How old is too old?

R - posted on 01/24/2012 ( 34 moms have responded )

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I have followed various threads on here about breastfeeding and how to wean, but nothing I have tried so far has been effective. My son is now 2 1/2 and still insists on "booba" at night and when he's tired or upset. I was getting alot of pressure from the inlaws that he should be fully weaned by now (I've pretty much just stopped discussing it), and now my husband is also giving me grief about it. My question to the group is... how old is too old? Should I just stop all breastfeeding cold-turkey, or continue to let my son nurse on demand until ... when?

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Celeste - posted on 01/24/2012

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Too old is up to you and your child, no one else. Not your inlaws, not anyone else. The World Health Organization suggests "two *OR* beyond".



If you feel that you are done, then it's OK to be done. But, I wouldn't do it cold turkey.



Or, if you want to continue, continue! There are still a ton of benefits and no, your child will not be 10 and still wanting to nurse. That's just silly.



You can nurse on demand if you want but you can place limits.





And, putting on my moderator hat..Please do not insult (as in saying things like "creepy" and "gross") mothers who choose to nurse older babies/toddlers/preschoolers.. And same goes for moms who choose not to nurse into toddlerhod :) Play nice.

Amy - posted on 01/24/2012

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Really Antonia??



RD you should do what you feel comfortable with, if you're ready to wean then start putting limits on where and when. If you don't mind continuing the go ahead and continue. My husband occassionally asks when I'm going to stop bf'ing my 22 month old but then sees how she freaks out when I tell her she has to wait. I have just started putting limits to keep her from wanting to feed all the time, I'll feed her and tell her I'm all done till nap time. She understands and won't even ask till it's that time. As far as family I also don't discuss it, what we do is none of their business as far as I'm concerned they raised their kids and now I'm raising mine!

Michelle - posted on 01/26/2012

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Okay, here goes...

My son, who is 4 and a half, just weaned, kind of. When he was around 3, he basically nursed in the morning and at night in bed...and when he was sick. about a year ago, he went down to just nursing to go to bed. ONE time a day. Some people did ask if he was weaned yet and I honestly said that he was still nursing, but it was only once a day and it was for that bed-time comfort. In the last 8 months or so, he would sometimes skip a night as he learned (and I encouraged by NEVER offering the breast) to put himself to sleep without nursing. about 3 months ago, he started going longer bouts before wanting to nurse. then, it was once a week...well by that time, I had dried up and since he's only been nursing on one breast for the past 2+ years...he didn't have much choice. When he realized that I didn't have anything left to give him, he got upset and there were a couple consecutive nights that he cried and wanted it. I let him try, but when he didn't get anything, he finally gave up. Now he still occasionally wants it, but here is the thing. He's NEVER had a blanket, pacifier, stuffed toy, that he couldn't live without. I've been his comfort. Sometimes, that would bug me...but to be honest..I'm his mom. I KNEW that he wouldn't still be nursing at age 10...so I let him decide when he was ready and it was less stressful for both of us.

SO, my point...you wean when it is right for both of you and the pressure from others? It's NOT THEIR PLACE!!!

But just know that you don't HAVE to wean because they are 2, or 3, or 4, or even 5....they all eventually wean when it is best for them.

Nicole - posted on 01/25/2012

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I am all for child-led weaning and believe that when he is done he will let you know....If you are comfortable still nursing,then keep going...if not,slowly wean by gradually taking away 1 feeding at a time....I breastfed all my babies....DS1 went 9 months, DS2 went 22 months, DD1 went 34 months and DD2 is still currently doing it at 8 months old.....All 3 of my older kids self-weaned and I plan on letting DD2 do so also....Do whatever is best for you and your child and forget everybody else....

Merry - posted on 01/25/2012

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My son is about the same age, I will let him wean whenever he feels ready!

My inlaws and sister and the general public can give it a rest and I'm just going to do what I know is best for him.



Too old is IMO somewhere between 5-7 years old.

But then again I've never had a kid that age nursing so I can't say for sure but I definetly think 3-4 is perfectly wonderful"



Ignore the nay sayers and do what your son needs

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34 Comments

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Merry - posted on 02/12/2012

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Babies are supposed to nurse at minimum 2 years so you are doing the best possible rit now!

