t know about herbs, healthy eating and how a child can thrive even past 1 year on an exclusivly breastmilk diet…and even when their mom is a vegetarian or vegan.

      Honey

  77. You go Blossom!!! Thank you for an intelligent stand on self weaning. In a world where we are told we must be inclusive and nonjudgemental about race, religion and lifestyle, why do moms nursing toddlers still get judged harshly?

  78. Carolyn says:

    Thanks for the great post! I stumbled across it once it was linked on kellymom.com. To anyone that has an issue with the semi-combative title- take a look at the uninformed and ignorant comments that people are leaving. And you wonder why it is titled this way?? I am currently breast-feeding my 19-month old and am always encouraged to hear and read such stories. I wonder why people can’t live and let live these days. Don’t like an article? Feel free not to comment!!

    Thanks again- I loved it!

  79. dee says:

    i have breastfed 7 children but only my last for longer than 4 months for various reasons.i dont know when i will wean her but i guess i feel like 3 should be it.that’s when i take away the binky.my reasoning is,that is the age they can start preschool so the baby years are over.

    this summer i will be getting my first grandchild.i will be surrogate nursing the baby along with my little one while mommy works.so i can imagine what ppl will think of me…

    • Sara CC says:

      No doubt you will get all kinds of negative reactions from people. I hope you will ignore it all. It was not so long ago that wet nurses were not uncommon and more accepted. It’s nobody else’s business outside of you and the baby’s parents. Congrats on the grandbaby!

  80. Pingback: Breastfeeding Toddlers « The Up North Writer Mama

  81. madness says:

    I agree with breastfeeding up to 6-12months. but once they start walking and talking and asking for milk? NO!You ARE spoling your son and it makes me think other women that do this must get some sort of weird kick out of it. You’re not teaching your children proper eating habits. It’s on the same level of insanity as co-sleeping. This sort of new-age mother madness just makes me cross. Why are you all sacrificing your selves for your kids? If you want breasts down to your knees you carry on. Breastfeeding any longer than 1 year old is just plain weird and plain wrong. And although the writer may have a PhD she still uses words such as boo-boos. Must be “nappy brain”. Good god all you women out there, get a life get some independence and start teaching your offspring to do the same

    • Kim says:

      We co slept too, after i almost dropped my baby at 6 weeks old, sitting on the side of the bed doing a 4 am feed, That was the last time I ever suffered sleep deprivation. And my now 20 year old kid and her 19 and 17 yearold siblings are well adjusted adults. Got milk?

  82. Rachel says:

    There is absolutely NO reason a 27 month old child still needs to be nursing the amount of times that Mayim is nursing her child during the day and night. While I agree that breastmilk is hugely beneficial, it is only beneficial as a child’s only source of nutrition until about age one, and then it is incredibly important for children to be eating table foods. Women in other countries feed their children for so long because THEY DON’T HAVE OTHER FOOD! Strictly nursing a toddler who doesn’t eat many other foods is putting his/her health at risk because they are not getting enough of the iron and nutrients they need for their growth and development. It makes me angry that Mayim is justifying nursing her child for that long simply because of the amazing qualities of breastmilk, AND because she has a chip on her shoulder because she feels as though people are judging her. If you want to breastfeed your child until he is 20, then fine. At least make sure that his nutrition is being met elsewhere, nurse for the emotional connection, and call it what it is. I really am about everybody making the decisions that are right for them, but let’s at least be honest about why we are making those decisions.

    Allowing a child to nurse until toddlerhood is for the mother, NOT for the child. My children were both sleeping through the night by age 4-6 months, and they were both breastfed for a year. They were taught how wonderful it is to be able to fall asleep on their own and be able to sleep through the night. When they are awake in the night, then I know exactly what they need. They may be not feeling well, have to go potty, or they may just need an extra snuggle. And in return, they get a happy, chipper mommy who got plenty of sleep the night before. They are healthy,loving, independent children who have been brought up with a great deal of love and also with boundaries. Why would a child wean themselves from breastfeeding? It is up to the mother to slowly wean the child, just like it is up to the mother to provide other boundaries as well.

  83. Maria says:

    Great piece! When my first child was born, I couldn’t imagine nursing a 1-year old, let alone an 18 month old. She weaned at 22 months, and now my son is going strong at 18 months.

    I can’t imagine nursing a 2.5, 3, 4 or 5 year old now…but the beauty is that your child doesn’t suddenly transform from a newborn to a 4-year old. :-D I imagine if my son is still nursing at 2.5, I will be just fine with it!

  84. lindsi says:

    While I completely support nursing until the child is ready to wean themselves there are some major issues with this article. I want everyone to know the serious dangers involved in NOT feeding your child solid foods until they are 15 months. While breast milk is ALWAYS best…they do not get the necessary proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fats they need for healthy growth development and brain growth. Furthermore it is incredibly unhealthy and detrimental to the child to allow them to wake 4-7 times in the middle of the night to feed at that age. There is HUGE proof that this is harmful. You stated your child is still nonverbal. This is a HUGE sign of serious issues. For a child of that age to not be verbal there are signs of brain development issues and frankly I would venture to guess that is related to the lack of nutrition the child rec’d. (since you didnt feed solids until after 15 months). A child of that age SHOULD be verbal and autism is the first thing you need him checked for.

    I totally support long term breastfeeding but the choices you made were, in my opinion, a form of child abuse. You delayed his development, stunted his growth and nutrition and have damaged his brain by not allowing him proper sleep!

    a pediatric RN and lactation consultant

    • Heather says:

      Yes, you are awesome! This article kicked off a huge debate on Facebook where I ended up teaching a group of defensive and obsessive mothers about REM cycles and why toddlers should be sleeping through the night. One actually told me I’m not entitled to an opinion because I don’t have kids myself. I told her you don’t need to be a parent to understand sleep cycles! Also, for a 2.5 year old to be non-verbal is CLEARLY an issue.

    • Honey says:

      My Godson was not verbal until after 30 months. He was just tested, mid kindergarten, and found to be above average intelligence and acts like all the other children. My brother, tested to be a genius, didn’t speak beyond a few grunts until he was almost 4 was given a scholarship to a private school for children. If he’d been old enough he would have attended college based on his score on the ACT/SAT. Based on the experiences I’ve had with children who speak late they’re all genius. Some kids talk late. Some ’cause that’s their personality…some there is an issue. But, to say there is definitly a problem and she’s causing harm is not a known factor.

      I say listen to your child, follow their lead, listen to your gut and be sure to stay educated so you may share with those who challenge you. No matter the outcome be it good or bad a parent and the child is the one who deals with it.

      I also know that many children lose or ignore some skill while working on new ones…what about the little girl who could draw items to look like a picture but once she learned to speak….she lost that skill. Stand back, be patient, and turn your horrified glances to the price of gas.

      Honey

  85. Acia says:

    You. Are. Awesome. Not just for the extended breast feeding, but also for the courage to continue despite the lack of support from your family.

    I am still nursing my 16 month old daughter, and there are no signs of slowing down. Like your son, she was waking 4-5 times a night, but unlike you, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was becoming depressed from the sleep deprivation, and it was starting to affect my marriage. Now she sleeps 8-9 hours without waking to nurse, and then will sleep for another couple hours after being nursed in the early morning. It’s a compromise that works for us, for now.

    I hope I have the courage to continue breastfeeding until she is ready to stop – it is so hard when you have society (and family) working against you.

    Thanks for the good read!

  86. kristyn says:

    thanks for this beautiful piece. i nursed my daughter till she was just shy of 3…i wanted to continue but needed surgery and was told by my awesome surgeon to pump-and-dump for 2 days, then return to breastfeeding. my daugher, however, told me that she didnt need “yummies” anymore (i had explained to her that the medicine the doctors gave me would make her sick, just for a couple of days, and then we could return to yummies)…and i was heartbroken. she didn’t care at all–maybe she was ready to wean but hadnt really been motivated to consider it before we had a self-imposed break? funny.

    anyway, i think you are fantastic and completely applaud your insight. every child is different. my now-5-year-old daughter still doesnt always sleep through the night, and often needs to climb into bed with me & my husband. she isnt needy but she is very very affectionate and likes to be snuggled. our 7-year-old son, who self-weaned at 9 months, never ever wakes up at night, and hasnt since he was about 3. the comments suggesting that children
    “always” or “never” need something clearly don’t understand the deeply individual nature of children, or parenting for that matter.
    keep it up!!

  87. I breastfed my first child until she was 4, and my second just weaned at 3.

    Putting stories like this out there help normalize breastfeeding. Breastfeeding babies, toddlers, young children? Normal. Not better, best, ideal… just… normal.

    Thank you for sharing.

  88. Christy says:

    Comfort IS a need.

    As for defensiveness, sustained nursing is considered freakish in our culture, and even people here who say, “it’s your choice,” are giving the message, “it’s OK to do it, as long as you’re ashamed and you hide it.” No wonder mothers feel the need to defend the practice!

  89. Donna G says:

    Beautifully written. I don’t consider this extended nursing, however. It is, in fact, normal. The average age for our species to wean is about 4.5 years. That means there are some who nurse to age 7 or 8. Therefore, extended nursing is anything past that. Some people think nursing past 3 months is extended. It isn’t and neither is nursing past 2 years. It’s normal. It might not be typical in our particular society, but it is normal for our species.
    It is important for people like you to advertise and talk about what you are doing. There is so little support for mothers who continue to nurse even past 3 months. It isn’t fair that they have to ‘closet’ nurse and to be secretive about it. Why should they? The more we talk about how normal it is, the more people will be exposed to the idea and the less shocking it may be when someone does see it.

  90. Alicia says:

    This was a nice piece. I just wanted to say that when my older daughter was two, I thought and hoped that she would wean by three. I couldn’t imagine nursing such a big kid. But every day she’s just one day older, as the previous poster said. And now I am nursing a 4.5 year old! (And a 1.5 year old too!)

  91. Wendy T. says:

    Loved this article! Thank you for a laugh during your night nursing comments. I loved them! And the same thing happened to me…once I let my mind go about the whole night nursing thing, it did just become plain old manageable exhaustion.

