Passionate About the Community
and the Moms Who Live Here

I’m Nursing a Toddler (But You Don’t Have To!)

If there is one struggle all mothers have faced at some point in their mothering career, it is mom-shaming.

If you are letting them cry-it-out, then you are neglectful. If you aren’t, you are spoiling your child.
If you are breastfeeding, then you should do it in private or use a cover—no one wants to see your lady parts.
If you are not nursing, you are selfish and clearly not interested in what is best for your child.
If you choose to (or have to) work, then you aren’t committed to being a mother.
If you are staying at home, you need to put down the remote control, change out of those yoga pants, and get a real job.
You should never co-sleep—are you trying to kill your baby?
You have crib bumpers?! Gasp!
Your baby still isn’t walking? Mine walked at 9-months. Maybe you should take them out of that sling.
And PLEASE, God, tell me you only feed organic.

I have experienced a number of these and plenty more. For the most part, I have been able to take it in stride. I have learned to deal with people’s opinions on how I have chosen to parent, and I feel confident in my decisions. The one thing that still manages to shame me is the fact that I am still breastfeeding my almost 21 month old son.

On the one hand, I DO feel absolutely certain that this is the right move for us. It may not be the right choice for everyone, but it is for my family. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel ashamed when I hear people speak against it or watch their surprised reactions when they learn that my son is still nursing. I have heard my own father (whom I have chosen not to inform of my decision) express disgust at the idea of it. The nurses at my pediatrician’s office seemed baffled by the fact that we were still at it. There are articles bashing extended nursing, and don’t get me started on the comments sections. This one, written by a doctor, calls it ” self-indulgent and possibly narcissistic.”

I was recently on a mom’s group on Facebook, and a member shared a photo of a mom nursing her four-year-old and asked for the group’s thoughts. For the most part, the mothers were extremely supportive. Some said they wouldn’t do it, but that it wasn’t their business how others chose to feed their babies. But the few remarks made against nursing were so negative that I couldn’t shake the impression they left on me for days. One mom actually said, “It’s immoral, disgusting, and sexual abuse at that age.” Sexual abuse? Really?! I would never sexually abuse my son! Another mom commented that “this is gross and unnecessary.” The last one I will mention said, “There is no nutritional value at this point, that kid needs to be eating table food not being breastfed.” It was after reading this comment that I finally realized just how much negative opinions of extended and full-term breastfeeding stem from a lack of information. For that reason, I am choosing to put my shame aside and shout from the proverbial rooftop why I am choosing to nurse my son for as long as he wants.

It Wont Last Forever

He isn’t going to nurse until college, despite what all the haters say. Most kids wean by at least their junior year of high school. And this time is precious to me. He is growing so quickly. This period will breeze by just like all the rest of them, and I am choosing to savor the moment. If that is self-indulgent or narcissistic, fine. I can deal with that.

It’s Good for Him

Yes, Facebook Mom Group commenter, breast-milk has nutritional value at every age. In fact, experts believe that the make-up of breast-milk adapts to the changing nutritional needs of toddlers. It contains antibodies and supports their immune systems, helping them to ward off illness and infection. It contains brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids and significant amounts of many of the vitamins, fat, and protein necessary in a child’s diet.

It’s Good for Me

Nursing my son provides me with extra protection against breast cancer as well as ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancer. It helps ward off heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and diabetes, and I will drink to all of that. It supposedly helps me lose weight, though I am undecided on that one. The World Health Organization states that “to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.”

The Bonding

I am in no way saying that mothers who don’t breastfeed past 12 months or mothers that formula feed do not bond with their children. That would be silly. Of course they do. But this is a special way that I, personally, bond with my little guy. We take a few moments to gaze into each others eyes. I stroke his head and he touches different parts of my face and waits for me to identify them for him. Sometimes he dozes off, sometimes he flips all over me in a “gymnurstics” session. Always, we snuggle for just a few minutes, and I wouldn’t put an end to this ritual for all the world.