Don't let any idiot make you cut your baby short on what he deserves.

Randi - posted on 02/11/2012

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When I weaned my daughter off of breastfeeding I felt kind of pressured by people around me. It made me much more sensitive when it came down to breastfeeding my daughter. I almost felt like I was doing something wrong by breastfeeding my daughter. She was a year when at the time I stopped breastfeeding her. But at the same token she had bit my nipple 3 times in one feeding and that let me know we were done.



I do agree you are the only one who knows what is best for your child and you will do what you feel comfortable doing.

Don't let anyone tell you different. There are times i miss that one on one time with my daughter.

I don't know if I helped any but I sure hope I did.

Holley - posted on 02/08/2012

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your body knows and your heart knows. just think about in other countries they do it tell they absolutely cant! sometimes the child is 5, but thats what they believe and thats cool with me!

Lauren - posted on 02/06/2012

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I can imagin a little of what your going through my little boy isn't even one and I seemed to be getting a lot of his getting to old. He's not even a year old. Luckly he is pretty much weaned now. Good luck with everything I know it's hard but your his mom not them!

[deleted account]

RD,

I don't really have any new advice, just support because I'm in almost the same situation! Except pressure from the inlaws, I don't discuss the issue with them. My husband used to say I should breastfeed until the kid is 7 because of all the benefits to the child, but now after 2 1/2 years he's wishing my breasts weren't sore so papa could play, lol. Sorry TMI!

Sooner or later all children will self wean, even if you nurse on demand because sooner or later they outgrow the need to nurse. If you want to try to speed up the process I suggest the "don't offer, don't refuse" idea. I've noticed that when I spend more time with my son playing what he wants to play that he requests to nurse less.

If that doesn't work putting limits on when you'll nurse should help. For us anytime that involves sleeping has always involved nursing, so those have been my targets for cutting back. For naps, it's not even an option. I still BF before bed, but have been night weaning. I've tried 2x in the past to night wean, this time it's actually sticking though because he's finally sleeping well enough that even if he wakes a little I can usually comfort him by rubbing his back and he goes back to sleep pretty easy.

Every child is different though. Since Joel was born people have given me a hard time that he didn't sleep well at night, but now he does. Kids have their own timing. I don't think there is a magical age that a child needs to be weaned by.

A big incentive I have is that I'd like someone else to be able to put Joel to bed at night, and for him to be okay with out me for a weekend by May. In May I'll be taking some night classes and won't always be available for bed time. Also in May is my 5 year wedding anniversary, and I want to go away for a weekend...it'll be our first time since baby was born.

I'm actively, but gradually weaning my boy in order to achieve these goals. I do not recommend cold turkey, I think it would be traumatic for the child and hard for you. If you do that mehtod...one trick I've heard of moms using is to tell a child the "booba's" are sick and put lemon juice or apple cider vinegar on the nipples so that if they try nursing they will taste the sore taste and not want to nurse.

When you are ready to wean, Sage tea is supposed to be good for drying up milk supply. ALso, sudafed. Just ans FYI.

For any other breastfeeding info, I always turn to www.kellymom.com It's got a lot of info about extended breastfeeding (past 1 year) and weaning. Best wishes!

Ella - posted on 02/06/2012

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I think if your son is just "using you as a pacifier" that is ok, my nearly 3yr old is still nursing and there is definitely a massive comfort element to it but that is one of the most important parts of breastfeeding, 2-3 is a massive time for physical and mental development and can be acing using time for them, the comfort it has provided my son has eased it for him and who could argue with that being a mothers job? On top of that it has been proved that breastfeeding continues to provide important benefits for the immune system and brain growth for as long as children have it, with no upper age limit discovered so far. I heard somewhere that children lose the ability to latch at about the same time they develop a mature immune system, around 7. I think with modern medicine there is no need to go that far unless you really want to but it does show that nature intended us to go a lot further than 1 or 2! Personally I like the fact that it reminds me that my son is still part baby and still needs me to nurture him and not expect too much of him yet, I know that with love and patience he will be fully independent when he is ready. Good luck with your journey! Xx