    I night weaned my older son at 18 months, as I was pregnant and nrusing REALLY hurt. But I am currently nursing a 14 month old and a 38 month old.

    By the way, I never thought I’d nurse a 3 year old, but here we are….he’s slowed way down and only asks every other day, but I am happy to continue through flu and cold season!

    Thanks for being such a good mama!

  92. Heather says:

    Listen, you’re all entitled to your opinions whether you’ve done research or not. You’re also entitled to raise and feed children as you see fit. By 2 years old, however, children should be sleeping through the night. I would think that someone with a PhD in neuroscience would understand the benefits of achieving REM sleep (for herself and her toddler). Sure, there are young children who will still wake up to potty in the middle of the night, but offering the booby option 4-7 (!) times throughout the night will only teach them that a full night’s sleep isn’t necessary. Mayim, you may not think you’re spoiling your son, but you sure aren’t teaching him proper sleeping habits!

    • Donna G says:

      When we nurse our children to sleep we are teaching them that sleep/bedtime is a comforting time. A time to relax and do what relaxes you. It’s not a time to fear being alone. I nursed my daughter to sleep until she was about 4.5 years old. She would be the one dragging me to bed because she was tired and wanted to go to sleep. We co-slept until she was probably 9 years old. She has no problem going to bed and getting to sleep herself now. She definitely gets at least 10 hours of sleep each night. She says her favorite time of day is when she goes to bed. How’s that for a healthy sleep habit? It is more than okay to follow your child’s lead regarding these matters. If someone else doesn’t want to, that’s up to them. So, why criticize someone else for what they’re doing? There is no research that says being forced to learn to soothe yourself to sleep at 2 years old is better than learning to do it in your own time.

    • lindsi says:

      “you are entitled to raise your child as you see fit”???? REALLY? I would beg to differ

  93. Carrie says:

    Good for you! I think it is so important to tell people you’re nursing your toddler to help make it more normal. I nursed my son until he was almost two, and weaned him out of desperation to get him to sleep through the night (I had already day weaned because I work full time and only wanted to pump for the first year, not the second). What a mistake it was to wean! He still didn’t sleep through the night – it just make him harder to get back to sleep. :) I am currently nursing my second baby and loving it!

    Thanks so much for sharing :)

  94. Jenn says:

    I am all for breastfeeding and did so until DS was 7 months old (he self weened) and planned on going much longer. However, I very much diagree with your comment amount kids needing to eat at night. They 100% DO NOT at that age. Most babies (including BF) are sleeping through the night without this at 4-6 months. All this is doing is making him dependant in his sleeping habits and ruining the rest you need. Again, I am very pro breastfeeding but I don’t think you paint it in a very good light with this. It sounds like he is very dependant.

  95. Jane says:

    First, let me say that, Yes, we as mothers should support each other. Some women can’t or won’t breastfeed because of a health issue, or they can’t emotionally handle it, or they can’t handle the sleep deprivation – and THAT IS OK. Those of us who breastfeed have usually thought about it since it is not the norm and we have good reasons to do so – and THAT IS OK.

    However, I think that Mayim is perfectly justified in being defensive because every part of our current Western culture is criticizing her, every day, whether she hears it or not. Those of us who are embracing breast-feeding and attachment parenting (which is supported by the actual science)are the vanguard of a huge cultural shift.

    I’m sorry I don’t have the history memorized but check out some of the breast-feeding books, like How weaning happens for a full history. Breastfeeding used to be the norm, then rich women (Victorian?) decided they didn’t have to do that and then along came formula and then everyone wanted to be “freed.” Add the whole sexual repression thing and the western obsession with the individual and independence and you got very low breastfeeding rates. So, choosing to breastfeed is a big change in philosophy about parenting and what’s good for kids based on some fairly decent science. But people fight for what they grew up with, whether it actually makes sense or not.

    The other point that needs to be made is that there is a real conflict here. The research predominantly shows that breastfeeding is better than formula feeding – so if you are going to use formula, you should have a good reason for it. Now, I know a woman who did not breast feed because she knew she couldn’t handle being the one go-to person for her kids. I respect that. That’s a good reason. Doing it because you never thought about it and you got some formula samples from the hospital and you buy into the idea that breasts are primarily sexual objects and children should be independent at 1 is just lazy and unexamined to me, so I’m going to challenge you – because you deserve to be challenged, just as the idea that it is “disgusting” to breastfeed a 3 year old deserves to be challenged. So all those third world children are being damaged and psychologically ruined because their mothers breastfed them until they were 3 or 4? Did you come up with your values yourself or did you just accept what you were fed? What are they based on?

    I don’t see us breastfeeders as defensive, I see us as aggressive – but for a good cause. We have learned about all the benefits of BF and so we are campaigning for them to at least be accepted as a choice and have engendered a backlash of sorts. So be it. If even one more child is breastfed because of it, it was worth it.

    So, three cheers for Mayim, who had the courage to stand up for the idea that breastfeeding is natural, healthy, and non-damaging. And yes, that idea needs to be stood up for. Oh, and to those posters who say that breastfeeding children into toddlerhood is for the mother not the child – you can’t force a child to breastfeed.

    • Cortney says:

      No, those third world country children were not ruined because their mothers did not wean them. They were ruined because their mothers were not able to give them proper solid nitrtion. Mayim is not a third world mother. She made the conscious decision to not feed her son solids at an appropriate age and now he is developmentally delayed. I agree with the earlier post, that is child abuse.

      As a quick aside, I breastfed as well until DD decided she was done with it. That was at 10 months. She slept through the night WAY before that. I feel sorry for the child whose mother is more concerned about her stance on breastfeeding than she is about his health and development. Here’s to hoping there is a nutritionist that will help save this child from his crazy mother.

      • Jane says:

        No, she didn’t “refuse to give him solids” A 2-3 year old can’t survive on breastmilk alone. And how is it that you dismiss what our species has done since its inception as well as how most women feed their children on this planet? I lived in Senegal for 2 years and not all children in Africa or the “third world” are starving ignorant savages. They used the breast there mainly for comfort, and breastfeeding was the norm at least to 2 years. My village “mother” let me be the one to help her son start eating his first solids when he was around 10 months or so, and he was a chubby happy baby. He was so cute sitting there next to his bowl of millet couscous and cowmilk, scooping it up with his little hand. But he was still nursing when I left a year later. Oh, and women there have some of the same struggles we do: I learned the word for “bite” from hearing her yell at her son “Don’t you bite me!”

        Living in our rich society full of opportunities, what is your excuse for clinging to your ignorance?
        Child abuse?! please…

  96. Ambra says:

    So awesome of you to share your extended breastfeeding experiences. xox

  97. Such a great article on what our family likes to call “Full Term Nursing.” I wanted to suggest another book that depicts nursing toddlers. It is from Australia and the illustrations are beautiful! It is Chrissy Butler’s “The Wonderful Place.”
    http://chrissybutler.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=19
    Thank you for your honesty and courage and I hope that one day we can all live and let live.

  98. Holly says:

    I am still nursing my 2 1/2 year old…she’ll be three in March. Glad to hear I’m not alone…cause some times I sure do feel like it. Yay for you and your boys!

  99. Renee says:

    Wonderful post! I myself am currently nursing my 3rd child who is 30 months old & still nursing night and day. It’s amazing that something so biologically normal and acceptable in most of the world is so frowned upon. Sad really. Glad to hear of the many other moms who put their children’s needs on the forefront of life. We’d have a much better society if more moms raised their children this way!

    • itta says:

      Every mother should do what she and her child are comfortable doing.
      I think, that when breastfeeding works out well (because it really just doesn’t sometimes) it can be so special and beautiful and It’s so nice to hear about someone loving it. I loved it too.
      Every toddler needs to eat and drink and if it comes for a boob, that’s great. But after the age of 1 for sure, a child needs a full night of uninterrupted sleep. And when they get it, their behavior really changes for the better.
      I think breastfeeding a toddler is wonderful and I think it’s great that you are trying to tune into your child’s needs. You might benefit from a little day to day structure though.

  100. shangrilaottawa says:

    Reading your post comes at a great time for me – my daughter is nearly 13 months old and I have been getting questioned surrounding when I plan to wean her since she was about 11 months of age. So far, my husband, mother and mother-in-law as well as an old best friend are all disapproving of nursing past 12 months. I was so surprised, but shouldn’t have been – I remember I too thought it was ‘weird’ before having children. It’s as though we are sociologically programmed to believe that when a child turns 1 we must forward face them in the car, wean them from nursing and do various other ‘big kid’ things to mark their growing up.

    Happily my daughter sleeps (usually) 12 hrs overnight (don’t hate me!), but she nurses 4-6x a day. For what its worth, my daughter is a bright, happy, inquisitive and independent little girl who happily walks up to other unknown women in groups we attend and smiles at them and touches their legs as though the world and everyone in it is her oyster.

    She loves nursing and I do too and there is no way that I will take that away from her so soon. I have to stay strong and stand firm. Reading your post and all these wonderful replies will help me. Thank you!

  101. Alison says:

    Mayim, I just read your post while breastfeeding my 25-month-old son – and now I’m commenting while nursing, too! Thank you for sharing your approach to breastfeeding and for supporting others with scientific evidence based information.

  102. Whitney says:

    Thanks for this lovely piece, Mayim. I am 9 months into my nursing relationship with my son, and plan to continue as long as he wishes. Like you wrote– nothing is broken, and there is nothing to fix. :)

  103. JMM says:

    Wonderfully expressed – thank you!!

    I planned to nurse for a year with my son, but maintained the right to change my mind once he got teeth. :o) He was 14 mos old and nursing 7 x day when I found I was pregnant with my daughter. I nursed through my pregnancy, and tandem nursed for 2 years. By the time my son was 4, he was nursing once every few days, and I was ready for one of them to wean. He’s now 5, and just yesterday I was cuddling him on my lap and he was talking about “nursies.” My daughter is now 3 and nursing 2 x day, and I’m thinking she’ll probably wean by 4 as well.

    It’s certainly not what I had planned, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way. We enjoy this life. We enjoy these choices. And quality research says my children will be better for it.