The Comfort

Sometimes, he just needs “ba-ba.” He bumped his head on the table, fell down outside and scraped his knee, had to endure the cold stethoscope or a shot at the doctor, or he is sleepy and cranky. In these moments, nothing else will do. A quick nurse, and he is back on his feet or fast asleep—I will take either. Recently, he had Hand Foot Mouth Disease followed by a double ear-infection. His fever killed his appetite, and any food he mustered up the will to eat burned his blistered throat and sent him into a wailing fit. For several days, the only source of nutrition he accepted was breast-milk. I have never been more happy to still be nursing.

nursingblog

courtesy of Suzanne Dubose Photography

I am learning to accept the criticism and move on with grace. I encourage you to do the same. It comes with the mothering territory. Whether you breastfeed your four-year-old or never breastfeed a day, you are doing what you know is right for your family, and that’s a beautiful thing. I know it’s been said before, but it can’t be overstated: being a mom is full of tough choices, and we need to build each other up. If you are worrying about whether or not you are making the right decisions, THAT makes you a great mom. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

, ,

49 Responses to I’m Nursing a Toddler (But You Don’t Have To!)

  1. merry November 11, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    good for you! i miss bring. i breastfed till he self weaned at 2.4 years old.

    • Lisa Curbello November 16, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

      I can relate to this article on many levels. I breastfed my last child for 2 1/2 years. I found myself hiding it from my friends and family. Even my husband would ask when I was going to let go? My response was when we both were ready to. A family emergency occurred and while I was away for that week is when my milk dried up. I was devastated. If not for that, no telling how long we would have kept it up.

      My son is about to turn five and it all seems a memory now. The baby toddler years fly by fast. Embrace them:) I have no regrets. Would do it again!

  2. Alana November 11, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    There are more of us in the proverbial closet about this issue than people might think… My daughter (just a few weeks older than your little man) calls it “nummies”, and it is the right choice for us for all the reasons you listed. Shout on friend 🙂

  3. Meg Wicks
    Meg Wicks November 11, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    I’ll out myself too! He turns two in less than two weeks…

  4. Jamie Willow November 11, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    I nursed my first till he was 2 1/2, my second turns 3 this month and still nurses. I guess if I think about it I think “wow, that’s a long time to be nursing” but I never think it’s the wrong thing to be doing. Just marvel at how long we have lasted.

    • angela November 12, 2014 at 6:57 am #

      Mine just turned 3 this month too and also still nurses. I’m due in 8 weeks with his sister, so I may be nursing two pretty soon.

  5. laceysamuel November 11, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    I hope all of you mamas know how proud I am of you! You’re doing a great job and don’t let anyone make you feel differently. Thank you for sharing your story with me. It is always encouraging to know that there are other mamas out there like me. And to all the mothers who are not breast-feeding, you are doing a fantastic job as well. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  6. Sherry November 11, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    I am also nursing a toddler. She turned 2 in September and I don’t care what anybody says about it! She calls it “boo boos” and I just feel very blessed to have made it this long. I love your story and appreciate your honesty:)

  7. Natalie November 11, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    i am tandem nursing my 2.5 year old and my 14 m old. And preggo with #3! Haha. I do feel you. People look at me like I have 12 heads. Ladies, I’m not forcing my boobs in their toothy little mouths, trust me! 😉

    Also. Shows you how “successful” nursing as birth control works. Haha joke is totally on me.

  8. Jodi November 11, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

    I nursed my toddler until he was 20 months old and I was 5 months pregnant on my second child. I don’t understand the uproar. I so hoped my 2-year-old child would tandem nurse, he is interested but won’t sit still for 10 seconds to try and latch. He is now drinking my pumped milk from a bottle! Just because he can walk and talk doesn’t mean he’s old enough to move on. The baby years go by in an instant – and to me 2- and 3-year-olds are still babies. There was no better way to comfort my child than nursing and I really regret weaning him now. When he is sick or teething (as he is presently) I am at a loss. Kudos to you and thanks for writing this piece.

    • Camille November 16, 2014 at 12:44 am #

      Jodi – I am doing the same for my son! He is 22 months now and I have a 2 month old. I have been pumping for my toddler since he won’t latch (stopped nursing at the start of my third trimester). It’s nice to have some company!

  9. Carri November 12, 2014 at 12:03 am #

    I have 5 children. I have nursed all 5. My first son weaned himself at 14 months. My second son nursed until the day before he turned three for me that was my cut-off. Kudos to all the mother’s that want to go longer. My third and fourth sons nursed until 26 months. I am currently nursing my daughter who is 15 months. My 2nd son called them nurses.

  10. Michele November 12, 2014 at 6:18 am #

    Thank you for this! I couldn’t agree more. I breastfed my son until he self weaned around 2.5 yrs. & will do this same with my 6 mo. old. People do raise their eyebrows or give me crazy looks and ask “Really, TWO years?!” but I just smile and say “Yep.” as if it’s the most awesome, normal thing ever….because it is. Mom shaming is a crazy phenomenon & I can’t wrap my head around why women do this to each other. Parenting is personal and it certainly is not a competition.