Vanessa - posted on 02/05/2012

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I have really enjoyed reading the previous responses regarding the post. I am currently breast feeding my 1 year old. I have to say that I am quite proud of myself and my little guy for being able to nurse successfully this long. In the beginning, actually before he was born I was really nervous and to an extent somewhat weirded out by the idea of breast feeding. Well, that quickly changed. From the very first time, my son and I shared that first feeding bond in the hospital, it was such an incredible feeling knowing I was nurturing this baby. Even after a very painful C- section and recovery, I got up for every feeding, and was determined. So, here we are one year later, and are still successfully nursing. Most of my friends stopped at a year or before, but no one to go beyond. I hear comments from time to time from friends/ family saying "Isn't he too big to do that?" It bothers me, but I know as a mother I am doing the absolute best for my baby. And maybe some of the ones giving the hard time only wished they could have done what I am.

I kept thinking that I needed to quit soon being that he turned 1-but Im not. He will let me know when it's time to wean.. This bond that breast feeding has created between my son and I is amazing... A mother knows what her child needs ;)

Sorry for the long response-but thank you for reading.

Karen - posted on 02/05/2012

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I have 4 children all of whom nursed/are nursing. My first nursed until she was 4 and I was giving birth to my 3rd. My second weaned himself at 2.5, my third weaned at 5 and my 4th is now 3 1/2 and is no where near ready to wean. I never force my kids to wean. Most kids will wean worldwide by the age of 5-5.5 I wouldn't worry about it until/unless it is not acceptable for you or for your child. That's when I think. But, I don't get into the sexualized view of breasts that the US has and some people judge nursing by. Breasts were made to nourish babies/children and so I believe you should feel free to nurse as long as you both are ok with it.

Kelsey - posted on 02/03/2012

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my mom breastfeed my sister till she was 3.5! it was only at night time never during the day it should be watever u are comfortable with

[deleted account]

My girls will be taller than me by the time they hit 11, so yeah.... 12?! I'll judge that one. ;)

Helen - posted on 02/03/2012

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I breast fed my last daughter until she was 3 1/2 and only stopped because I was going overseas without my children 6 months later and needed her to be used to settling without me. My in-laws and husband also used to say things to me about stopping, but I enjoyed it and so did my daughter so I really thought it was none of their business.

You should breast feed for as long as you feel comfortable with it.

Michelle - posted on 01/31/2012

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My little girl is 3 at the end of the month, and she still wants her "bit of boob" every morning, when she upset , tired or unwell. I did try hard to wean her off a few months ago and cut it back to morning only but it has gradually worked back up again. I also have no end of comments from friends and in laws , so I have stopped discussing it . She also has the sense now not to ask for it in public,, bless her. But I figure , it comforts her when she need it , and it is only doing her good , no harm. She hates cows milk, cheese and almost all dairy products so I do worry when she stops altogether she will lack essentials. I think as long as she is happy and I'm happy ... Why not!!

Merry - posted on 01/31/2012

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Yeah I'd say nursing a 12 year old would be something I'd never do. Lol 3 - fine, I can see that easily. 5- maybe, hard to imagine but I'm open minded 7- likely not but I couldn't judge. But 12 I think there's no way I'd continue :) that's past puberty in some cases

Veronica - posted on 01/31/2012

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well there is a sign in Italy on a restraunt window that says "No breastfeeding children over 12 in the restraunt" so i think 12 is too old lmao. but honestly probably after 2 would be the cut off for me

Lyndsey - posted on 01/30/2012

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Advice given to me by a PhD psychologist and a breast surgeon-

Babies should be nursed until they go to school. Not kidding.

I weaned one son at 2 1/2 because I was pregnant and my body stopped making milk. He was sucking so hard trying to get some milk! It took 2 nights of telling him "no, milk is all gone" all night, and he stopped nursing without too much fuss (I never thought he could be weaned, a very difficult baby/toddler). At some point he asked me to nurse again (after new baby came). I let him for a minute and he decided he likes sippy cups better!

