Extreme Breastfeeding – How long is too long?

Coming up on Friday’s 20/20 will be a discussion of what most people call Extended Breastfeeding. ABC is referring to it as Extreme Breastfeeding. How long is too long?

Everyone has a different comfort level with breastfeeding. Prior to becoming a mom, I thought that one year was enough. Once I became pregnant myself and started reading up on it, I thought “one year, possibly two”. I was lucky enough enough to have many positive influences in my life – including many friends who breastfed for two years or longer. I am currently breastfeeding my toddler and have now surpassed any of my previous limits for breastfeeding.

I’d like to hear from you.

    How many of you are nursing toddlers?
    How long did you nurse for?
    How did your child wean, did they self-wean, did you encourage weaning?
    For those of you who haven’t nursed a toddler, but have nursed a baby – I’d like to hear from you too. How do you feel about nursing beyond the one year mark?

A good friend of mine, when she had her second baby, told me that she wished she hadn’t given in to societal pressures to stop nursing at age one. Does anyone else feel that way?

Please let us know your thoughts on extended breastfeeding in general and ABC’s portrayal of it on Friday night. Here is a link where you can see a preview of the show.

36 comments to Extreme Breastfeeding – How long is too long?

  • I nursed my daughter until she was 27 months. At that time I was more than half way through my pregnancy with my son and I cut her off because it was hurting so much that I would cry while nursing her. I fully expected her to want to nurse again after the baby came and I would have let her and probably would have welcomed it but she never asked. It has been almost a year and I still miss nursing her. She was so easy to comfort when I was still nursing. I am already dreading when my son weans because I know he is my last and I can’t believe I will never breastfeeed another baby. I will let him go as long as he needs to so I know he is ready.

    Amy

  • Annie Moon

    I’ll be interested to check out this 20/20 episode. I think my hubby would agree with their title of “Extreme Breastfeeding.” I never knew anyone who nursed beyond a year, so I thought that’s what I would do, but I didn’t realize how little babies still are at a year…sooo little. My daughter (who turns 3 today!) is *almost* weaned. She nursed pretty steadily till age 2 and is now once a day nurser. So I am a tandem nursing mom, which is something I never could have imagined that I would be. My second daughter is 7 months old, so I imagine I’ll be nursing for a few more years here.

  • Deena Blumenfeld

    Owen and I nursed for 2 1/2 years. I wasn’t planning on nursing him that long, but it worked for us so we stuck with it. He got a cold, didn’t nurse for 5 days, so I told him that was that. It was a bittersweet moment, but he never asked again.

    With baby #2, I will nurse her till she self weans as well.

    Nursing is a personal choice. I am a strong advocate for many reasons. However, I understand that there are moms who either can’t nurse or choose not to nurse. I have to respect that decision.

    Extended BF doesn’t work for many women because they go back to work. It’s very hard to nurse, even periodically, with pumping, if you work full time. That mom needs to be super dedicated.

  • Mommy News

    Hi Deena,
    Thanks for your comment! I know pumping and working can be difficult! I pumped and worked with my son until he was 15 months and it wasn’t easy, but it was totally worth it. I actually wrote an article to help other new moms. It was published by the Expectant Mother’s Guide. Here is a link: http://www.pumpingtips.com. I can’t wait to see how 20/20 portrays this whole extended nursing thing. I wonder if they interviewed more than one family? One thing I have learned by having this business and speaking with so many nursing moms – is that there are a LOT of women out there nursing older children, they just keep it quiet.

  • Joy

    I nursed until 19 months. It was the right time for us. Nursing was beginning to interfere with a good night’s sleep for all of us as DS would wake up and demand to nurse. He wasn’t interested during the day or even to get to sleep earlier in the night. He really weaned himself, except for this one late-night/early-morning. As long as he got a snuggle, the nursing wasn’t really necessary. Now at 2yr,7m, he still has this one early-morning snuggle need, but we all sleep better now overall.

  • I am currently nursing my second daughter (aged 22 months) at least three times a day. It doesn’t feel like ‘extended’ breastfeeding — it’s just as natural as anything. And, given her severe allergies which eliminate most of the normal sources of protein and fats, it’s an easy way to ensure she’s getting her full nutrition.