  104. Ashley says:

    Word. My son is just hitting 21 months, and there’s a definite air of, “Do you still need to be doing that?” passing through my extended family — who, despite obvious reservations, keep it more or less to themselves.

    The night waking sucks, yeah, and sometimes it’s for comfort and closeness rather than food, but I figure that if this is what helps my son feel close and connected, then who am I to say that he can’t do it?

    Thanks for sharing! :D

  105. Tammy says:

    I told people who asked that we’d be sure to stop before he left for college. It usually stops the questions. The best point I read on this post and the comments … everyone has to do what’s right for their family. We all need to remember that.

  106. Katy says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is wonderful to have celebrity women speaking out about breastfeeding. I hope your story will encourage other moms who are being pressured by family/friends to stop before their children are ready. Kudos to you for doing what you need to to meet your children’s needs!

  107. nancy says:

    Oh, and one other thing – I read, “Mothering your Nursing Toddler” when I was nursing a “new” toddler – she was about 15 months or so. When I got to the “nursing in the 2nd year” and, god forbid, “nursing in the 3rd year” chapters I thought “well! I will NEVER need this info!” Ha ha ha … like you, I NEVER planned to nurse a 4 year old. I would have thought that was CRAZY! But, one day turns into another and this little person who you love so much still has a need and … you do what you have to do. I hope you get to wean before 3 also, but know if you don’t that you are not alone. Feel free to e-mail me if that time ever comes!

  108. Stacy says:

    I loved your article! It made me smile as I read it and I really want to commend you for providing your son the best start in life. I let my first daughter self wean which happened to be at 19 months. She was ready, I was not. I am now nursing my second daughter who is 11 months old. I will again let her self wean. People in America don’t realize the AVERAGE age of weaning around the world is 3 years old…that means many other kids are older than 3 if this is only an average. Your son will be much healthier, smarter, and happier because of it! Good for you!

  109. Martha says:

    I think what you are doing is great for you and your child, though I too have concerns for him not eating solids until 15 months and not being verbal at now 2 1/2 years. How does your Doctor feel about this?
    For those that are worried about your children being too clingy from extended breastfeeding, I wasn’t able to breast feed either of my children and they are both clingy to the point where we are seeking help for our almost 4 year old who will go into a panick if I’ve gone to the bathroom and he didn’t know I’d left the room. It’s all about the personality of the child, their temperment, NOT whether they are breastfeed or not regardless of the length of time.

    I hope someday you are able to care less about what people think, say or do about how you raise your children and please have your sons lack of verbalization checked out, there could be some real issues there.

    Best of Luck.

  110. nancy says:

    Oh, honey, 2.5 is YOUNG! He’s still a baby! I nursed my daughter until she was 4. Yep, FOUR. And at that age she definitely nursed that much, if not more. We co-slept, so it actually wasn’t too bad.

    I actually had to wean her (for my own mental health) because I nursed her thru my pregnancy and did 6 months of tandem before I just couldn’t do it anymore. It has been almost a year and she STILL asks to nurse and STILL asks “why I weaned her so early?” Oh, the guilt. But, you do what you can, right?

    Anyway, you’re a great momma to know what that baby needs.

  111. nicole says:

    Thanks for posting this, I wish more people in this country understood how natural EBF is. My son has a number of allergies and a person’s typical response to my diet modifications were alway “That’s what formula is for”…the way I see it, that’s what a mom is for; to give their child what they need. I very much assumed we would be EBF based on his dietary restrictions. Being a working mom, I watched my son struggle to take a bottle of breast milk for 6 months at daycare and it broke my heart; in any other developed country I would have been home with him for at least a year. Sadly, now he prefers a bottle (except for nighttime feedings which still happen 2-3 times a night) at 11 months so it looks like weaning will happen sooner that I had anticipated. When I discuss this openly, other people think I have hit the jackpot since they see no reason to nurse past a year. I think it is just a way for them to feel better about their decision to prematurely wean their children.

  112. Heather says:

    You seriously rock. I was once in the “I can’t see myself nursing a 3 year old boat.” That was a few years ago, lol, and I currently tandem nurse a 4 year old and a 23 month old. Do I wish my oldest would wean? Why yes I do. But, like you, I did the research and I believe the benefits of self-weaning trump temporary inconvenience. I may have a talk with her and discuss a compromise as she nears her fifth birthday, however. Largely because I do not want to tandem nurse three and we are planning to begin attempting to conceive around that time.

  113. Naiomi says:

    Thank you! Still nursing at 3 yrs. although only morning and night. What a gift to cuddle an otherwise wiggly giggly toddler for 10-15 minutes at a time.

  114. Rachelle says:

    Great article and I’m glad that breasfeeding has worked so well for you and your family. I have to disagree with some of the comments that BF babies are better at everything compared to formula fed babies. I was blessed to have adopted my first child and breast feeding was not an option, while I do wish I could have had the experience with him, I don’t feel like it changed our bond or damaged him intellectually in any way.
    Nursing is great, but there are many ways to create a family and it can’t always happen.
    So to the author, I’m happy it’s working for you! To some of those other posts, there are other situations that you have to consider!

  115. Tabitha says:

    This is very interesting and informative, however, I do agree with the people that said “why be so defensive, and more importantly why advertise it?” I don’t really care what you do with your children. I do think it is more than a little tacky to not try to excuse yourself in some out of the way place to breast feed. Not necessarily to a bathroom, but does your child absolutely have to have your boob right in the middle of a store? Most Moms I know who bottle feed try to move out of the way. I do feel when you say you are nursing them because of booboo’s or for sleep that is more for comfort than any real need, but to each his own with the way you feel like comforting. Also I would like to reinforce there is no nutrional reason for nursing so many times a night. That is strictly comfort and habit. If your kid ate solid food all day you wouldn’t wake up at 1:00 am to cook him a meal so why wake up to breast feed- unless he doesn’t get all the nutrients earlier in the day… again I don’t really care what you do. I don’t get up 84 times a night to take care of a baby, but I do feel that most people I know or meet who EBF are overly defensive about it, and I think that is what causes so many people who really don’t care what you do to be rude in return.

    • Shaina says:

      Since when is comfort not a real need? Why should it be any less important than food, warmth, shelter, to use the bathroom, etc…??

    • Jessica says:

      Really? Moms who bottle feed try to go out of the way to feed their babies? Have you ever been to Wal-mart?

      And she did say that she knew he was nursing for comfort at night, and was okay with that. Many parents I have known have found that when their child wakes up so often at night to nurse, night weaning doesn’t help. Also, I know of quite a few formula fed babies even who do not sleep through the night at 2. All babies are different, and have their own ways of doing things. Nursing them is just easy. Who wants to spend hours trying to get babies to go back to sleep every night? Ooh, or maybe they could let their babies cry themselves to sleep until they give up hope.

    • Ashby says:

      To the statement that you’re nursing for “comfort, not a real need” – to our children, comfort *is* a real need.

    • Donna G says:

      Nursing is about much more than nutrition. Emotional needs are as important as any other need a child has. We are one whole package. If we are physically whole because of great nutrition, that’s great. If we are psychologically whole because of great nurturing, that’s great, too. Put them together and it’s more than great! Many times the need for nursing is ‘nutritional’ even when we think it’s not – my daughter often nursed more when she was fighting some virus I didn’t know about until a couple of days later when the symptoms started to show. So she was nursing more because she needed the comfort and the extra antibodies and extra nutrition because she was getting sick.

  116. Jeanne says:

    Good for you! I nursed my first boy til 22 months, my second til 27 months, and my daughter…um, well, she will be 5 in February and occasionally she will give it a shot for a minute. I am not thrilled with this but it happens less and less all the time.
    She asked the other day “Mommy why are you letting me nurse?” (This question probably stemmed from the conversations we have had over the last, oh, 2 years about how big girls don’t nurse haha) I said to her “Because I love you.” It was a completely satisfactory answer to her and I felt so good being able to give her that feeling of security!

  117. Heidi says:

    I will say what I commented to my friend who shared this article: Very effectively written.

    I was not an extended breast feeder, but this article makes me smile at the warmth of your family choices.

    So important for all of us to try to judge others’ choices less.

  118. Gina says:

    Thanks for such a wonderful post! I would definitely be one of the ones smiling right back at you and giving you a thumbs up. :)

    This post came at a good time for me, I’ve been annoyed at how much bad publicity is out there in regards to extended breastfeeding. I enjoyed your comments about your exhaustion becoming manageable when you found a support group.

    My little guy is only 5 months and I will breastfeed him until he self weans and so far anyone I mention this to has not been supportive. I need to work on finding a support group as I finding the exhaustion hard right now. I have only slept more than 1/5-2 hours in one stretch since his birth and this week has been hard. I normally don’t complain as I feel it is important to feed him when he wakes because he wants to be fed and it helps him fall back asleep. I have tried to get some support this week and the responses were very unhelpful, I’ve been told to not give him the breast until after 5am, etc. This reminds me that I need to work harder at surrounding myself with moms who have similar beliefs.

    Thanks again for the wonderful article!

    • Tammy says:

      Gina– Please find a lactation consultant in your area who can help you!! They usually have groups, and they can help you figure out what’s right for you and your child. Good luck!

  119. Rayvan says:

    Breastfed kids are better at everything then formula fed kids, full stop.

    • Arrow Communications says:

      Are you kidding me with this one? That’s just ignorant.

    • Kim says:

      Rayvan,
      I formula fed my daughter and she is smart, healthy, and independent as can be! Your comment is not needed and shows how ignorant and disrespectful you are. I have no problem with breastfeeding, or extended breastfeeding. If that’s what makes a mom happy, then go for it. So are you saying your kid is better than my kid? Or anyone else’s kid who was formula fed? Maybe you should take your breast pump and shove it up your ass. Now some mother’s can’t breastfeed for certain reasons… I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate your disgusting comment. It also seems like you are one of those crazy mothers who compete and one up everyone else. Everyone has their opinions I understand that, but maybe you should keep your smart ass, rude comments to yourself. 

    • Lindy says:

      “Breastfed kids are better at everything then formula fed kids, full stop.”