  11. Michelle November 12, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    I used to say some of the same things that I hear people saying now about extended breastfeeding, “Can’t they pump at that point and use a cup?”, “Isnt it kind of gross?” Now I’m educated and nursing my 9 month old and would love to continue until at least 2! I don’t think people understand how difficult pumping is (I can’t get anything when I do it) and how healthy and natural it is for toddlers to nurse.

  12. Shedria Petty November 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    I breastfeed til two yearsand don’t care what anybody has to say. Heck, at two years, i still get sad and emotional during the weaning process. The bond is inexplainable. I’m nursing number three now and wouldn’t change for the world. Kudos to you for making the best decision for your little one.

  13. Melissa Cline November 12, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    High five! I’m nursing my 27 month old as I read this 🙂

  14. Linda November 12, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    I’m tandem nursing my 6-month-old and my toddler who is 2 1/2. It works for us and I can’t imagine weaning either of them yet!

  15. Iraida November 12, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    I was happy to read this. I dont hear much about me still breastfeeding my now 3 year old daughter but at times get the looks. I enjoy this time with and Im not going to stop until she is ready. Thank you for your words.

  16. Heather November 12, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    My little guy is 21 months old and is only weaning b/c I am pregnant (15 weeks right now) and my milk dried up. I was hoping to go until age 2 at least, but alas… Thankfully, my pediatrician and my OB have been 100% supportive of my breastfeeding, even at his current age and while pregnant. (My OB just told me she did it, too, and to watch to make sure I eat enough calories and drink lots of water.) I don’t try to hide it (b/c that’s just not part of my personality, no slam intended if you feel compelled to keep it under wraps). I just talk about it, if it comes up, as a normal part of our routine with my best “this is just the way it is” face, and thankfully, have had very few negative comments directed at me. I know I’m fortunate that way.
    Nurse on, mommas! =)

  17. Elyse November 12, 2014 at 8:25 pm #

    My daughter nursed through my pregnancy with my son, tandem nursed, and continued to nurse past when my son self weaned. She just finally gave up “nuckie” on her fourth birthday. I wish my son had continued to nurse too. Nothing stops tears faster or makes bedtime easier.

  18. Stacie November 12, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    Nursed my first until 20 months and only stopped because he self-weaned. My second is 7 months old and my plan is the same as with my first; we will continue until he’s ready to be done! Maybe I’m selfish but those quite moments together our special times between me and my babes and I wouldn’t change it for the world!!

  19. holley November 12, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    If nursing wasn’t natural, why are formula companies making MILLIONS on toddler formula!?!?! Duh! Keep at it milky mammas! I am going strong at ten months with my babe and she loves her boobies so I do not see it ending anytime soon. Top it all off, I work full time! We are super mommies!

  20. Faye November 12, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    Thanks for sharing! I nurse my 26 month old son. He would nurse all day if I let him. I am down to one feeding in the morning. It’s such a precious time for both of us. I wish I could become pregnant and tandem nurse but I can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding due to a medical condition. I have to ween him to have another baby. We aren’t ready to ween but I would like him to have a sibling close to his age. My heart is torn.

  21. Lois November 12, 2014 at 11:57 pm #

    I’m still nursing my three and a half year old. I get some pretty crappy comments and looks. The worst from my mother who tells my son that he is too big for his boobies if he can ask for them! My son gets so upset when she tells him that :(. He is my fourth and last child. Altogether I’ve been nursing (between all four of them) for roughly six and a half years, and I’m so glad I’ve given them that time. I also formula fed when I had to work, and admire the formula feeding moms, to me, it’s harder by far. My oldest child is now twenty and due to have her first daughter in a few months, and plans to nurse as well. Thank you for this blog! I appreciate the support 🙂

  22. Treena November 13, 2014 at 3:47 am #

    I’m with you except for the initial comment regarding CIO. It’s damaging and mothers should be encouraged to not practice it. They don’t have to be shamed, but they must be told.

