A 2012 Time magazine cover of a mom breastfeeding her preschooler sparked controversy. Lines were drawn in the sand about how old was “too old” to breastfeed and fierce debates were had. While most babies are initially breastfed in the United States, only 35% are still being breastfed at three months. The average age to wean worldwide is 4 and a half years. We asked real moms who breastfed past the US “norm” to share their experiences.
Nursing past twelve months
“I’m still nursing my son at 13 months. His immune system needs the extra help. I’ve met opposition from both sides of the family who don’t agree and his daycare isn’t very helpful, although they say they are supportive. It was actually me pushing and arguing for his rights. America really has it confused compared to most countries who breastfeed for much longer.”
“I didn’t think I was that far ‘past the norm,’ but if the average weaning age in the US is three months, the sixteen months I nursed my youngest was way past that. I didn’t receive any rude comments, though, thankfully. However, my in-laws never really supported breastfeeding in general. I personally didn’t like breastfeeding much toward the end. I wanted to wean sooner, but I waited until the time was right and the least stressful on my son before I fully weaned him.”
“I breastfed my first daughter until she was two and my second until she was three years and two months. The worst critics are immediate family members.”
Breastfeeding in the preschool years
“I breastfed for four years and nine months and I am not ashamed of it. My daughter had many medical issues and I did what was best for both her and I. She is now a well adjusted 13-year-old. I really never got judged because by the time she was around three, she was only feeding at night or when she was hurt or sick, so no one really knew.”
“I nursed five kids for a total of thirteen combined years so past the norm indeed. The shortest nursing time was two years and the longest was five years (though mostly only when my child was sick or hurt). I didn’t care what anyone said, but people shared their unsolicited opinions. My lifestyle let me do it, so that’s another important factor.”
While it would be nice if we could support other mothers even if they have different values than us, this is one of those topics people tend to have strong opinions on – even if they are without children or even breasts. Have you experienced judgment about nursing your baby?