      I have 3 kids only one of them was not breastfed and that was a hard thing for us to go through, but he just would not have it. I do not believe he will be any different than my other children. The only difference I see in him is, he is sick more than the others. He is just as smart and great at everything he does. He is a wonderful child. Just because he was on formula doesn’t mean breastfed kids are any better than him.

  120. stacey says:

    Great article! My son self weaned (well a little encouragement from me due to sore nipples and my milk drying up due to pregnancy) at 21 months. I would have breastfed him longer, but I got pregnant. I’m glad I did as long as I did and plan to breastfeed the next one until he/she is done(just as long as I don’t get pregnant again! :) I couldn’t see myself nursing a 2 year old, but I almost made it there, and I look at him now and can’t imagine nursing him at 2, but I see plenty of other moms(my sister included) nursing at 3 3 1/2, etc, and it doesn’t look weird to me. It’s just our strange culture!

  121. Penelope says:

    I intend to breastfeed when my first arrives this summer, but I’m wondering if there is a proper age limit to cease? Self-weaning is wonderful and I enjoyed your story, but is there an age limit that psychologically is good for the child to stop breastfeeding?

    This video of a British woman breastfeeding her daughter at 8 yrs old (her children have names for her breasts and draw them and speak of them as they would a friend) made we wonder if some children may possibly be held back developmentally or psychologically if they don’t stop by a certain point? Love to see some case studies on this!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxv6R9fUO74

    Thank for sharing your story, Mayim! 4 hours of sleep per night? Wow! Go girl! I need to have that sort of mental willpower to say “I don’t need that much sleep” and accept it positively! All the best.

  122. Rachel says:

    I prematurely weaned our first child at 12 months at the insistence from her pediatrician that cow’s milk was “essential”, and it always felt SO wrong. At just 20 and living without cable and internet, I had no idea there were other options out there.

    Prior to having our 2nd child, I learned all about “extended” breastfeeding (which I prefer to just think of as “full-term” or just plain breastfeeding).

    Despite all I knew about it, I still couldn’t imagine myself nursing a 2 or 3 year old, but I was determined that any weaning would be done when she was ready so I’d better get used to it, lol.

    Now she’s going on three. And you know… it is no more “weird” today than it was yesterday, or the day before, or the day before… It’s not like one day it feels totally fine and then suddenly the next day it doesn’t. Like I saw someone else mention, they are only ever one day older at a time. It’s hard to imagine when you haven’t done it, but once you’re there it’s happening so gradually that you don’t even realize it. Now she’s down to nursing just when she crawls in bed with us in the mornings. She started sleeping in her own bed, and she even goes to sleep with very little fanfare. Just a story and hugs and kisses. My how things can change! I spent 2+ years entirely sleep deprived and now suddenly she’s so independent! It’s a beautiful thing when they achieve it on their own and can be so proud, rather than when those milestones are forced and often tearful.

  123. AR Mom says:

    If a kid is old enough to ask for it, can tell their friends they drink outta mommas boob is way too old to be nursing. It wasn’t even the blog entry that grossed me out actually it was quite informative about BF a TODDLER, it’s some of these whack jobs who have BF 5 and 6 year olds. What person in their right mind soothes a 5 or 6 year old with BFing? Sick, sick, sick!!!! Kids at that age should not need that kind of soothing. And when your kid is a teenager I seriously doubt they are gonna be so well adjusted and proud to tell all their friends they were on mommas tit til kindergarden or first grade. You kids will be the ones in therapy paid with my tax dollars!

    • Becca says:

      Do you actually KNOW anyone in person who has BF a child that long? Seriously? Or are you just freaking out because you’re exercising your wild imagination and right to free speech?

    • Arrow Communications says:

      Amen.

    • Jessica says:

      The biological weaning age for primates is between 2 and 7 (and for the record, that child was not yet 8 years old, but probably is by now, but we don’t know whether she is still nursing or not, and who cares except for you).

      What reason would these children have to feel bad save for the judgment of others? They don’t have any. It’s kin to teasing someone for being gay.

    • Carla says:

      Way to go Mama! Thank you for bringing extended breastfeeding to light. One of these days, people aren’t going to freak out at the thought of a mother breastfeeding her child. My son weaned at 26 months. I am pregnant with another child. I will again extend breastfeeding, if that is what he wants and needs. The more we put this out there, the more likely we are to get people to realize that breastfeeding is extremely beneficial to both mother and child WELL past the “magical” 12 month mark. Breastmilk IS liquid gold!

  124. Mary says:

    Thanks for a great post on EBF!! I too am EBF my almost 18 month daughter. I love your points and that you have found support with other EBF moms. I too have some friends who EBF. Before my daughter, I was ok with EBF but didn’t know if I would be doing so myself. After lactation education and learning the benefits for both mom & baby don’t stop because your baby turns 1..I am very pro- EBF.
    I will agree that some people may be put off by the tone and title of your piece, but I am fine with it because it seems that society seems to put us on the defense because we choose to EBF.
    I also still nurse primarily for comfort at night, but I wouldn’t say I loose that much sleep, just interrupted sleep. So I can say from experience that having a full night’s sleep is not the same as interrupted sleep. Many can read this as you are up for 30-60 minutes every time, or such… We are only awake for as little as 2-5 minutes then back to sleep, and only because I usually put her back into her crib after nursing. This is not that bad, but some would be turned off by night nursing. I have friends that EBF that don’t have night nursing… both don’t go hand in hand.
    That’s all!! WTG!!
    And Thank You for bringing more attention to those that EBF toddlers and perhaps it will become more “normal” in time!

  125. tea4tamara says:

    I love the comment where the mom said she didn’t plan to nurse so long, but her child was only ever a day older than the previous day. That’s how I feel too!

  126. Carolina says:

    When a colleague of mine said that she remembered the day at age 3 that her mother cut off her access to the breast, I was presented with a new reality, and I can’t say that I agreed with it at the time. This woman also tandem breastfed all three of her great children. I now am grateful to her for presenting extended nursing as a normal thing to do.

    My 4-year-old son has infantile spasms and global developmental delay (West Syndrome), and thus requires a lot of extra care and attention. Nursing my 30-month-old gives him some Mama time that is just for him, and I will provide that special time for as long as he needs!

  127. Pierrette says:

    Thanks for sharing your story; my son is now 33 months old and is down to nursing 4 times in a 24 hour period on average. My favourite part about nursing a toddler is the fact that they can tell you what they think and how they feel about their milk.

    My little monster often tells me my milk taste like “apple juice or pink juice” once he said “love juice”

  128. Inbal says:

    my daughter is 9.5 years old now, and was weaned at the age of 27 months :-)
    I guess you don’t take all the “your son is going to have problems” too siriously, but still I’m going to tell you that I’ve got an amazing independent, smart, freindly, happy and healthy girl. she’s sleeping over at her friend’s since she was 6, she’s getting up and going to school alone (since I get out of the house early) and has many friends and activities. nursing her was a wonderful time for us, and I love remembering it. I gave her the best start I could – and I’m glad I did. thanks for this post!

  129. Rashel says:

    I would be one of the people who would walk by you and smile, I might even say “good for you”! Thank you for having the courage to be open and public about this. I thank you and so do many mamas and children.

  130. Kristina says:

    Thank you!

  131. Deanna says:

    Thank you Mayim. TONS of love and respect to you. Thank you for being a proud and eloquent voice for those of us facing many of the same issues. You are awesome!

    Peace,
    Deanna
    Mama to Malaya, self weened at 30 months (8 days ago!)

  132. erin says:

    thanks mayim for the contributing this!
    the fantastic thing about being a parent is that you can make choices that are best for you, your child and family. regardless of personal opinions, we should ultimately try and support each other. as i read above in the comment feed, it seemed like feelings were hurt when the choice to not nurse was made and friends didn’t agree. likewise, aggressively vocalizing mayim’s decision to nurse into toddlerhood is doing the exact same thing that hurt the first time. i think if we all worked towards respecting our fellow mothers more and supporting each other, we’d all save ourselves a lot of grief. and i include myself in that goal!
    i nursed my daughter to 18 months and was dealt a lot of unsolicited aggressive opinions on the topic. it does hurt when that happens and it certainly didn’t change my nursing behaviors. but when one of my closest friends decided to nurse for 4 months and wean, i never gave her my opinion, but supported her daily. when another close friend called me in tears because she was considering weaning, i advised her to do what was best for her and child and not to feel guilty (which she was). she thanked me for giving her so much support when she knew what my natural inclinations were.
    parenting can be hard enough without us mothers making it harder on each other.

  133. Lynda says:

    Kudos to you! I have three children. My oldest nursed until he was 4 years, 3 months and during the first year of my Second child’s life. I am still tandem nursing my 2nd and now my 8 month old baby. I have been nursing since my Oldest was born almost 6 years ago.

    My Oldest is extremely smart, started reading at the age of 3, now has a reading level of a 6th grader. My second is now picking up reading at 32 months old. And my 8th month old can do three signs.

    Does breast milk have something to do with it? I really think so as well as the amount of time and energy my husband and I put into our children.

    Tandem nursing worked for us because my older nursling holds the hand of the youngest nursling. and it promotes a bonding that I could not create any other way.

  134. Jem says:

    Excellent post, and boo to the naysayers. Yes we NEED mums to come out and admit they are breastfeeding their toddlers, because without it we will never re-normalise breastfeeding, let alone full term nursing.

  135. Cathy Smith says:

    Bravo, Mayim! My personal experiences with breastfeeding are incredibly similar to yours, from the time you nursed your first to your wishes about hoping your second will wean himself by age 3. I had very little support from anyone after each of them reached 18 months, and even had a pediatric GI specialist insist that I wean my son so that he would eat more calories from food. All the negative comments and looks were ignored and my youngest weaned himself just after he reached 3 years of age.
    We need more people like you- high-profile, well-respected women who can get the message out that it’s okay- no, better than okay- to breastfeed beyond age 1, age 2, etc.
    Thank you, and good luck with your nursing adventures!

