Need Some Support for "Extended" Breast Feeding

Updated on January 31, 2009
H.A. asks from San Francisco, CA
9 answers

Hi there,

My daughter is 16 1/2 months and still breastfeeds about 5 times a day. I thought she'd self-wean by now! We had so many problems with breastfeeding that I was surprised we made it to a year.

For those of you mommies who let your kids self-wean, when did it happen? I want it to be a natural process, but didn't picture myself breastfeeding a toddler and am starting to be selfconcious about the "they don't get any nutritional benefits after a year" and "you're stunting her emotionally" comments. I've noticed that most babies either self-wean before one year (maybe because mommy isn't always there), are weaned by mommy at one year, or keep it up until past 2 years old.

My other concerns are that she is very shy when we are away from home (though, seems to love being at daycare 1/2 day), is needy for me at home (wants to be picked up a lot), wakes at night for breast feeding, and -- most worrisome to me -- not walking on her own! She literally runs when we hold her hands and spends all of her time on her feet playing and "cruising" around the furniture, so she's physically able.

I'm starting to believe what people are telling me, that she's not developing emotionally because she is still breastfeeding. But on the other hand, she is happy and active and loads of fun when she is comfortable with her surroundings, and her father is really shy! So perhaps she takes after him and I should embrace her little personality instead of worrying and blaming the breastfeeding.

Anyway, any encouragement from "extended" breastfeeding mommies would be appreciated!

Thank you,


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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your great advice and support. Guess what, our daughter started walking yesterday (I'm so proud!)! So I guess I don't have to worry about stunting her developmentally. We'll keep up the breast feeding for now and reevaluate in a few months. I'm still fuzzy on the facts -- though I've heard that there are health benefits of breastfeeding up to age 2 and beyond, our pediatrician says recent studies show that there are NOT and I couldn't find any good evidence online. Oh well, as long as my daughter is still asking to be breastfed, then that's good enough reason for me, at least for now. :) Thank you again!

More Answers



answers from San Francisco on

Hi H.,

Just wanted to let you know, my daughter self-weaned at 23 months. For the last 8 months of nursing, she only nursed prior to sleeping (naps and bedtime and occasional night-wakings.) She is a happy, confident, incredibly talkative, wonderful child. She and I have an amazing bond and I attribute many of her wonderful qualities to the extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting. If you want to read about the benefits of extended breastfeeding, I highly recommend "The Baby Book" by Dr. William Sears. Also, his website has a lot of good information/advice.

Hope that helps!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Hello H.,
I wanted to let you know that You are not alone. I am the mom of a 23 month old boy, who is still nursing as well. I too have people in my life who are not thrilled about the fact that he is still nursing. I never thought I would nurse this long, but he is not ready to give it up. I would suggest that you keep doing what is best for your daughter. Good job for going this long. I hope that you will have voluntary weaning someday soon, I just keep telling myself once the nursing is over I can't get it back. Enjoy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

Don't blame the breastfeeding! It sounds like your child is NORMAL and HEALTHY and has her own timeline. I just read the other day that, if left to themselves, most children would wean between 2.5 and 3.5 years of age. Not that you can't set boundaries that include "just at home" rules to cut down on those ignorant comments you're getting.

I also read that it's NOT true that there's no nutritional benefit in breastmilk after 1 year of age. If that were true, why would the American Academy of Pediatrics, it's UK equivalent and the World Health Organization ALL recommend breastfeeding after one year of age?!?!? Plus, trust your body. Our bodies do everything for a purpose - and it's nonsense that your body would continue to produce milk to feed a baby if there's was no benefit to it. Hogwash to all those naysayers.

You are NOT developmentally damaging your daughter. In fact, quite the opposite. You are providing her with nourishment, comfort, nurturing, and a loving environment, etc., etc., etc. All children are individuals and as long as she seems happy and healthy, then she's getting what she needs. She'll walk soon when she wants to - for her, cruising just works for her right now so let it be and don't stress. You're doing a WONDERFUL job and giving your daughter the best! Good for you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Did you know that the worldwide average age for weaning is 6? It sounds to me like she has a strong need to connect to you through nursing because of where she is developmentally, not the other way around. I'm allowing my son to self wean. He is 2 1/2 and I think we are almost there - he is starting to nurse for less time and sometimes not want it at all. I did, however, stop nursing on demand a little before age 1 and for quite a while now he has only been allowed once a day. You have to set boundaries as they get older. Aside from the when, you'll also encounter issues such as how long, not playing with em, and nighttime is for sleeping. I never planned to nurse long term but it has become clear that this is what my son needs. Yes, I do get flack about it but I don't let it bother me. Listen to your Mama sense!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I weaned my son between 21 and 22 months. I would have nursed him longer I started to have some issues with him DEMANDING to be nursed and refusing to accept my boundries. I weaned him to be clear about who the boobies belonged to.