  23. Heather November 13, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    God Bless You! I LOVE your article. I just recently weaned my 3yr old about a month after her 3rd birthday. I heard many of the comments you mentioned from friends and family members but I know we were doing what was good for us. My lil angel never had a belly ache, an ear infection or any other sicknesses that other children around her seemed to get repeatedly. She was not ready to stop, I have to say that it was me who was done. However, I do miss it on occasion. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  24. Johanna November 13, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    This article couldn’t have been more perfectly written. Just moments ago I experienced a mommy shamming. I just don’t understand why moms can’t band together and celebrate being mommies instead of separating eachother by personal decisions we make on how we raise our children. Nothing is more interesting to me than discussing reading and seeing how other moms do it different. I would never think to throw a negative comment out at a mom based on her choices, whether I disagree or am simply indifferent on. This article though was definitely a reminder to carry on and feel empowered by our decisions.

  25. Jennifer November 13, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

    Thank you for your article! I can’t me from a family where nursing ended in the first year or didn’t happen at all. I wanted different for my son, especially after I did my research on the benefits. Here I am still nursing my 23 month old son and pregnant with our second. I have enjoyed each moment with my son and if we tandem nurse then so be it. The benefits far out way anyone else’s opinion. He has a healthy diet and nurses so he is receiving all he needs. I wouldn’t know what to do when he is sick and refuses regular food. I get told often that my son and I are too attached because I’m still breastfeeding. Kiss my a## people, my son loves all people and can handle being without when he has to. It makes us stronger moms and women when we stand by our values for our children, we are moms after all and that’s what we are designed to do. Give the best to our children whatever we can. I’m proud of all the moms who stand by their values for themselves and their children, I’m supportive of you all!

  26. Christy November 13, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    i am still waiting for my daughter to self ween… She is three years, three months. 🙂 I have gotten her to learn to calm down on her own… So now she just will nurse when she wakes up, and once in the afternoon before nap/rest. My husband thinks it is time to stop. I am going to let her decide. 🙂

  27. Lauren Ashley November 14, 2014 at 12:06 am #

    I’m loving nursing my 6 month old (our 1st bebe) – and plan to continue doing so as long as she likes. My mama said that I self weaned at 10 months (that seems like such a short amount of time!), so I’m hoping my little girl makes it WELL past that point.

    We’re also co-sleeping, sshhh, don’t tell anyone. 😉

  28. Celesse @ Mummy Logic November 14, 2014 at 7:52 am #

    Lovely article. I really think a lot of people just don’t get what its like to nurse and older baby. It was the subject of a recent post of mine. “10 Silly things people say on Full Term Breastfeeding and how I’d like to respond”. http://www.mummylogic.co.uk/?p=165

  29. Carol November 14, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    Congratulations to all the moms breastfeeding toddlers. I nursed my daughter, now 34, until she was over three and I was six months pregnant. The next two girls self weaned after two. Nursing toddlers is so much fun! Looking back the time flew by although it didn’t seem so at the time. I nursed them everywhere. I am amazed in this day and age that people, and unfortunately some medical providers, are hostile about nursing. I make it a point to encourage nursing mom’s when I see them. Nursing provides for better health not only for a particular baby and mother but for our society at large. All my kids grew up healthy, happy, and believe me, independent! Keep your attitude positive. Public nursing as a norm is the way to help our young people to realize that nursing is a matter of fact way to feed our children. As my children became teens and young adults I had younger friends nursing babies and they took it as a given that is how you feed a child. I have two grandchildren that have been nursed and what a blessing that was for me! I wish I could take it for granted but their mother worked and it was challenging for her. Parents need paid leave to care for their children. We need to take some lessons from other countries who realize a healthy family is a benefit to the country as a whole.

  30. Alice November 14, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    I’m nearly 66 years old. I nursed my first for 3 1/2 years (I dried up when I was pregnant with #2) and my second til he was almost 5 y.o. I have bragged that I was pregnant and/or nursing for 10 years and had two children. My children are independent happy adults. A high school teacher they both had described them as the most grounded students he had ever taught. I have no regrets about being with them in that way when they were little. I, of course, love my kids and I like them a lot too. There’s not a lot of support for extended nursing but there’s not a lot of support for mothers/fathers and children in general. Thanks, Lacey for pointing out that it’s the support that’s important.

  31. Melinda Morales November 14, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    I loved reading your post! I’m a labor doula and childbirth educator, and mother to two well into their toddler ages breastfed boys. I nursed until two and a half and four years of age. Loved it, loved it, loved it and would do it again if I was to have another baby. During those years I received so much shame and criticism. To this day, 18 and 15 yrs later, I still do when people find the length of how long I nursed. New and aspiring moms around the world need to read, see, and hear of more toddler nursing moms. They need to know it’s okay if they do and if they don’t. Thank you for transforming your shame into a story that will support and inspire others.