    I nursed my first daughter until she was 16 months, four months before I gave birth to her sister. I finally weaned her because she was just so heavy on the bump, but now I really regret it. Not only because I better realise now how important breastfeeding can be, but also because *immediately* after I weaned her, she came down with a horrific cold, which she passed onto me, and my body protected the fetus and left me to on my own without any meds, and it eventually moved into my ears, blew holes in both my ear drums, and my hearing has never been quite the same since. I know that if I’d been breastfeeding her, that cold would never have gotten such a hold of her (and thus, me). Ah yes… I do regret weaning her!!!

  • I work, and my DS is 11 months and we are still going strong. He has had only breastmilk, water and solids. I have always said I would BF “at least a year,” but now I plan to go at least partway through a year. I’d like to think we’ll go into his 3rd year, if it’s still working then. DH says he thinks it will be weird for him by the time DS is 2. I feel the societal pressures. My brother, who is childless, already expressed how he thinks it would be weird “if he is walking and stuff” that I would continue breastfeeding. My personality will likely push me to be a “closeted” breastfeeder, as the clip noted. I look forward to the show tonight.

  • I’m not sure if this will be on tonight now or not. There was also supposed to be a segment on about the video Orgasmic Birth that is being pulled due to the controversy in Illinois. Not sure if this story is being pulled as well or not. The new date for the Orgasmic Birth story is January 2nd.

    Amy

  • My son is 10 months old now. I am in a sense actually angry with myself. I had all intentions of exclusively nursing him until he was 12 months but the last few weeks we’ve allowed him some organic apple juice, organic crackers/snacks. They are not meals but when we are eating I felt so bad him looking at all of us. He does tend to play with them more then eat but it has allowed me to go get my hair colored and cut!
    He still nurses often and its his main source- I’d love to nurse him till he’s at least 24 months. I’m just taking it one day at a time now. My oldest only nursed for 6 weeks and my second son nursed until he was 8 months so I feel like I’m doing pretty well right now.

  • Ruth N.

    My first baby I nursed only to 9 months, because I was pregnant, and nursing gave me contractions. I wish I could have done it over again and actually tried to stick with it. Oh well. My second I nursed until 14 months, when he decided to go cold turkey. That was emotionally difficult for me! After that I thought I’d like to try breastfeeding a baby until 2yo, but I haven’t quite made it yet. My third weaned at 16 months, and then my 4th weaned at 20 months. My fifth is currently 6 months, so we shall see! I am hoping she will breastfeed longer, but I do leave it up to the child (except for my first), and every child’s needs are different. To me, “extreme” breastfeeding is breastfeeding past pre-school age. Two-year-olds, and many three-year-olds are still just babies, so treating them accordingly is certainly no big deal to me. They love the closeness with mommy.
    Just my 2 cents.

  • Lindsey

    I nursed my first until he was 31 months old. He was somewhat encouraged to wean but he was skipping days between feedings anyway so he was on the verge of self-weaning. I am currently nursing my 15 mo and I hope to go at least that long.

    Oh, and I am a full-time working mom. I am still pumping during the day and pumped for my first until he was about 14 months.

  • Mommy News

    Well it appears that ABC and 20/20 did not feature anything in last night’s show about breastfeeding. I have been searching their website for a reference as to when the show will be featured and I can’t find anything except a broken link. We can still continue our own conversation here, even without having the 20/20 special to talk about. I’m looking forward to hearing more great stories!

  • I wish I had seen this before 20/20 was on. That would have been interesting. My son is 16 months and is still nursing. I am amazed by how many people are weirded out by that. He only nurses 1-2 times a day now so it is not in public, but i get strange looks when I tell people that I am still nursing him. That bugs me. There is nothing weird about it IMO. Anyway, I am not weaning him yet. We will just see how it all shakes out I guess!

  • Mommy News

    Hi Abby, Thanks for your comment. I don’t think 20/20 aired the segment, so hopefully we will all get to see it someday. It is great that you are still nursing your son! I found with my son that I got more comments from people between 12 and 18 months than after he was 2 years.

  • I’m really upset that once again 20/20 did not air this. There has been talk for a LONG time about a 20/20 segment on breastfeeding. It makes me wonder HOW controversial is the segment that they still continue to push it back.

    I subscribed to your feed- Can you please let us know if you find anything out about the segment? Thanks so much!