You should nurse your baby as long as you are BOTH happy. You are certainly not stunting her maturity in any way.

Side note: I was nursed regularly until I was 4 years old. I was a very independant child, I enjoyed taking risks, excelled in school both academically ans socially. I was popular, and well adjusted. I had (and have) a very close but completely normal relationship with my mother.

Don't worry about what people say. If breastmilk wasn't good for babies past a year, why would we give them cow's milk... are they saying its healthier to drink milk made by mommy cows for baby cows then to drink milk made by you for your baby? That's just silly.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fresno on

I've never been able to let my babies self wein because I've always gotten pregnant and had to stop nursing but my first son was almost 16 months, my second son was almost 18 months. Neither of them were ready. I also got tired of listening to people telling me it was time to stop!! I am their mommy and I'm the one who knows when it is time to stop!! I finally decided to start changing the subject when they would bring up the nursing habits. Both of my boys have completly different personalities and you as a mother cannot change that. It has been in them since they were in the womb.

Nursing at this age is more for comfort than nutrition so my advise is to nurse as long as YOU AND YOUR BABY want to!!! We will not be having any more children so I'm looking forward to my extended breastfeeding period with my precious baby girl.




answers from Chico on

Hi there!

First of all, just try to ignore others' critical comments because they are not you and they do not know your daughter as well as you do! It is so hard to ignore, and so easy to get sucked into a spiral of self-loathing and doubt.

Second, to your question, I have two kids whom I breastfed for a year or more- my son self-weaned at age 1: he had better things to do and didn't want to sit and breastfeed. I was actually glad to be done with it! So when my daughter showed no signs of stopping, I was concerned. I really didn't WANT to keep breastfeeding her past a year, but she wouldn't sleep without it. Long story short, I wanted to stop, so I started by not breastfeeding except at home; then I cut out all but nap amd bedtime, then I nursed her before bedtime, but cut her off before sleep, and then finally gave up the nap feeding. She only wanted to nurse (not eat) when she was sick and when she was teething, and I indulged her (for lack of a better word). She never did self-wean, and I ended up nursing her for 3 months after her second birthday. I was done and starting to get a little resentful of her neediness, so I knew it was time to stop, so I just told her one day that it was all gone. She STILL asks once in a while (especially when she's not feeling well), and it has been 4 months. But she can get herself to sleep without it, plays well with her brother and other kids, and has no noticeable emotional hangups! I think your daughter's "shyness" is just a combination of her age and personality, and in no way is your "fault" because of breastfeeding! Funny thing about my family is that my daughter seems to be more outgoing than my son- and she was the nurser!

Best wishes!



answers from San Francisco on

Great job on making it through all of the difficult transitions with breastfeeding. You made it through the first year and your baby supports this process with continued nursing. You guys have done awesome!
Our current culture is so factually wrong when it comes to negative advise and breastfeeding it makes my blood boil. Unfortunately we live in a time when our individual selfishness supersedes our babies basic developmental requirements. Human beings NEED positive touch and nourishment their entire lives. This begins with breastfeeding. Nutritionally your milk is a benefit everyday of her life that she nurses and has set the foundation for her health. Unless a mother has to be on specific medications that will damage her baby, has an addiction problem with drugs/alcohol, or the baby's health would be compromised (PKU for example) it is both a blessing and a need for our little ones to breastfeed for as long as possible. I realize we do not live in a supportive and nourishing culture and that it's difficult to navigate through all of the conflicting advice and worrisome feelings. Fortunately nursing is one way we can peacefully battle the current trends that want to regulate and regiment our children while starving them of their basic physical, emotional and developmental needs. Two of the women here have listed excellent advice from a factual (WHO and UNICEF) and personal (respecting boundaries)perspective that I would encourage you to consider.
It is ok for us to take cues from our babies and learn what they need. It makes us and them stronger, healthier, and most importantly more loving people. This is all about a process through communication and relationship. Embrace it and enjoy it because you will never regret the gifts you have given and received when it comes to your baby. Good luck to you and hopefully you will soon be on the road to feeling good about your decisions.



answers from San Francisco on

We have daughters the same age, mine was born at the end of August. I also had a lot of problems - I had mastisis twice and bought all the expensive supplements but still never really had a full supply, and I'm still Bfeeding too. YAY to us! I thought I was going to wean at age one, but we moved, she teethed, she got sick. I always had an excuse to give those naysayers.. now, I have no excuse. I want to. She wants to. And that should be enough to continue. I did put her on a schedule, instead of on demand. Then, after I set the schedule, I began to get rid of feedings, one by one. Now, we're only feeding right after waking (b/c she's used to it and it gives me an excuse to lay there for another 20 min), right before naps, and right before sleeping for the night. I do indulge her when she gets sick or teeths - she wants it more and it helps her.
Both my baby and her father are also on the shy/sensitive side. Maybe they are their fathers' daughters =) I know statistically, Bfed babies are more social than those that weren't. I don't know why ppl are so uncomfortable around BF. For some, it reminds them of their own inadequacies.
Do what you feel is right. ... I wanted to share this with you >>>