  32. Michelle Alexander November 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    Love this blog post! I personally just stopped nursing my daughter the first week of this past August (right before her second birthday August 26th). The fascinating thing is I can’t tell you why…the timing was just right…for both of us. I too had snarky remarks about her still nursing and the sad part was they were mostly from relatives. We really do need to start supporting decisions as mothers and build each other up without judgement. Being a mom is hard enough without having to deal with rude comments about how you are doing what is probably one of the hardest jobs in the world!

  33. Jaclyn Kent November 14, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

    Aaaaaamen.

  34. Connie November 15, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    This is an awsome article thank you for sharing I really needed this today as it is my first day back to work leaving my LO is going to be hard for the first time and the pressure I’m feeling because of still nursing is a result of other people’s opinions I’m sure I will be sucsessful at working and nursing …..if so many other mums can do it I can too!

  35. Suzie November 15, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    I breastfed my fourth until just before she turned four. Last night we were having a snuggle in the couch and she pulled my shirt and said hello to my boobies and then told me how she misses my booby milk because it was always warm. I copped a lot of criticism for feeding her for so long but now she is by far my healthiest child and will eat anything- not like her fussy brothers who all self weaned by 12 months!!! I wish we were kinder to each other and supported each other more- before having kids I always thought other Mums would help me when I was having a bad day… But instead we put on a boot and give each other a kick to make sure we stay down!!!!!
    Tragic

  36. Veronica November 16, 2014 at 7:42 am #

    Im the oldest sibling in my family and was completly bottlefed as a baby (mom said I just didn’t want it), my mother breastfed my little sister (now 23yo) until she was 8 years old!! My cousin of the same age as her was breastfed by her mom until she was 9 years old!!! But I’ll tell you there is NO difference in their intelligence or health. ..they both barely finished high school while I went to college; also my sister was sick alot, me not so much. But she did stop before Jr high.

  37. Chrissy November 16, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    I’m still nursing my 2 1/2 year old & are very open & honest about it. I am also nursing my 5 month old

  38. Heather November 17, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    GOOD FOR YOU!!! Do what is right for your family. I nursed my oldest daughter for 3.5 years. She is now 4 and sometimes still asks for nunnie. We no longer nurse but when she is feeling like she needs the comfort we snuggle with her head on my chest and her hand on my face. I will take all the same in the world as long as I get to look into her big blue eyes and know I am doing whats best for my little angel. 🙂 So blessed to know Im not the only one

  39. Kiley November 17, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    Love this! Good for you for doing what you think is best for your family! Thanks for sharing!!

  40. Alqnasmommy November 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

    All four of mine self-weaned at an age that was “right” for them – 22 months, 11 months, 35 months … and my last on his 4th birthday. You, go, Mama!!! Do whatever feels right for your family – to heck with whatever anyone else thinks! GREAT job and thank you for sharing!!! : )

  41. Meaghan November 18, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    My son will be 2 on the 27 and there is no way he is ready to quit his boobies! And honestly neither am I. Both of us enjoy our nursing sessions and I will not stop him until he is ready, be that tomorrow 2 weeks from now or 2 years from now. They are only young once and for such a short time.

  42. Bfmamatalk November 27, 2014 at 4:47 am #

    Shared this to Breastfeeding Mama Talk

  43. AJ @ NutriFitMama January 3, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

    I agree- do what works for you! Some of the responses I read to things online truly shock me. Most of it does come from not being properly informed, and I think getting the information out there is so important. Breastfeeding DOES have nutritional value at age 4. Whether it works for one person or doesn’t really doesn’t matter. For someone to consider it abuse? That is definitely coming from someone who is misinformed!

  44. Lindsey M January 12, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    Thanks for sharing! I’m still nursing my 16 month old soon, and I’ve just started getting the side eye from people when they find out. He’s gradually dropped feedings and I would like him to do that until he self-weans. I can’t imagine weaning him forcefully, I feel like it would be pretty traumatic for us both.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Nashville Moms Blog’s Top 10 Posts :: A Look Back on 2014 | Nashville Moms Blog - December 31, 2014

    […] I’m Nursing a Toddler (But You Don’t Have To!) by Lacey […]

  2. Weaning Sucks | Nashville Moms Blog - December 30, 2015

    […] the beginning, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I never really had a goal of a length of time. I figured, if I was lucky enough that he was able/wanted to nurse, I’d keep it up. Holden […]

Leave a Reply