Extended breastfeeding

I mentioned that I’d nursed my first to age 6 and my second to age 2 1/2, and someone was impressed at how extended nursing was with #1. My answer:

Well, I didn’t set out that way but at age 2 I sat her down and said, “The world health organization says that you have a right to nurse until you’re two and for as long after that as we’re both happy. So you need to be nice to me and stop if I tell you I need to stop, and if you do that you can nurse as long as you want.” She sort of blinked at me and said, “Otay mommy”. So after that if she was getting rough I stopped her. If she was screwing around I stopped her. If I was cramping, I stopped her, and so I never felt like I was trapped nursing her, it was something she did to touch base and for comfort.

When she was 3 she went on a trip with her dad for a week and I assumed she’d be done when she came back, but no, she went right back to it. My milk was mostly gone though. Nursing got shorter and she got less and less milk.

When she was four, my doctor refused to prescribe medication for me unless I weaned (stupid, really, it was prozac and then zoloft, which would be FINE for a nursing 4 year old.) So i told her why we were stopping and she agreed. After two weeks, she sat ME down and said, “Mommy, your milk is all gone. And if anything did come out I’d stop nursing so I wouldn’t get the bad medicine. Can I please have my num nums back?”

I asked, “When are you going to wean then?” She answered, “When I’m six.”

So I let her nurse, and there were two occasions where she suddenly stopped and said, “Milk came out, I’ll stop so I won’t get the bad medicine.” Her nursing got less and less frequent to the point where by the time she was five, weeks would go by without her “touching base” that way… I’d ask, “are you weaned?” She’d say, “When I’m six.”

The night before she turned six, we were traveling, and she crawled into bed with me to snuggle. I said, “You’ll be six tomorrow. Are you ready to wean?”

She took about 3 sucks and then patted me and said, “I’m going to miss num nums.”

She never asked again.

There’s no magic light that goes off over their heads saying “too old”. It either works or it doesn’t and we find the way that makes sense for the given child and given situation.

With her younger sister, developmentally delayed with poor oral motor coordination and oral defensiveness, I got bitten a lot. Nursing was never, ever, ever easy. I fought through it and nursed her for 2 1/2 years, then had to wean her cold turkey because I had hit my limit on being able to tolerate the biting. She got a 6 month grace period on my “after age two…” policy, but I knew it was safer to wean her when I realized I was fighting tooth and nail to stop myself from flinging her across the room every time she bit me.

I doubt my son will nurse as long as his oldest sister, but I hope he nurses a bit longer than his middle sister. It’s hard to say. I don’t enjoy nursing him the way I did #1, but he’s certainly not as painful to nurse as #2 most of the time. But he’s never had a particularly fantastic latch due to a tongue tie that took a couple months to correct, so now that he has teeth I feel them a lot when he’s tired. If he can learn to cover them, he could nurse a very long time. But he’s absolutely enchanted with solid food, and has his dad around, so I’m not the absolute center the way I was with #1 as a single mom. He could surprise me and wean at 18 months, he loves food so.

Posted in Breastfeeding, Extended breastfeeding.

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