  136. Megan says:

    This is awesome & timely article! I nursed DS1 for 32 months & have been nursing DS2 for 7 months. I plan to nurse him as long as he needs. This article made me remember why I wake up all night & am ‘the number one citizen’ all day. Thank you for helping remember what’s important. :-)

  137. Yvonne says:

    THANK YOU! I nurse my 2 year old…and thru the night as well:-)
    thank you for sharing.

  138. Ashley says:

    I’m trying to nurse my toddler (18 months) and my youngest (6 months) but i need some serious tips on hw to do this
    they both want to nurse constantly and i end up football holding them both i’m dehydrated no matter how much i drink and my youngest is starting to teeth and makes feeding so often very sore i dont want to cut my son off just because he’s a big brother but i’m not sure how to take this on. they’re my only two children so i don’t have knowledge of nursing a toddler
    ALSO
    my son was in the NICU in the beginning and i tried like hell to nurse him but he ended up on formula by 4 months after countless meetings with lac. consultants and pumping etc. BUT my milk came in shortly before i gave birth to my daughter and he i suppose remembered the early attempts at it when he was a baby and picked it right back up like we’d been breastfeeding the whole time…

    sorry for writing so much
    what do you suggest?

  139. Hi Mayim – I host an ongoing series of posts about the joys of mamas who nurse past infancy. I would love it if you had a story to contribute – how awesome to have someone with such a presence speaking out for the normalcy and naturalness of breastfeeding toddlers! Thanks for your post.

  140. Mar says:

    I just wanted to say that I love you. I wish we could hang out at mom’s groups together, nursing our toddlers side-by-side (Although my DD just finished weaning herself this week, right after her third birthday.).

  141. mama C says:

    I get it. I appreciate your story.
    I felt so judged as I nursed my son at his FIRST birthday party by my “friends” who made comments at that early age. Little do they know of my intention to feed until self-weaning again with baby 2! My elder son weaned “early” at 18 months, but he just was extremely verbal and told me he wanted to be like his mom and dad in every way possible….the kid taught himself to use the toilet before he was two as well!
    The jokes on my friends, though, because I have the happiest, well-adjusted, most intelligent children I’ve ever met. No weaning at 9-10 months here (as seems to be the norm in my “real-life” group of friends.
    Thanks for sharing…and for not caring about the ignorance of the folk who don’t get it!

  142. Sara says:

    While my kids self-weened before they were one year of age, I completely support your right to parent and provide for your child the best way you see fit. As long as your children are healthy, happy, well-disciplined and loved, you are doing so much better than most children I see in society today. Is that because your children are exclusively breastfed? No, in fact, there are many children who were not and are productive members of society. To discourage people (see some comments posted here) because they are doing a good job rearing their children like you or any other good parent is ridiculous. There are many ways to paint a masterpiece. Who are we to criticize someone who decides that oil is better than watercolors?

  143. Ariel says:

    I agree with everything you’ve written and it’s always great to hear stories of like-minded moms but figured I’d leave a comment when I saw you have a PhD in neuroscience since I do too and also hope to become a BCLC after first being a LLL leader :) cheers!

  144. I love this post.

    I am nursing my daughter who is 3.5 and still nurses just as much as your child does. I just might be a mom who nurses a 4 or 5 year old. That is ok with me. I write that giggling, because, like you, I did not see myself nursing K2 this long, not to mention past 6 months or even a year. Here I am, and you know what? It’s not any different (other than stages) than nursing her at 2. I also find she is kinder about nursing now. It’s easier to nurse while she is at this age and I am actually enjoying it more than when she was a newborn.

    I would love to see how your story plays out because you remind me so much of me.

  145. Hannah says:

    I cried when I read, “…it’s not broken, so there’s nothing to fix.”

    My husband’s lack of support for breastfeeding (among other, similarly heinous parenting perspectives he harbours) is on the top of the pile of reasons I am soon leaving him.

    I can’t thank you enough. I’ve been waiting and looking for this, the perfect article. It’s timely, too, after a night of extra wakings and sore nipples!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Mom of 2 year old, still nursing strong :)

  146. Nerissa says:

    Thank you for your post. I am still nursing my 25-month-old. You are lucky to have found support in other like-minded moms. Sometimes, I feel like an alien.

  147. Kacey says:

    My son is almost 32 months old and still nurses on demand, he is happy, independent, well adjusted and almost never sick. Thank you, Mayim, for standing up for biologically normal parenting.

  148. Jen says:

    Beautifully written. While I did not nurse either of my children past 13 mths old (because quite frankly, I was done and weaning was effortless for all of us), I truly believe that breastfeeding is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and for my children. Just overcoming the biases that are out there for women who nurse infants is enough! (and people still do comment, and still do roll their eyes…even in this day and time) I give kudos to any woman who chooses to nurse her child to whatever age works for all of them.

  149. Jade says:

    I just wanted to say great article. I nursed my daughter until she weaned at 37 months though she would have gone longer she was down to 2 nursings a day and was content to be distracted to wean. I was ready to have my body back and i was making very little milk. She asked to nurse once about a month later and gave up quickly because she couldn’t get any milk out. I’m now nursing my 2 month old and plan to do the same with him. Thanks for the article as i’m looking for more info to pass around again since i’m getting the funny looks again.

    Thanks.

  150. Monica says:

    Wonderful article! My son is 7months old, and I always planned on nursing for a year, and never put much more thought into it than that.
    Just the other day, someone asked me how long until I weaned my son…”whenever he weans him self, why should I be the one telling him when he is ready to be weaned?” I kinda shocked myself with the answer, but I think its the right one. Babies don’t just magically “change” when they turn one, so why do we feel this need to wean them by one?!
    Everyone that I have mentioned my plan of nursing into toddlerhood has been pretty in the middle about it, but I don’t care what they think. My son’s needs are more important than anything.

  151. abby says:

    I always said “my goal is to nurse til at least 2, but I can’t imagine nursing a 3-yr-old.” Try telling that to the 3-yr-old! The 3-yr-old is now 4-1/2, and still wants “milky” at bedtime. I’m ok with it. Some kids are just very committed nursers! We discuss weaning, and he says “when I’m 5, I’m still going to drink mommy milk.” We’ll see how that goes.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  152. Amy says:

    I’m breastfeeing my toddler, as I did my first child. She only nurses once a day (she’s 1 1/2) but I’d nurse more if she asked to.

    What I find hilarious are some of the wild claims by naysayers. Like the children will sleep with you until adulthood and that we don’t know how these kids will turn out? What? I’m in my thirties and was breastfed until almost 2. Of course I still sleep with my parents. Why would my husband mind, right? hahah! It’s a very crowded bed what with all my siblings, their spouses, and their children with my parents.

  153. LPerry says:

    Great article, thank you!! I never pictured myself nursing a 3 year old either, yet my youngest turned 3 in August and we still do nurse at bedtime! ;-)

    Thank you for sharing your approach to parenting!

  154. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for being a roll model and inspiration to moms everywhere. I nursed my son until just shy of his 4th birthday. I remember I used say “not past 3″ too – but then 3 came and went and there never seemed like a time to “force” weaning. My son self-weaned a few weeks prior to his 4th birthday and I wouldn’t change a thing. You can read our story here: http://mommynewsblog.com/gentle-weaning-one-moms-journey-through-breastfeeding/

  155. tj says:

    While those of you who are against extended breastfeeding have a right to your own opinion, please make sure you are aware of the medical facts of extended breastfeeding, per the CDC and WHO.
    The statement, “There is no proven medical benefit to the child after age one.” is actually incorrect.
    I invite you to read more on the subject here:
    http://www.wpro.who.int/health_topics/infant_and_young_child_feeding/
    as well as here:
    http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;115/2/496
    and finally a personal story here:
    http://www.babygooroo.com/index.php/2010/08/19/why-i-breastfed-for-three-years/

  156. Joni Shahin says:

    Woo hoo! WTG! I’m a tandem nursing Mom of a 32 month old and an 11 month old! This is great!

  157. tj says:

    You rock Mayim! Thanks for sharing your experiences, being a great example and a source of inspiration for mothers all around the world.

  158. Liz says:

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart, it is so nice to read a well written article that reflects my own situation so well. I feel a little closer to normal today.

  159. Jen says:

    It’s NEVER disgusting to breastfeed. It is a biological fact of life. It is what our bodies were designed to do to nourish the young of our species. Every family makes decisions about what is right for them in terms of when to wean. Some take cues from the child, some choose to wean earlier. Some families choose not to nurse at all. Some families think it is disgusting to feed a child cow’s milk or a chicken’s meat. These are individual choices made at home. We’re all different. How dare any of the posters declare Mayim disgusting or psychologically disturbed for making choices she feels are best for her family.

  160. Jennifer Feiner says:

    I think it is wonderful that you are still bf’ing your son. I am still bf’ing my 27-month-old son and have no plans to wean him anytime soon. He still nurses at night as well.
    He eats, is verbal, and doesn’t “need” to nurse. But then again, he doesn’t “need” me to hug him 10 times a day and I do that too. People just are ignorant about how wonderful it is to bf’ed toddlers. I nursed my oldest daughter until she was almost 2 (she weaned when I was pregnant) and my second daughter until she was 3 1/2. They are 11 and 9 now and I still feel that bf’ing them for so long is one of the best gifts I could have ever given them.

    Good for you for being so upfront about still bf’ing your toddler!

  161. lauren says:

    oh and BTW how rude of people to ask if there is something wrong with her child!!!!!! Mayim seems like a good caring mother and I am sure she on top of things.

  162. lauren says:

    mayim,

    I respect you and your opinions and your right to raise your child as you see fit. I feel that nursing for so long is more fo the mother then the child. The child does not need it for nutrition at that poin tand there are many other way to “bond” with your child. you can snuggle with your child without nursing, you can make boo boos better without nursing. Breastfeeding is not the only way to bond or even the best way to bond with your child.

  163. Arrow Communications says:

    Reading this makes me sick.

    As a mom who never breastfed my 2 perfectly happy, healthy, well adjusted and INDEPENDENT 5 and 8 year olds, I’m quite speechless. I was berated by a dear girlfriend for not breastfeeding my children for even a day. I agonized over my decision.

