Extended Breastfeeding- End of the Month HOT TOPIC

extended breastfeeding

One of the first things I did after becoming pregnant was sign up on www.whattoexpect.com (based on the best-selling book, What to Expect When You Are Expecting).

After you create a screen name, you are directed to your “home board,” a group of expectant mothers who are due around the same month. The purpose of the board is to ask questions and offer support throughout the ups and downs of pregnancy and motherhood.

Now, don’t get me wrong, all of the moms on the August 2013 board are lovely and helpful; however, all of the same “mommy” topics can get a little monotonous. If you want something a little more stimulating to read, head over to the Hot Topics board.

The Hot Topics Board celebrates the “good, old fashioned debate” with topics that range from gun control and immigration laws to whether or not it’s okay to spank your child. It’s a fairly diverse group of people that are brought together because they are either trying to get pregnant, are pregnant, have a baby or are just a weirdo who likes to frequent parenting websites for no apparent reason. Whatever the case, it’s a great board to read when you are straining to keep your eyes open while up nursing in the middle of the night.

I thought it would be fun to introduce a hot topic at the end of each month to “spice” things up on The Good Mama blog. This will be a test run…

Extended Breastfeeding

When W was just a newborn, I was frequently asked whether or not I was breastfeeding. I was almost always met with support and praise when I answered, yes. 

I remember thinking to myself at the hospital,

I wonder what they would have said if I answered no? Probably just nodded and given me a judging look. 

I’m not going to lie. It felt pretty good being the recipient of so many “pats on the back.” I definitely soaked it up.

Yet, as W’s first birthday rapidly approaches I have noticed a change in many people’s tunes.

All of a sudden the “good for you’s” have become “wait, you’re still doing that?”

It is considered extended breastfeeding when the mother continues to breastfeed her child after the age of 1. Here are some arguments against extended breastfeeding that I recently have come across…

  • Breast milk is no longer needed after 12 months.
    • That may be true, but it certainly isn’t going to hurt the child. What’s the big difference between 11 months and 12 months anyway? It’s not like my milk magically loses all of it’s nutrients at 11:46 PM on August 4th. In fact, breast milk is great for “filling in the gaps” if your child is sick or not eating a variety of healthy solid food. The World Health Organization actually recommends breastfeeding until 2 (www.who.int)
  • It gets “weird” when the baby can “ask” for it. 
    • Some babies talk early. Do they have to stop breastfeeding just because they are early talkers? W has been using the “milk” sign for awhile now. I think the only person making it “weird” is the person saying it’s “weird.”
  • Once the baby is a year old, it’s only for the mother 
    • Breastfeeding is definitely a source of comfort and bonding between a mother and her child (though W likes to practice his gymnastics while nursing). I don’t really see anything wrong with that fact. W also sucks his thumb. I’m not going to abruptly cut him off once he hits one just because he technically doesn’t need it anymore.

For me, I am fairly laid-back when it comes to most things. We followed W’s lead when it came to solids (check out my previous post on Baby Led Weaning), so I don’t think breast-feeding should be any different. I’d rather follow his lead. I know I may hit a point where I think,

Ah! I just want my body back! 

If/When that time comes, I will really focus on weaning. Until then, we’ll just play it by ear.

Check out some more information!

  • KellyMom has a lot of great information on extended breastfeeding.
  • It took A LOT of digging, but I finally found one article at www.livestrong.com that listed the cons of extended breast-feeding. I find it interesting that all of the “cons” listed are actually disadvantages for the mother, not the child.


Okay, readers. Now, it’s your turn! What do you think of extended breastfeeding? Should there be a “cut-off” age? If so, what age do you think that should be and why? Happy debating!


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  • Ann Marie says:

    I breast-fed beyond a year. No regrets. The girls weaned by about 14 months, “baby-directed ” is the new term? My son was cut off at 18 months when I became pregnant with his sister. The Ob-gyn said it wasn’t safe to the fetus to breast-feed during pregnancy. Sadly, he wasn’t ready to quit, though he turned out ok.

    • Ann Marie- I would say he turned out great! All of your kids are just the nicest and all around good people. I wonder what they recommend now? I know some people do tandem nursing with two kids. I’m not sure how that works. I’m sure I’ll be done nursing by the time number two comes. I guess we’ll see though! Everything’s “baby led” now!

  • MaryKay says:

    Well I did extended breastfeeding too as only you weaned at 12 months. I weaned T (and by that I mean I flew back to PA from Michigan where it took all 7 of my brothers and sisters to distract him whenever he yelled “open your shirt and take off your bra!”) when I found out I was pregnant. T was the only hard one to wean though and he turned out ok. I don’t remember thinking 18 months was unusual. However, I just saw that Game of Thrones where we meet Lyssa Arryn and her son and judging by my reaction to them, I definitely MUST think that at some point, the child is just too old haha.

  • MaryKay says:

    Oh, W looks adorable in that picture. That smile, that dimple and that skin all add up to angel.

  • I breastfeed past a year…I really don’t see the big deal. I love the bond I have with my kids because of it. I get a lot of weird looks and questions for sure though…definitely a hot topic

  • Cristi G says:

    I’m still waiting for my son to want to wean and he’ll be 3 in six weeks! I’m ready for him to be done but he doesn’t seem to agree with me and the only way I can see at this point to wean him is for me to go off on vacation by myself for a week or so! An intriguing plan, I know, but sadly not realistic!