Stephanie - posted on 01/30/2012

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I have a 2 1/2 year old as well and I stopped nursing some time ago. It was a personal choice and my son is perfectly fine. When you stop is up to you.



From your post it seems like your son is using you as a pacifier. I don't mean any offense. I am just trying to say that if you are ready to stop then now would be the time. But do it slowly. Stopping cold turkey will just stress you both out. You could try finding another way to comfort your son without offering to let him nurse. It will have to be something that fits his personality while still giving him reassurance that everything is okay.

Michelle - posted on 01/27/2012

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I have the same issue although we have cut it out during the day and when she goes down to bed but she still wakes up during the night for it and im having trouble with that because working and looking after her and my partner (hes like a 2 year old sometimes) is exhausting and he wont help me because hes tired blah blah blah, maybe put him on a schedule and dont let him have his fill of breastmilk try to get him to have something else first, my daughter wouldnt take bottle so I warmed cows milk (shes coming up on 2 years old) put a little bit of sugar and vanilla essence and usually she'll have most of that, I feel your pain about your partner and inlaws telling you he needs to ween I get the same thing,

[deleted account]

2.5 is definitely not too old to nurse. ♥



I started setting limits on my son around a year and a half... and we night weaned a bit after 2. He was still nursing 1-5 times/day when we had to 'cold turkey wean' at 3.25 cuz he went to his father's house for 4 weeks. He still asked to nurse almost every day for about 6 weeks after he got home....



Even now (he'll be 4 in 2 months) he will occasionally try to act like he's nursing and his 'big' thing is sniffing my cheek or something and telling me that I still smell like 'baboo'. ♥ lol



I KNOW he was not ready to wean, but our circumstances pretty much forced the issue... I was ready (for the most part) shortly after he turned 3 though... otherwise I probably would've pumped for him while he was gone for those 4 weeks, so that he would still have something to return to.

Tine - posted on 01/27/2012

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My experience is that kids grow out of the need all by themselves, when they are ready, and it's not uncommon for the need to ease right off at about age 3-ish. I tend to think that this is because 2 is an age of great emotional and physical change, upheaval and frustration, and they really need the comfort of breastfeeding through this.



Children do have a very strong emotional and physical need to suck for comfort as well as sustenance, and going cold turkey would create a totally unecessary amount of stress for you and your son. I really suggest you avoid doing that.



I was pregnant through much of my daughter's 3rd year, so reduced her daytime breastfeeding by simply distracting and feeding her (with food!). I would never refuse her if she really needed a feed though, and this strategy worked well for us. She still has a feed here and there (sometimes not for days, she is 3 now) and have found that this has made a VAST positive difference to her ability to love and accept her baby brother.



As for the pressure, it's no-one's business but yours, and I think that just not discussing it is a great approach.



The absolute best book that I've read on this subject is 'Mothering Your Nursing Toddler' by Norma J. Bumgarner - funny name, FANTASTIC sensible helpful book!! I'd strongly suggest reading it before you do anything! :-)

Merry - posted on 01/26/2012

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Michelle your son is very very lucky to have such a wonderful mom :)

Amy - posted on 01/26/2012

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As a few other people have said, remember it's not a case of two extremes - either complete weaning, or being available 24/7. My 2.5 year old was perfectly capable of accepting that day time feeds (or out and about) were over, and we were certainly not gonna feed sitting on the train or in a cafe. (I was happy to do this till she was quite old in many people's eyes.) However, on a lazy rainy day at home, or in the evening just before bed time, she still had breastfeeds most of the time. Now, I'm nearly 5 months pregnant, and she has personally taken on the idea that the milk is a baby thing, she's a 'big girl' (she recently moved to a 'big girl bed'), and she can sometimes have milk, but she doesn't ask for it often - only when she's in a 'baby mood'. Being pregnant, it's likely the milk has changed, and the let down reflex is slower. Also, it's harder to sit on my lap, and I think she's simply decided she's not so desperate that it's "worth the bother". I knew she was no longer desperate for milk (even though she would attach and suck) when I got dermatitis back on my nipples - I never had this while they were routinely soaked in milk!