    My now 8 year old daughter often walks up to children that walk around with a pacifier and pulls it out of their mouths telling them they are too old to be walking around with it. They need to talk, and experience the world. Even with mommy by their side. But NOT with mommy in their mouth.

    There is no proven medical benefit to the child after age one. However there has to be something wrong with a child over the age of say two (and that is pushing it if you ask me) a) with a breast in his or her mouth for the better part of the day and b) that no other foods are being given (and if so, in small quantities).

    We are not a third world country. Breast milk is not the sustenance of life. You need some significant psychological counseling about your needs and not what you “think” are your child’s. You need to expose your child to the world, to the goodness of foods, to social situations with and without your breast.

    I reiterate that you need counseling, if not meds. And if you don’t get them soon, your child will be a disaster. And when I say ‘you’ I mean any of these nutjobs that think breastfeeding a toddler or child is ok. It’s nothing short of selfish.

    My parenting is far from perfect. But this…this is BEYOND. For now, I’ll stick my own boob in my mouth, suck, and shut up. Because that is exactly what you are doing to your children.

    Mayim, try giving your son exactly what your name extends from – WATER.

    • The number of uninformed, judgmental comments here show this exactly why it is so important that moms like Mayim speak out about the normal act of breastfeeding a toddler. For those of you who criticize her for sounding defensive, read through the comments and you will see why. Many of us in the lactivist community have experienced attacks from those who call nursing disgusting, particularly those who extended breastfeed.

      And I’d like to add to the naysayers, since Mayim has a PhD in neuroscience I think her expert opinion on development holds a tad more weight.

      Thank you, Mayim. It was a lovely piece.

    • Heather says:

      I think it’s so sad that you think your 8 year old telling other kids what to do is a good thing, and an indication of her independence. Do I personally enjoy seeing other kids with pacifiers? No. However, it is not our lot in life to judge other parents. Perhaps if we all (your 8 year old included) had a little compassion and gave people the benefit of the doubt, instead of expecting others to be exactly like us, our world would be a bit more peaceful. Being different from someone doesn’t mean either party is wrong. :(

      Beautifully said Mayim. My recently weaned 31 month old and I thank you for it.

    • Laura says:

      Wow. Defensive much?

      And if your 8 year old daughter came up to my kid and pulled his pacifier out I would, and I am, questioning your parenting skills. Sounds like quite an aggressive kid. I wonder where she gets it from?

      • Arrow Communications says:

        I’m probably the most mild mannered mother in our community. I believe in a child’s independence and respect my child for having an opinion and sharing it with others. Your solution is to stick a breast in the mouth and shut them up.

    • Wendy says:

      So your 8 year old is a pushy, bullying brat who foists her own opinions on other children? And you’re proud that?

      I can’t believe you have the gall to question Mayim’s parenting skills with that kind of behavior problem in your own house. Sounds like she’s emulating someone. Wonder who that could be.

      Before you criticize others’ parenting styles, I suggest you take a good, hard look at your own.

      • Arrow Communications says:

        I don’t condone my child walking up to other children and telling them what is good for them.

        What I foster her ability to form opinions and observations on her own. I commend her for knowing that walking around and sucking on a pacifier, let alone a breast, once a child should walk and talk is egregious.

        I applaud my daughter for being an active, independent and verbal individual. If she still had my breast in her mouth, she’d be sitting back watching the world pass her by, NOT engaging in it.

    • kreeeestamama says:

      I don’t believe she said anywhere in her article that she is still EXCLUSIVELY breastfeeding (ie: no solid food) I believe she mentioned that she did that up until 15 months. So I don’t know where you are getting that she is withholding solid food from her son!?! Go back and read the article again, specifically her answer to the 2nd question. From what I get out of it, it sounds like her son hasn’t shown much of an interest in solid food (some kids do and some don’t, it’s not like she is supposed to force it down his throat!) and so she is happy that breastfeeding fills in the nutritional gaps, so to speak, until he has more of a desire for it. She says that her son doesn’t eat as much solid food as other kids his age, not that he doesn’t eat anything at all, and DEFINITELY not because she is withholding it from him! You seem to have blinders on and are putting words into her mouth and accusing her of things that can easily be seen as just not true if you are reading her words with an open mind. All your accusations are totally unfounded! You seem to have exaggerated everything she has stated in this post. Just because she nurses her son multiple times a day does NOT mean he is attached to her breast for “the better part of a day,” as you say, and therefore not getting any social interaction. C’mon!

      And about this: “Your solution is to stick a breast in the mouth and shut them up.” (your words) Where are you getting this idea??? You are accusing us breastfeeding mothers of wanting our children to be seen and not heard?!?! That is so far from any truth it’s almost laughable.

      And as far as there not being any “scientific evidence” of the nutritional benefits to breastfeeding past age one…the breastmilk produced doesn’t suddenly change when our child(ren) turn one. It still has the helpful nutrients, anti-bodies, etc that it had from the beginning. It isn’t necessarily the MAIN source of these things as children get older and eat more food, but so what? It’s a supplement!

      There’s more that I could respond to in your numerous comments, but I’ve gone on long enough. I just don’t understand the extreme disrespect in your and others’ comments. Are you maybe holding onto some strong feelings of regret that you didn’t decide to breast feed your own children? You said you agonized over the decision so…just a thought.

      Peace.

    • kreeeestamama says:

      Okay, I lied. One more thing I wanted to point out. Ok, maybe three.

      Your last comment that she should try giving her son water??

      Well, she specifically says (in her answer to the second question) that the only other thing her son drinks besides breast milk is WATER, and the occasional sip of grape juice. So, too late, she must have gotten that advice already. :)

      And to all those accusing her of not letting her son drink out of a cup? Why are you assuming he doesn’t know how to? No where does she say anything about denying him a cup, sippy or otherwise.

      And lastly, her son is not abnormal for not being verbal yet. At almost 2 1/2 my son was barely talking. Now at almost 3 he doesn’t stop! But he was walking at 10 months! Every child is different and some are slower to develop in some areas than others, and vice versa. Most likely he will catch up just fine. And if he doesn’t I’m sure she’ll do whatever it takes to help him with that. She didn’t go into details about her son’s verbal skills because that isn’t what the post is about. I’m sure there are many facts we are not privy to, so to make rude comments about her son’s verbal development is just that, rude, not to mention immature.

  164. Amanda says:

    What a great blog, Mayim. You are one of my new favorite people. I nursed my first for 26 months when she weaned herself during my pregnancy with her sister. To the person who said that children who breastfeed for 2+ years have dependency issues, you have obviously never met my oldest. She is the most fiercely independent person I think I have ever met and she has always been that way.

    I am currently nursing my youngest child who will be 2 on the 31st of this month. She still nurses 5-7 times a day and on a very rare occasion once at night with no signs of stopping.

  165. Shanna says:

    Thank You for this! I have a 20 month old daughter that has not weaned and the amount of pressure from people to break her is amazing. What I find amusing is that due to thyroid disease medication that I was taking with my oldest daughter, nursing wasn’t an option. I was made feel like a worthless and uncaring mother by several people although I had no choice. It was very disturbing….and now there seems to be no support for nursing past twelve months. People are so quick to judge…not to mention rude on both sides! It’s crazy…it’s like there is a cold war between moms. As far as I am concerned, I know that I have made the right decisions so far for my daughter. She is happy and healthy…in fact, when the rest of us are passing around a bug, she has always escaped it:) Go Boobah! Also, she has a very developed vocabulary and has ZERO problem staying with other people. I work full time and during the day she takes a cup with no argument. I appreciate your blog because for me it’s support….which I only get from one friend. But what’s cool to me is that all the assurance I need is her development. She has cut back tremendously and when she is ready she’ll quit. It is hard to go with little sleep…but I wouldn’t trade the benefits and closeness for the world. So YAY for you….and for all moms out there! If your child is happy, secure and loved you have my support:)

  166. Elizabeth says:

    Typed as I NAK my 13 month old…..

    I have an almost 3 year old who nurses as well. I will admit I am a nursing convert. I did not anticpate nursing any of my children but lo and behold… I have turned into and extended breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, parent… and it works for us.

    big mazel tov for doing what is right for you and your family

  167. Karen says:

    I am glad that wrote this wonderful post! THere are many people out there who might not have the courage to follow, not only their intuition, but also the science that has been studied and written about extensively, to go against the current trend in this society. The more we can all hear that is IT all right to nurse and to nurse where and for as long as an individual child needs…the more people will get used to it.

    There are many many people alive today (even in the US) who were breastfed for more than 2, 6 or 12 months…even for more than 2 or 3 years! I have met many between the ages of 20 and 70 and they were all healthy and well adjusted and independent.

    PS my second child who is now 29 months old is also not talking – he’s had colic and eczema. Let me tell you – when your child is not eating due to itching…nursing is a great way to get nutrition in! And the occupational therapists, speech therapists and docs all believe that he is doing very well and one day no one will ever believe that he wasn’t talking at this age!

  168. Jennifer says:

    Hi Mayim, I have always been a big fan. It kind of surprised me to read that you expect your son to wean around 3 when he’s not eating much solids right now. That sounds like a pretty fast transition. My daughter is over 2 and nurses 2+ times per day (I’m in grad school so this is the avg during the week), and they are usually long stretches in which I know she is getting a lot of milk. She also eats a lot of healthy solids. For us food was a fun thing beginning at 5 months when she started eagerly eating sweet potatoes. You know best what’s right for your family but I’m wondering why your son was not interested in solids for so long? Or really why the disconnect about how long it will take him to learn to consume a variety and larger quantity of solids. Certainly he won’t be weaning by 3 which is ok.

  169. Shaina says:

    Wonderful blog Mayim. I’m nursing my almost 3 year old and it had been the most rewarding experience of my life. I’m “defensive” too sometimes, but I think that’s only natural when I live in a society where breastfeeding an infant is still rarely seen, let alone breastfeeding a walking, talking, potty trained little boy. I’ve only met two women in my life who have breastfed until over 1. I can’t share my mothering choices without most people making an indication that I’m nuts for them. All I’m is doing what is biologically normal for my species, and what feels right in my heart.