  • Mommy News

    Hi Alaina,

    Thanks for your comment. I am upset as well that this segment was canceled. They were also going to do a segment on orgasmic birth and that has been rescheduled for January, but the extended (or extreme as they call it) breastfeeding segment has just disappeared off their site completely. I did send an email to the producers, but have yet to get a response. Perhaps if everyone sends in an email asking for the segment to be aired, we will get a response! If you haven’t already – please send an email to 20/20 using this link: http://abcnews.go.com/Site/page?id=3271346&cat=20/20 – maybe we will get the show aired after all!! — Judy

  • Kristin

    Hello! I just discovered this website via Facebook today. I read through the posts and wanted to share my experiences as well. My daughter was born 5 weeks early and we pumped until she was released from the NICU. After that we continued BF and pumping but after a while she only wanted to BF. I weaned her right about 15 months becuase she still thought it was necessary to nurse every 2-4 hours hungry or not, just for the comfort factor. Shortly after that I became pregnant with my son and he is still nursing at 20 months, I’ve tried weaning him a few times but he always ends up getting a sick and we go right back to nursing 3-4 times a day because he so inconsolable when sick. Personally I’d like to be done nursing but since he isn’t ready I guess we’ll just keep on going for now. I find it ironic that there are so many women have such a hard time continuing to nurse and I can’t seem to stop. Best wishes to all those who make the effort to nurse for even a short time, no choice is easy and nursing isn’t for everyone.

  • Mommy News

    Thanks for your comment Kristin! It is great that you are following your son’s cues. You are right, nursing isn’t always easy and even a little bit of nursing is better than no nursing at all. Both you and your baby benefit from every drop! — Judy

  • I nursed my first daughter (now age 10) for about 18mo. She self weaned. My second daughter who is now 4 I nursed for about 28mo. She nursed through the whole pregnancy of daughter number three and then tandem nursed for awhile after the birth. Daughter number three just finished nursing about 2mo ago, so about 30 months. Its funny to think I nursed for about 5 years straight. When we were done I didn’t know what to do with myself. All of the girls self weaned.

  • I’m still nursing my 2 1/2 year old (he’ll be 3 in April). And I don’t just mean at night. Anytime he’s upset or tired (like say his brother stole his toy), he comes up to mommy and want to nurse. He literally pulls up my shirt, yanks my breast out of my bra (not easy because I’m not wearing nursing bras anymore), and start sucking. Most of the time it’s just for a minute or two, just to calm himself down. But, it’s definitely self-help!

    Sometimes he seems to just want to play with them, touch them or squeeze them together. He even makes comments like “two boobies mommy” or “big boob-olas mommy” (am I giving you too much information here??) It seems like I should say no, but he’s still my little baby, and he just wants a little comfort…

    Is “almost 3″ too old?

  • Mommy News

    Hi Diane, Thanks for commenting! I obviously don’t think being 3 is too old, since my son is over 3 ;). I am glad that he calls my breasts “nursies” though – it saves us many embarrassing moments! LOL. Although he has been known to ask me where my “nipples” are – one of those words I wish I never taught him! Thanks for sharing! At age 2, my son nursed roughly 4 times per day where as now at 3.5 he is nursing once or twice every other day. — Judy

  • Jessica Kvislen

    My daughter will be two on January 24th and we are still going strong. She also knows, “nipple” (nip-pull! she says) and boob (which she will jokingly self-correct to breast… kind of an inside joke, I guess between us as I hate “boob” and she’ll say it to tease me). She will loudly ask to nurse sometimes… I do still nurse in public fairly often, and plan to allow her to self wean whenever she is ready, with no real encouragement from me. I’m sure I might encourage a little if she were, say, six, but for now I am very happy to be still nursing. I think nursing a toddler is a fantastic way to bridge the gap between their growing need for independece and their need to still sometimes be your “baby.” I know there are many times that Ellie will now roll her eyes at me and say, “angry!” and then ask to nurse and it will help us to work through whatever is bothering her, whether it be a limit (like not getting to have more candy when she wants more) or something she’s trying to do but is frustrated with.