Hope it goes well. You know your child best, but at 2.5, I'd say he's old enough, and has the language and maturity, for you to negotiate lengths and frequency of breastfeeding that suit you both.



And I found that the family members who thought breastfeeding a 2 year old was bizarre / too old / not done, simply assumed she must've weaned a long time ago, and the topic never came up. Fortunately, my mother is proud and happy of the way I make my own choices, even where they differ from what she would do, and my mother-in-law is a great supporter of following the child's lead in starting solids / weaning, so I got no opposition from the people I was most likely to leave her with throughout the day or overnight, who might hear her/us discussing milk. (Even when I was feeding her most nights, my husband or her grandparents could settle her with books/lullabies/water / maybe cow's milk in a cup if requested, with no problems!)



Hope all that helps! Basically, just follow what seems best according to your instincts and your son's needs!

[deleted account]

I have my own views on how old is "too old" to breastfeed, but those are my own views and unless asked, I keep them to myself. If you truly want to wean your child, find another comfort technique to get your son to settle down. I, too, have had issues with trying to wean my son during the "comfort" hours and I've found that I just have to work harder to keep up his nighttime routine (that doesn't include breastfeeding) and to use other comfort methods with him when he gets upset. I've been trying a method I'd read about (can't recall where, perhaps LLL?) that suggests to avoid using the breast close to bedtime and using your other bedtime routines to settle in your child (soft lighting/music, lullabies, reading, bath). This does help; it just takes consistency to really work. Weaning cold turkey is harsh and I don't think I've ever heard that really mentioned anywhere I've read. Even my doctor agreed with my gradual approach to weaning (leaving comfort nurses for the last to be eliminated). Good luck!



Oh.. and about meddling others: Your choice to breastfeed was a personal one and no one outside your immediate family really has a right to say anything about it. How do they know you're still breastfeeding? I agree with your choice not to discuss it with them anymore. One person's opinion to consider? Your husband's. I would talk to him about his feelings on the matter because his thoughts actually matter.

Senae - posted on 01/25/2012

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My son quit nursing on his own "cold-turkey" 2 weeks before his 2nd birthday. It was no gradual process like I'd expected. He went from nursing a few times a day, at bedtime and even some in the night since we co-sleep to telling me my milk was "eeeeeew, yucky!" one night on vacation in Florida and never nursed again. The only thing I can think of is that I had eaten salmon that evening for dinner, and being typically vegetarian, I hadn't eaten salmon since he'd been born. I guess it made my milk change flavors?? He never wanted to try it again, nevermind that I was engorged! ;) I had been praying for a gentle weaning process and that my son would wean soon without feeling rejected, because I was feeling done. If YOU feel done, you could try that or asparagus. :) My friend nursed her son til his 4th birthday, and that may be too old for some people's comfort level, but I didn't think anything of it. Your question is "How old is too old?" I would say you have to be the one to decide that. But if I had to just blurt out a number . . . to ME, I would say 4 is too old, but that is my "opinion". And if you were nursing your 4 year old, I would respect that. 2 1/2 is definitely not too old!!! It's still so good for them and for you.

Didi - posted on 01/25/2012

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It sounds like you have a lot of opinions being thrown at you! The two that should matter most are yours and your nurslings. Are you happy with your nursing relationship?

Melanie - posted on 01/24/2012

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It should be up to you. There is nothing wrong with nursing him still. Dd 1 weaned just short of her 2nd bday. Ds2 weaned after his 3rd bday. And it was because I made him. I'm still nursing dd2 and intend to continue. For now at least. Hope that helps some.

Ania - posted on 01/24/2012

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Antonia....sorry, but your comment is extremely ignorant. What are you doing in this group with sorry to say...backward views like that?

Ania - posted on 01/24/2012

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Do you want to stop? If yes than just refuse...every time he asks you and try to distract him. It should work during the day. At night might be tougher but also possible to do. Comfort him with your voice and touch...

Antonia - posted on 01/24/2012

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i think you should hold off on the breastfeeding cause you dont want him to be at the age of ten and still cuming home for boobas.

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