    Regarding night nursing, there is nothing that makes it “not nutritive” just because a child is eating solids. Besides, since when was the nutrition the only reason to nurse in the night? (Or at all, really.) What about the immunological properties of breast milk? What about the emotional support that comes with continuing to meet a child’s needs the way he or she wants?

  170. Rivka says:

    I just wanted to commend you on doing an awesome job for your son and your family. I never thought I’d nurse a 3 yr old either, but did that and then went on to have twins who I nursed to 4 1/2 YEARS and almost 5 (he stopped first).

    Continue keeping your head held high with the knowledge that you are doing what’s best.

  171. Jenn says:

    Thank You Mayim!
    So wonderful that you follow your child’s needs! My 25mo and I still have a wonderful breastfeeding relationship that I hope will continue for some time.
    I find it sad that in this day and age people are so selfish and concerned about their needs over the needs of their children – when you think about a 3 year old, think… this little person has only been earthside for 3 YEARS! Not long! There are way too many expectations put on babies and children that they should sleep through the night, put themselves to sleep, use the potty, feed themselves (neatly too I might add) way before they are developmentally ready.
    Children NEED their parents – it is imperative to have an attached relationship to become independent, conscious and compassionate adults.
    Clearly that is missing A LOT in this day and age as you can read in a few of the mean-hearted posts.
    Wishing you and your family all of the best! xx

  172. Brittany says:

    Wonderfully written! ITA with everything you said! Now I just hope you have as much enthusiasm for carseat safety and extended rear facing…that should be your next post ;)

  173. Someone Who Has Opinions says:

    I can honestly say that I turned out just fine as a toddler who was not breastfed. If anything, NONE of the people who are enjoying breastfeeding have had their children grow up yet. It causes a psychological thing that makes you always want to be near your parents. One of my friends has rarely gone to sleep overs directly because she isn’t comfortable sleeping anywhere but near her parents’ sides. I think it’s very disgusting that you’d breastfeed a child for so long. I’d love to wait and see how your child acts later in life.
    Let me put it this way. When you were ten, did you ever feel independent? Or were you always by your mother’s or father’s side while you were growing up? And then the next question: were you breastfed until you were two?

    I just think it’s a little weird to breastfeed for so long.

    • TG says:

      Huh? To try and claim that a child who breastfeeds into toddlerhood will always be clingy and dependent on their parents shows how little you know. Support and meeting needs when a child is little fosters independence. My son breastfeed until nearly 3. He left school and home to start work at the age of just 16. He was married by twenty, with him and his lovely wife caring for her terminally ill grandmother. Does not sound like a boy still clinging to me.

    • Wendy says:

      So you were never breastfed and turned out “fine”, huh? Good for you, you beat the odds…so far.

      Is it the formula-feeding that makes you an expert on parenting? I guess it also gives you the ability to look into the past and KNOW for certain that any issues people have with being “too attached” the their parents for “too long” is due to breastfeeding. You know, the formula companies should include that in their advertising.

      You disregard the studies demonstrating that children who are breastfed until they wean themselves are more independent and happier because they don’t fit into your view of the world and how it works. You’re so steeped in the culture that teaches us that breasts are sexual objects, and that children need to be independent by the age of one, that you can’t or won’t make a leap that would change that. Why not step out of your comfort zone and try to think outside the box?

      You think it’s weird to breastfeed past a certain age because that’s what our culture has taught you. It’s only in the past 75 years or so that this is the way it’s been. For hundreds of years children were breastfed until they stopped- and you can’t tell me they were clinging to their mothers skirts at 18. Many of them were married with children by that time. Stop blaming breastfeeding for the problems you perceive in other people.

      • Kim says:

        Wendy,
        Once again there is nothing wrong with baby formula. Don’t you think that if there WAS something wrong with it, they wouldn’t sell it!!! I don’t care what you do as far as breastfeeding goes, that’s all up to you, but when people become crazy and attack eachother over it, thats were it gets out of line. Breastfeeding has many benefits, but formula fed babies are just as healthy, smart,etc. My daughter was formula feed (I had a rough birth/c-sec and was on meds for a long time and bedridden) I had too many drugs in my system and even though the doc said i can still breastfeed, I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t imagine feeding my baby milk with norcos and vicodin in it!! So i bottle fed her. She is as perfect as can be! This compition between formula/breastfed babies is rediculous! And the whole thing about formula babies being more overweight than BFBs, alost all of my friends BF their kids… Guess what… They are ALL over weight! My daughter is a healthy weight and has a healthy diet. I just think that sometimes things get out of line when this subject is brought up. Ill end it like this… Do what makes YOU and you kids happy, if ppl don’t like it then they can go F themselves! I choose to feed my baby one way, you choose to do it another, my baby is perfect in everyway, and i’m sure you baby(s) are too. Sorry for my rambling, but I had to get that out . Have a good night :)

    • Jennifer Feiner says:

      This is not true at all. My daughters were bf’ed as toddlers and are now 11 and 9. They are not clingy at all. Both are very outgoing. If anything, the studies show that children are bf’ed past infancy actually develop a better sense of independence. Check out kellymom.com and read about nursing toddlers if you really want some factual information on the subject.

    • Maria says:

      I breastfed my daughter into toddlerhood. She will turn 6 in February and she is one of the most independent, outspoken, intelligent and outgoing children in her Kindergarten class.

  174. shari mcguire says:

    I think it is wrong A baby should be weaned off the bottle at a year old and sleeping through the night, not only for the childs sake but for the parents sake also.You dont see a three year old or four year old walking around with a bottle in its mouth so why should it have a breast in its mouth, give them a sippy cup, teach them to drink out of a cup.Many children were weaned off the breast by a year old and were and are very happy healthy children, as a matter of fact they seem to be more social and outgoing, not afraid to be left with anyone else but their parents. Whats going to happen to these lttle ones when they have to go to school?

    • MOMof3 says:

      Umm nothing happens when they go to school. I breastfed my oldest which she just turned 6 now till she was 2 and co slept till she was 4 and OMG she is better behaved and they most kids in her class!! She has no problem sleeping in her own room or staying with someone she never met. She trust me. She is testing at a higher level then most kids in her class and the Teacher’s want more kids like her in class, She was pottie trained by 18 months also. Now and my son is almost 4 same way breastfed till 2 and still sleeps in my room. And he to is ahead for his age. he was testing at a 3 year old level in communication at 23 months. Oh and to the person about sleep overs they have no problems with it. They do it all the time and lve so do your research and come back with some actual facts.

  175. Tam says:

    I have been curious about your extended nursing since you posted about your day on BBT. My son is 9.5 months old and I would nurse him until he was 12 if he’d let me. I wish I could say he *loves* to nurse, but I don’t think he does. He is very sensitive about teething and sometimes goes all day without wanting to nurse. I do everything I can to increase my supply but I struggle. Like your son, he isn’t all that interested in solids. BUT he sleeps through the night, has since he was 3 mons. I will keep at it fully knowing that one day — he’ll just be done. There will be tears from me, because I love nursing – more than I ever imagined I could.

    Having a wonderfully supportive husband makes parenting so much more special, doesn’t it?

    I’m happy you are sharing your life through this site. I loved Blossom, and BBT is one of my favorite shows– but I like identifying with you as a Mama even more!

  176. Mrslala says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! I can’t belive you are getting nasty remarks, IMO people who have nothing nice to say need not say anything at all. KWIM?

    Anyhow, I am still nursing my 13mo and have no plans of stopping any time soon. We only nurse 2 or 3 times per day and one of those is between 3am and 6am. I’m sure I could wean him from the early morning one but, why?

    I get a lot of flack from people who are horrified that I continue to nurse my son at 13mo but most of them are either not parents or are parents who did not breastfeed (or only did so breifly).

    You had it exactly right when you said “If it’s not broke why fix it?”. My son and I both enjoy the comfort and snuggles and it’s excellent nutrition for him. What’s not to love!?

    When do I plan on stopping? No clue. No plans. Just taking it day by day.

  177. Emma says:

    I think what I got from this article more than anything was that you are in tune with your limits and following what you think is best for your child – or children in general. I think that is really great.
    However, I came across this blog on a link from a facebook site and am not entirely sure why. Your blog is quite defensive and comes across as exclusive of other choices. I think that’s fine… but most people are going to respond to that aspect of it, so I’m just not clear on why you are writing it…
    So with that said, good for you for doing what you feel is right. May we all remember that that is what is most important!!

  178. It’s so nice to read this article!
    My 2 and a half year old daughter still nurses. She nurses when I read her books on the couch (our cuddle time) and she nurses at night (we co-sleep and so she nurses on and off during the night — I hardly even wake up, she just finds me, lol) and to tell you the truth, I don’t lose much sleep at all. I have no idea when we will stop. I’m hoping by the time she is 3. My daughter can talk and says full sentences, but she is still in diapers, so I’m thinking that once she is out of diapers I can tell her she’s a big girl now and so no more “num nums” for her… but I’m wondering how that will go over, you know, because she nurses mainly for comfort and the secure feeling she gets. I doubt she will give it up willingly. I’ve nursed 8 of my 9 children, but she is my longest nurser. Perhaps because she’s our youngest. Normally I stop nursing due to a new pregnancy and the discomfort I feel because of it. I know that some nurse all the way through pregnancy and then tandem nurse, but I’ve never done that. Anyway, I’m not to worried about it. I doubt she will be attending college one day and expecting me to dorm with her so that she can have the “num nums” before she goes to sleep each night. She will stop eventually, and right now I feel no rush in ending this special time for both her and myself.

  179. aviva says:

    While nursing a toddler does not make me uncomfortable, there is a cutoff age after which it just is inappropriate. A preschooler should be getting his/her attachment to Mommy in a way different than an infant or a toddler. ANS – unless there is a famine, by that age kids should be getting all of their nutrition from food – not breastmilk, cowmilk, or even pediasure (unless there is a problem)…..I had a neighbor who was still nursing her son when he was in 1st grade – my own first grader thought this was a riot, and asked me once “what happens in Jasons class when the teacher says take out your snack … does he say ‘my mother is bringing mine”?

