Why I’m Still Breastfeeding My 2-Year-Old

Why I’m Still Breastfeeding My 2-Year-Old

One mom talks about why extended breastfeeding works for her family.

By: Leah Maxwell

When I was pregnant, everyone wanted to know if I was going to breastfeed. My answer was always a cautiously optimistic, “Well, I’m at least going to try.” There are so many factors that determine whether breastfeeding can be successful in any individual situation that I wanted to be realistic. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn’t. All I could commit to was giving it my best shot.

Fast-forward to six years later, and I’ve breastfed my two children for a grand total of 46 months. Adding it up (that’s almost four whole years!), I can hardly believe it myself. Some might call it heroic, others might say it’s insane, but to me it’s just what worked for us. And that’s the same reason I’m still breastfeeding my youngest, who turned 2 a few months ago.

I’m secure in my decision to breastfeed my kids for as long as I have, but even typing that out where the whole world can read it gives me some anxiety because I know not everyone thinks breastfeeding a 2-year-old is normal. “Isn’t he too big for that by now?” people ask. Aren’t I worried I’m going to give him “mommy issues”? Is this more about my needs than his? In the United States, the prevailing cultural attitude is that breastfeeding is for infants only and that extending it beyond the first year veers into the categories of “gross,” “unnatural,” “codependent,” and even psychologically damaging to the child. Before I had kids, my own (uneducated) philosophy was that breastfeeding became “weird” once the baby got old enough to ask for it using actual words. Needless to say, I changed my mind.

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It’s nice that the experts are on my side too. The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months, followed by breastfeeding complimented with other foods until at least 1 year (the WHO recommends 2 years). According to the second edition of the AAP’s New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding (updated July 10, 2014), mothers are advised to nurse “beyond the first year for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.” The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) quotes research that says, “It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between 2 and 7 years.” Seven years! Take that, American cultural norms.

Now, it’s helpful to be able to whip out all that science if ever -- whenever -- I need to defend myself against naysayers, but in the end, it all comes down to one thing: It’s no one’s choice but my own. And it’s no one’s business but my own. It doesn’t matter whether I’m doing it for reasons of health and nutrition, comfort and security, emotional bonding, or even because I want to make a political statement. (Truth: I mostly do it so I can stay in bed an extra 15 minutes in the morning.) What matters is that it works for me and my family, and the moment breastfeeding stops working for us is the moment I’ll stop breastfeeding. It makes perfect sense.

What’s your take on extended breastfeeding?

Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/JoseGirarte

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It's so encouraging to read something like this. I'm a mother of four and of those four my last is my daughter. She is 32 months old, healthy and very independent. I had always set the age of two as my "cut of" date assuming she would be ready. That was February. Ha! I admit some days it's hard to nurse 5-7 times while tending to three other children but to see how her heart breaks when I ask her to wait.. I know we will continue as long as SHE needs.

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