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Extreme Breastfeeding

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How old is too old?

Breastfeeding has been everywhere these days: Salma Hayek breastfeeding another woman's baby in Africa, the Facebook flap over breastfeeding photos, and that beautiful W cover shot of Angelina Jolie breastfeeding. Seems like everybody's got breastfeeding on the brain. But when is a child too old to be breastfed? Some moms shockingly say five, six, seven, eight -- or beyond.

By now, you've probably seen the video of Veronica, the woman who breastfed one daughter until age five and is still breastfeeding her eight-year-old, Eliza.

According to the CDC, 20% of mothers were still breastfeeding at 12 months. No one keeps count how many women breastfeed their kids beyond 18 months, not even La Leche League International, reports the Boston Globe. But evidence shows the "extreme breastfeeding" trend is growing. Katherine Dettwyler , the nation's leading breastfeeding researcher, says women who continue to nurse typically keep quiet about it, sometimes even to family members, because the culture is so biased against it.

"People say, 'Oh, he's going to think he's having sex with his mother!' " she says. "Well, no. Only if you socialize him to think that way. This is a biological process. Human beings are wired to naturally wean sometime after 2 1/2."

"There's no reason to think it is abnormal or pathological or sick," says Nancy Holtzman, a board-certified lactation consultant.

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124 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous February 20, 2009, 3:57 PM

What a stupid woman!

justamommy February 20, 2009, 8:42 PM

each of my children nursed for different lengths of time. for the first, i made the decision to wean at 2 1/2 years, for the second, he made the decision at 3 1/2.
And neither remembered anything about nursing 6 months later! People should just relax and do what makes them and their families happy.

Tina April 8, 2009, 6:24 PM

I think it is gross. I do believe in breast feeding for babies!! when they need it most. If you want you child to have breast milk after a year then pump it off. It is definitely for the mom if breastfeeding continues after a year. Children get all the other nutrients they need from food.


Bitty April 9, 2009, 1:54 PM
Kat April 10, 2009, 9:23 AM

My child is nearly 4 and still breastfed. I’s not as uncommon as you might think… she is starting to wean but still gets benefits from it. Have been to LLL meetings and there are plenty of other moms doing the same thing.

She is incredibly well adjusted and well behaved. If I tell her to do something she trusts me and follows it, she is also amazingly calm and concentrates great. My friends who don’t have kids always say if they had a child like mine they could handlle it. If only they knew my secret.

Nom Yum April 11, 2009, 6:24 PM

I’ve suddenly decided I’m not weaned.
Time to advertise for a wet nurse on Craigslist.

Andrea April 28, 2009, 11:24 AM

This is such a great discussion. I’m still breastfeeding my first child, who is now 22 months old and extremely bright and healthy. However, the breastfeeding has been significantly reduced — by him — to once or twice in the night for a couple of minutes (he still sleeps with us). It’s clearly more comfort than nourishment at this point and he goes back to sleep immediately.

I’ve often wondered if, at 2, he should stop or I should let him self-wean as many have done in these messages. I haven’t quite decided how to handle it. I always thought I would never breastfeed past age 2, but it’s really not a big deal. I expect he’ll be done altogether very soon.

I can’t even imagine breastfeeding a child at age 4, 5 or 8! I understand the sentiments, but the act itself does not seem appropriate at such an advanced age. Of course, I say this living in a first-world country. I might certainly feel different living in an impoverished country.

Sara April 28, 2009, 6:19 PM

The US is so overly sexualized it’s unbelievable! A womans breasts are there for the nurishment of her child, not for the satisfaction of a man. I believe the inability to seperate the two is what harms.
I breastfed both my sons and both were weaned when they were ready. My 6 year old stopped at 9 months and the 21 month old just stopped last month, on his own. Yes it was emotional each time they weaned, not for the reasons many think but because to nurse your child is such an amazing experience. To know that not only did you nurish them for 9 months in the womb, but you body continues to provide for them in more ways. Holding a sweet baby in your arms, at your breast while they nurse and to have that contact. No playdate will ever beat that!
A decision to breastfeed to any age is that of the family. No one has the right to force their opinion on another.
The US makes itself out to be so forefront on many issues yet in family realtions we fall behind. We “kick” our children out at 18 when most countries there are generations of families living together. The US is arrogant and our school test scores are sadly proving where we are going wrong.

stephanie May 2, 2009, 11:28 AM

it seems natural. i am just not that patient.

Debbie May 8, 2009, 3:05 PM

I think it is weird! I breastfed mine till they were 2 yrs old and my daughter is still breast feeding her 2 1/2 yr old—which is just fine—but this is ridiculous. That child is not a baby or toddler and she needs to be encouraged to think and act appropriate for her age! I think the Mom is doing it for herself…….

Liz May 9, 2009, 2:47 PM

I bf until my son was 2. He self weaned. I might feel a little silly bf’ing at 8, but I dont think it’s that odd.

I thought it was cute when the dad at the end said “Where’s mine?”

I’m sorry that my childs food just happens to come in a bag you find sexually exciting, but that is not what God gave me breasts for. He gave me breasts to NUTURE my child.

Anonymous May 25, 2009, 6:33 PM

I am 12 and i wish i could be breastfed…it would grow an awesome relationship with my mom.

Czoyaawo June 28, 2009, 9:49 AM

MuRTHO comment4 ,

Chose Bine August 30, 2009, 1:11 PM

A mother who cares so much for the well beiing of her children wouldn,t permit the filming and expose her children to the rest of the world. Just imagine those kids in there community now!!!!

Steve McPhail May 25, 2010, 3:08 PM

As a very strong supporter of extended breastfeeding; I honestly don’t see any harm in mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding their children beyond the age of 4 years. After all, as long as the mother and child both enjoy doing it
I really don’t see any reason why a nursing mother should stop breastfeeding her child; I believe that breastfeeding an older child is one of the greatest ways a mother and child can bond together after being away from each other the whole day! THERE’S NOTHING ABSOLUTELY WRONG WITH OLDER CHILDREN STILL BREASTFEEDING!! For those of you who think there’s something wrong with breastfeeding the older child; I would kindly like to tell you all… There isn’t!!. Breastfeeding an older child has so nutritional benefits; I honestly can’t name them all! breastfeeding an older child is also good because the child has less earaches, sore throats, and most importantly I might add that it’s one of the very best ways to get a fussy child to sleep!!.

kuuness August 5, 2010, 3:21 PM

can someone be pro natural weening and pro gay adoption? how would one hire wetnurses that would do this untill the child is the natural 7 years old?

I mean, male lactation does happen, but how could two men nurse a child?

how mean, that the’ll need bottles and fake milk.

I don’t believe you can have both

Jess October 14, 2010, 9:12 AM

EIGHT YEATS OLD??? SERIOUSLY?? No one on here can tell me that breastfeeding a child after their teeth have come in can actually be “beneficial” for the child. The child is physiologically ready for SOLIDS. These comments about women breastfeeding kids who can talk are sick and selfish. Truly disgusting.

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