  180. Brupe says:

    Lovely post. My 5.5 year old has just this week declared that she has weaned (apart from emergencies, but since she no longer asked for ‘booboo’ if she hurts herself I can’t see that happening). I never imagined that I’d breastfeed a 5 year old, but then I didn’t suddenly do so, she was only ever a day older than the previous day.

  181. laura says:

    No solids until he was 15m/o? (Was he not eating or were you not offering?) Not verbal at 2 1/2? Is he seeing a speech therapist? These things concern me, not the breastfeeding. And unless your son has some medical/digestive issues, nobody that age needs to eat around the clock like that. I’m not saying I have a problem with it, as I’m not the one waking up. I’m just saying, there is no nutritional purpose and in fact some dental disadvantages.

  182. Deborah says:

    Mayim, You nurse your precious little person as long as you want! I nursed my daughter until she was 4.5 years old and it was only at my husband’s urging that I stopped. I loved every moment of our connectedness and hope you continue to enjoy your experience. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime privilege!

  183. Melissa Cline says:

    I love this! Thanks Mayim for hopefully helping to normalize a longer breastfeeding duration than we’re used to in the US! I recommend Mothering Your Nursing Toddler as well–a great read.

  184. Erynne Mitchell says:

    I love this. My son is 20 months old now, and he still nurses for at least 85% of his daily calories (some days less, but for the most part, ‘nursies’ are his food and drink).

    I’m determined to make at least the 2yr mark recommended by the WHO, and am content to let him nurse for as long afterward as he needs… although I admit, nursing at 3.5 or 4yr old does make me blink and wrinkle my forehead a bit. I guess we’ll see when we get there!

    You are outstanding. Thank you for this article.

  185. Lora says:

    Wonderfully written! My son self-weaned at 17 months, much to my dismay (nursing strike that I begged him to overcome); we would’ve probably kept going (he is not 2 yet) for a lot longer. Thank you for writing this! Our bodies are indeed wonderfully made to support life and it shouldn’t be such a source for debate of when to employ another animals body to nourish our own children.

  186. Colleen says:

    As someone who has never extended BF, but is currently nursing a 7 month old, I can say that when I saw the opening line of your blog post, the first thing that popped into my mind was “4 hours of sleep a night for SIX YEARS straight!? I am NEVER doing that, then!” ;) I appreciate the facts and information about extended breastfeeding in this post. However, I do sort of see it as being a bit defensive towards those who choose not to EBF, and to those who have given you grief over it. And you probably have a right to be defensive about it – I know how frustrating it is when you feel like you have to justify your decisions all the time. However, I see Martina and Anna’s point. Perhaps your post would have come across as more convincing to those of us who are on the fence about EBF if you had painted it in a more positive light at the beginning of the post, and possibly throw in the “sleepless nights” as a disclaimer at the end, and even make a point about how it’s still possible to breastfeed a toddler without being woken up so much at night (by night weaning earlier). Regardless, this is YOUR blog, and you are certainly free to post in whatever tone you choose. :)

  187. Lori says:

    Love it! I NEVER imagined myself nursing this long… We had “cut-offs”… 3, 4… 5?

    She’s 4.5 now and still nurses in the morning, before bed and sometimes during the day for some quick comfort, support or just a re-charge. It’s certainly different now, as she talks about “them,” has her own little “routines” and likes to let me know when there is or isn’t milk, but when she looks up at me and tells me it’s “her thoughtful place,” how can I say “No?” I cherish that she will actually remember this time and how I told her how much I enjoyed it.

    I’m mostly quiet about our family’s choice of extended nursing, but I always enjoy reading and sharing thoughtful, rational and loving articles which explain why it isn’t so strange or unnatural to a connected Mom!
    Thanks!

    • eww says:

      that is just disgusting that you nurse a 4.5 year old….it must make you feel better about your self because thats just wrong!!!

  188. Kate says:

    My concern is not the nursing, but why is your son non verbal at 2.5 yrs…

  189. Anna says:

    I agree with Martina. Why do you feel the need to make everyone aware? Are there people sneaking a peek inside your room at you nursing? Maybe you should address this to the public comments rather than the fact that you nurse still at night and NO ONE KNOWS THIS BUT YOU. Goodness, my mother EBF my siblings for a long time, but she wasn’t posting like some self-promoting martyr. My kid can breastfeed until college for all I care but I don’t go blogging in an obviously defensive tone about something that few people would know about if you didn’t make them aware, KWIM?

  190. Johanna says:

    Great article! I nursed my now 10yo until just shy of his 3rd birthday. I have never regretted one day of it! Thank you for openly talking about your experiences. With help from mama’s like you we can create an environment where nursing is considered the standard (as it should be).

  191. Carrie B says:

    Since 2001 I have had a 26 month “break” from lactation. My children are 9, 7 and 2 1/2. This essay has been an absolute blessing to read. Thank you for your eloquence and support.

  192. Mayim – you are one of my new favorite people. I’m so glad I’m getting to know you beyond your TV career!

    I’m starting to get the same questions, and it’s much easier to answer them with confidence knowing that I have moms like you standing beside me in spirit.

    Many thanks, mama.

  193. Martina says:

    I guess I’ll be the lone voice. I like being different anyway, so I’m not worried about voicing my concern.

    First, I have five kiddos, four of whom have been nursed. I totally identify with most of this entry. The problems I have are probably something that appears innocuous to others. The first is the title – it’s totally off putting to me. It comes across as ‘judge me if you want, I don’t care’ which *could* come across as baiting. I don’t disagree with someone’s decision to do extended BF’ing. What bugs me is that you then go on to list things that can also be construed as huge negatives to extended BF’ing. Well…do you *like* BF’ing your toddler or don’t you? You are up *way* more than I am with my littlest, 4month old chickie. With proper placement of pillows, I just pop them on and doze off to sleep – the number of times I’m awake is almost irrelevant. I guess I don’t understand the point of saying how many times you’re awake through the night. Either you do it lovingly {joyful suffering} or you don’t.

    Now, for my 4 month old, night time nursing is still essential for proper feeding. For a toddler, it’s not the same. It’s not nutritive like it is for a newborn or infant. It’s more about comfort – and that’s fine. I can dig it. But let’s just put it in perspective.

    I think when you do a blog entry like this, it puts people who disagree in a position to continue to be offended and it makes those of us who have no problem with it wonder if you are truly emotionally invested in it, or are you upset that you’re up multiple times throughout the night for non-nutritive nursing and it’s taking it’s toll?

    And, fwiw, I wouldn’t nurse in line at the grocery store with my newborn/infant – even now. But then, I’m a planner to some extent. I delegate shopping to my husband in those beginning months of new babymoon and in the rare chance I find myself in a bind, I excuse myself to my car. Not because I’m a prude but because I don’t want to put myself purposely in the path of having to confront someone. I’m an Aries and I ain’t skurred to say what I think. Plus, my car is more comfortable than trying to unload my grocery cart whilst nursing.

    In any case, sorry for the novel, but I wanted you to understand how this post might unintentionally flame those who might already agree with you.

    If you love it, don’t be defensive about it. That is all. :)

  194. Heather says:

    Mayim, your article so lovingly addresses this topic that it brought tears to my eyes. As a 34 year old mama who has breastfed five fantastic kids, I can certainly understand the emotions as well as the anecdotes that you relate. Thank you for beautifully articulating so much of what I have felt for the past eleven years. Blessings to you and your family.

  195. Kristin says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! Your views on extended breastfeeding are very well worded and I appreciate that you have such a vast amount of research and information behind your opinion.

    I breastfed all of my children, with 4 out of 5 extended breast feeders. I just weaned my twins at just over 26 months of age, by far the longest I have nursed! I also battled with ignorant statements of “fact” and opinions from family and friends about when I should wean my children. And, like you, my general view is, I raise my children how I see fit, and you raise your children how you see fit!

    Thank you Mayim!!! <3

  196. Colin says:

    I like your style!
    -Colin
    (Father of a breastfed 3 y/o.)

  197. Maya Norton says:

    I could have easily written this article- except that my 27 month old son talks- but it was that similar.

    Kol hakavod for your voice and your courage on writing about something so personal, Mayim.

    ~ Maya

  198. Janice Reynolds says:

    BTW – I nursed my first for 2 years (got pregnant again and didn’t know anyone who had nursed through pregnancy). My 2nd nursed until her 5th birthday! Never say never! ha ha. I have to say, I could have quite at age 3, and really could have quit after age 4, but it still worked for us for taming boo boos and tantrums, and I know she really still enjoyed it/wanted it, so we just continued. What is looks like and what it means, changes at each age. But when birthday #5 coincided with the first day of kindergarten – that was my limit, LOL!!!

  199. Janice Reynolds says:

    Thank you so much for your writing, I am really enjoying them. I am really proud to see a celebrity writing so intelligently and openly about these topics. It’s great to see celebrity used for “good” rather than for selling things or for notoriety! I hope these essays become widely circulated.
    BTW – we love your show, we were listing what shows we watch as a family – and yours was about the only network show that we watch!

  200. Aliza says:

    Interesting that your son didn’t really express an interest in solids for so long. My best girlfriend was not ready for her son to eat solids at 9 months, but he totally had other plans. He would DIVE for our food when we ate in front of him! He *loves* to eat :)

    Just more proof that as each child is individual, so are his/her needs, and so should his/her ‘treatment’ be. Only the parent can really judge their child’s needs, and only the parent should be decided how to respond to those needs.

  201. Sara says:

    Wonderful post! Loved this: “Those are neat facts, but the real reason we nurse this way, now, all night, all day, anywhere and anyhow, is because it’s not broken, so there is nothing to fix.” That is a great perspective!

  202. Danielle says:

    I loved reading your discussion on extended breastfeeding. I remember thinking, before I my first was born, that I wouldn’t breastfeed beyond a year because it “sounded a bit strange.” But frankly I couldn’t imagine was nursing was like until I did it. But once I started, it seemed ridiculous to stop if neither of us wanted to. My first daughter nursed until almost two, when I chose to wean her because it was causing some discomfort for me (I was then pregnant with my second). I think she would have nursed longer, but she was content to stop. Now I’m nursing my second daughter and as much as I’m tired from getting up in the night, I really do just love it.

    Thanks for a great article.

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