Breastfeeding your baby for even a day is the best baby gift you can give. Breastfeeding is almost always the best choice for your baby. If it doesn't seem like the best choice for you right now, these guidelines may help.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR JUST A FEW DAYS, he will have received your colostrum, or early milk. By providing antibodies and the food his brand-new body expects, nursing gives your baby his first - and easiest - "immunization" and helps get his digestive system going smoothly. Breastfeeding is how your baby expects to start, and helps your own body recover from the birth. Why not use your time in the hospital to prepare your baby for life through the gift of nursing?

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR FOUR TO SIX WEEKS, you will have eased him through the most critical part of his infancy. Newborns who are not breastfed are much more likely to get sick or be hospitalized, and have many more digestive problems than breastfed babies. After 4 to 6 weeks, you'll probably have worked through any early nursing concerns, too. Make a serious goal of nursing for a month, call La Leche League or a Lactation Consultant if you have any questions, and you'll be in a better position to decide whether continued breastfeeding is for you.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 3 OR 4 MONTHS, her digestive system will have matured a great deal, and she will be much better able to tolerate the foreign substances in commercial formulas. If there is a family history of allergies, though, you will greatly reduce her risk by waiting a few more months before adding anything at all to her diet of breastmilk. And giving nothing but your milk for the first four months gives strong protection against ear infections for a whole year.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 6 MONTHS, she will be much less likely to suffer an allergic reaction to formula or other foods. At this point, her body is probably ready to tackle some other foods, whether or not you wean. Nursing for at least 6 months helps ensure better health throughout your baby's first year of life, and reduces your own risk of breast cancer. Nursing for 6 months or more may greatly reduce your little one's risk of ear infections and childhood cancers. And exclusive, frequent breastfeeding during the first 6 months, if your periods have not returned, provides 98% effective contraception.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 9 MONTHS, you will have seen him through the fastest and most important brain and body development of his life on the food that was designed for him - your milk. You may even notice that he is more alert and more active than babies who did not have the benefit of their mother's milk. Weaning may be fairly easy at this age... but then, so is nursing! If you want to avoid weaning this early, be sure you've been available to nurse for comfort as well as just for food.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR A YEAR, you can avoid the expense and bother of formula. Her one-year-old body can probably handle most of the table foods your family enjoys. Many of the health benefits this year of nursing has given your child will last her whole life. She will have a stronger immune system, for instance, and will be much less likely to need orthodontia or speech therapy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for at least a year, to help ensure normal nutrition and health for your baby.

IF YOU NURSE YOUR BABY FOR 18 MONTHS, you will have continued to provide your baby's normal nutrition and protection against illness at a time when illness is common in other babies. Your baby is probably well started on table foods, too. He has had time to form a solid bond with you - a healthy starting point for his growing independence. And he is old enough that you and he can work together on the weaning process, at a pace that he can handle. A former U.S. Surgeon General said, "it is the lucky baby... that nurses to age two."

IF YOUR CHILD WEANS WHEN SHE IS READY, you can feel confident that you have met your baby's physical and emotional needs in a very normal, healthy way. In cultures where there is no pressure to wean, children tend to nurse for at least two years. The World Health Organization and UNICEF strongly encourage breastfeeding through toddlerhood: "Breastmilk is an important source of energy and protein, and helps to protect against disease during the child's second year of life."* Our biology seems geared to a weaning age of between 2 1/2 and 7 years**, and it just makes sense to build our children's bones from the milk that was designed to build them. Your milk provides antibodies and other protective substances as long as you continue nursing, and families of nursing toddlers often find that their medical bills are lower than their neighbors' for years to come. Mothers who have nursed longterm have a still lower risk of developing breast cancer. Children who were nursed longterm tend to be very secure, and are less likely to suck their thumbs or carry a blanket. Nursing can help ease both of you through the tears, tantrums, and tumbles that come with early childhood, and helps ensure that any illnesses are milder and easier to deal with. It's an all-purpose mothering tool you won't want to be without! Don't worry that your child will nurse forever. All children stop eventually, no matter what you do, and there are more nursing toddlers around than you might guess.

WHETHER YOU NURSE FOR A DAY OR FOR SEVERAL YEARS, the decision to nurse your child is one you need never regret. And whenever weaning takes place, remember that it is a big step for both of you. If you choose to wean before your child is ready, be sure to do it gradually, and with love.

*Facts for Life: A Communication Challenge, published by UNICEF, WHO, and UNESCO, 1989
**K Dettwyler. A Time to Wean. Breastfeeding Abstracts vol 14 no 1 1994
©1997 Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC 136 Ellis Hollow Creek Road Ithaca, NY 14850

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