Breastfeeding Older Children

16 May 2012 / 0 comments

Well we have all seen the recent news right? Breastfeeding a 3 year old

There is a little bit of mixed reaction when one mentions breastfeeding older children. Even though it is widely argued that it is the best thing for newborns and infants to do, suddenly the feeling stops when a child becomes past a certain “suitable” age in some people’s minds. How can a mother work past that and continue breastfeeding a child that is older? Are there still any real benefits to breastfeeding older children or is it simply a habit that has become too hard to break? There isn’t any right or wrong answers, simply ones that work for each individual situation.

  • Breast milk is widely argued to be the best possible thing for a newborn and an infant to drink. There are even hardcore enthusiasts that try and “push” mothers who are on the fence about breastfeeding and get them to try it. So why does the opinion suddenly change and go against breastfeeding once a child learns how to crawl or walk? Or even talk in some cases? Human perception is a funny thing.


Is there a norm?

  • Breastfeeding is accepted and normal for a little baby that is small, beautiful and helpless. However, for a 14 month old who can walk and show some independence, it isn’t the norm. Mostly, women stop breastfeeding between 4 and 6 months of age. There are some that can hold up to the process and last for the entire first year, but it turns in to a lot of work. And then there is the hidden criticism of those that do breastfeed older children.
  • People like to assume that a breast is only for a small baby. Even though the benefits of breast milk can help a child, no matter what age they are, people frown on older children going through the process. Whether it is because of their own feelings or they just hear other people’s displeasure at it, it isn’t accepted or encouraged much at an older age.
  • Women who do breastfeed older children also need to not push the boundaries of what people see or think. For example, in public, it is still respectful to cover up a nursing child with a blanket or cloth, no matter how old they are. Showing off the breasts in public isn’t liked by many, therefore cover up and don’t try to add shock value to an already hot topic.

Mom is still in charge!

  • Don’t allow the older child to dictate the process. Mom should still be in charge of when and how long the breast is offered and not the other way around. Just because a child is old enough to voice their demand for wanting the breast doesn’t mean they should be allowed to do so. Set limits for when and where and stick to them. Giving in to a fit at the mall without adequate cover would not be a good thing to experience.

If the child seems to be nursing because it is a habit, then it needs to be stopped. Just like bottles, pacifiers and sleeping with blankets, there is a time to end everything. The process could be gradual or it could occur overnight. The important part is that it needs to change in a manner that both the child and the baby/toddler or older child can accept and live with. And if it is hard for the child to learn to deal with, don’t give in and go back to the process since it will only stump your progress forward. Breastfeeding older children still has health benefits to it, but it also needs to be done in a courteous and respectful way and when it is no longer that, then it needs to end.


Written by Stefanie Prinkles

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