  • Rebecca

    My twins were breastfeed until 20 months (not exclusively, I never had quite enough milk for two) and then I chose to wean them because they wanted to nurse and look around at the same time- ouch! My youngest is 22 months old now and is still nursing. I hope to let her continue as long as she wants, unfortunately, I had to start taking a new antibiotic yesterday that has little data on safety in breastfeeding. No other options. Am continuing to nurse and just watching her closely.

    On a funny note, my twins were just shy of 4 when my little girl was born. They began telling the baby (while pointing at my breasts), “See baby, this one is for milk and this one is for juice.” Had to bite my lip to keep from laughing!

  • Mommy News

    That is an adorable story about the milk vs juice, Rebecca! Thanks for sharing! — Judy

  • How fun to read everyone’s stories!!

    I got exhausted with my son sometime after his third birthday. As a single mom, having just come through a divorce from his dad, I was exhausted all the time. I gave him the choice to wean or potty train, so that I couldhave a little respite. To my surprise, he chose to wean.

    Ten years later, I started the family thing again. My daughter, now 3 1/2, still nurses, and I am happily breastfeeding her 9 month-old brother, as well. I would estimate my daughter didn’t get any significant portion of her nurtition from “real food” until she was at least two, and the baby doesn’t eat at all yet. No rush with these two, as life is more tolerable this time around. :)

  • FYI, this story is set to be on 20/20 tomorrow night (Jan. 2), unless some late-breaking big news item happens. :)

  • Mommy News

    Thanks for the update Amy. I just searched the 20/20 website and couldn’t find any mention of the show being on tomorrow, but I will watch and see if they show it. Hopefully they will. — Judy

  • I got the info from Laura Shanley (of the unassisted childbirth movement) who is appearing on the show. Also, I set my TIVO to record it and it gave the info like it’s going to be on. Here’s hoping. :)

  • Mommy News

    Hello all – did you get to see the extreme breastfeeding segment on 20/20 last night? It was disappointing to say the least. I was hoping they would show an expert or something. It seemed like the whole show was designed to make mothers look “strange.” They paired it with segments on orgasmic birth, fake baby dolls, homebirths and surrogacy. The surrogacy segment was done pretty well and the homebirth segment was good, but the rest of the show was disappointing. I’d love to hear what you all thought about it! — Judy

  • I nursed my son until he self-weaned at 2.5 years (when I was 7.5 months pregnant). My daughter is 21 months and still nursing. She will be our last child, so she won’t have to deal with a milk supply dip resulting from pregnancy like my son did, so perhaps she will nurse longer. We’ll see.

  • Currently nursing son who is approaching 25 months. He nurses 6-8 times a day, so it’s unlikely to stop anytime soon.

    “How long is too long”? Well.. Nursing after the child’s suckling reflex has disappeared would be too long. ;)

    I wrote up a detailed analysis of why the 20/20 segment on breastfeeding was dumb. Check it out. Love to hear your feedback. :)

  • Mommy News

    Sara, Your blog is excellent. Thanks for sending me a link to it. I love your analysis and I wish that you had been the person planning the outline of the show – perhaps you should contact 20/20 and tell them what a good shown would have been. Your version would definitely have been worth watching! Thanks for posting. — Judy

  • I only nursed my first child for 6 weeks. My second child weaned from the breast at 17 months and my third at 2.5 years. I am currently nursing my 16 month old and intend to continue as long as he is interested. :-)I also ranted extensively about this episode on my blog.

    My feeling is that by including BF and homebirth in this episode, 20/20 has been irresponsible. As if these choices are extreme and should be viewed as negatively as weird doll bonding, when in fact more extended breastfeeding and the midwifery model of care should be presented as choices that are likely to impact public health for the better.

  • Mommy News

    Thanks for your comment Betsy! That is me nursing my toddler (about 2 at the time – he is 3.5 now). I read your blog post as well – it was great! I agree with your assessment of the show. Thanks again for commenting here. — Judy

  • Val

    I nursed my daughter until she was almost 3…she weaned herself shortly after we got pregnant with our son (I never even thought about my milk supply going down due to the pregnancy…I just thought it was a coincidence) Our son is now 7 months and took to nursing great as well. Rebecca….your “funny note” was hillarious. Kids say the cutest things :o)

  • brian

    Thank you for all your stories. I think ots beautiful that there are mom’s who have whatever it takes to continue the nursing relationship as long as is necessary. I applaud each of you.

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