  • Sandra says:

    Ok I guess I will be the first. I don’t know if I think it is “weird” but that is the only word that comes up. I do agree that it’s ridiculous to say that at 12 months, magically they don’t need breast milk any more than at 11 months. I get that there has to be a guide and they have to be firm with it because you will end up with people who push that number one way or the other (thinking specifically of people who start kids on milk before 12 months…so if doctors said we could switch at 11 or 10 months and 10 months was the absolute earliest, then of course there would be those that started at 8 or 9 months saying “What’s the harm?”). I say this because I just recently thought that to myself: “Well, maybe I just switch to milk at 11 months because formula is very expensive and what difference does a month really make? Who came up with this number?” Now, my baby is going to be 4 months soon and I have been weaning her since last week because I go back to work on the 11th. Personally, I am not at all interested in pumping on top of the fact that in the teaching profession (in my experience) it’s nearly impossible. There are just too few breaks and too much to do. Every “break” is a working break. There is no time to sit around twiddling my thumbs while a machine goes to town on me. I won’t do it. Now, in the past, I thought that once this kind of thing was decided, it meant good bye breast milk. But, I recently learned that (supposedly) I can wean for the work hours and still nurse in the evenings. I didn’t initially plan for that info and I still don’t know whether I will attempt it. I do need my body back. And, it’s about time for Papa Bear to start taking up some of the slack. He actually feels baby is afraid of him-probably because they did very little bonding in the first 2-3 months as she was constantly hanging off my frontside. I guess I find it weird because it just isn’t needed anymore. I agree that it doesn’t hurt, but I also agree it’s more for the mother, maybe even for bragging rights (not to say that applies to anyone here). My 6 year old still fits in a crib and when we set it up for the baby, she took a few naps in it. So, because she likes it and because she fits in it, is that a good argument for allowing a 6 year old to remain in a crib? There are just phases of life that children move to because it’s part of growing up. I think getting away from mama is one of these things. Yes, you can choose to extend those phases or cut them short as you see fit. But, Tricia, as a teacher, you know that it would be pretty bad if a child enters kindergarten having accidents, right? (yes, this is an extreme example, but just an example). This is a developmental phase that kids usually go through by age 3, give or take. So, at 4, this should be done with. I see it as no different with breastfeeding. It’s “just time” to move on.

    • Sandra- thanks so much for your comment! I was hoping to get a different perspective. I see what you’re saying that there are different stages for everything and you can’t stay a baby forever. Although, I don’t see 12 months, 18months or even 2 as weird. At what age do you feel it gets “weird” or time to move on?

  • Melissa says:

    I agree with some of what Sandra said! I weened Jane at about 12 months. I felt good about having stuck to exclusively breast feeding for 5 months and supplemental breast feeding until 12 months. By that time I was ready to be able to leave her for more than a few hours at a time(she would never take a bottle, we tried). I agree that it won’t hurt the child to breast feed longer, and in some situations, where a child is prone to illness or not getting sufficient nutrition through solid food it makes sense to extend the time breast feeding. However, I agree that at some point it is just “time” to be done. If you’re being honest with yourself and you think it’s best for the child – taking yourself out of the equation (of course we like the snuggles!) – then breast feed away. But I don’t think the fact that your child cries because you say no is a definite sign that it’s not time to cut him off. And just because something doesn’t hurt your child physically doesn’t necessarily mean you should keep doing it. It seems like it’s good, developmentally, to get your child to eat proper meals and spend time with other children/family without needing mommy there all the time. And to learn to be independant and not reliant on mommy to soothe every woe – Daddy is a great comforter too, and a little self soothing won’t hurt now and then. In my non-medically trained, western-society-brainwashed opinion, that is.

  • Melissa says:

    I don’t know that there is a set age where it definitively is cut off time. For some reason when Jane started walking and playing more independently it seemed like the right time, and after I started cutting out feedings she seemed to go along with only a little resistance. So for her, it was the right time. The first few nights I said no to night time feedings were rough but ultimately sleeping through the night has done us both good!

  • The whole label of extended breastfeeding really eludes me. I breastfed my daughter past a year, it wan’t extended breastfeeding, it was breastfeeding! It’s likely I’ll breastfeed our new arrival past a year but who knows. Human milk is designed for our young offspring. It’s marketing images of tots in growing up milk adverts that suggest we should do something else other than breastfeed other wise your child will not be a well rounded sporty genius! Cow’s milk is meant for baby cows, cow’s eat at best grass. How can it be beneficial for a baby or toddler. We have it in our diet because it’s cheap and easy to farm, no other particular reason. As long as Mum and baby/infant are happy breastfeed your little one is what I say!

    • Zena- Thanks for comment! I don’t really like the label either (don’t really like labels in general). Honestly, I wasn’t even sure at what age was considered “extended” until I looked it up. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with cow’s milk. I’m a bit sensitive to it and W was sensitive to it in the beginning when I was breastfeeding (I cut out dairy and soy). He has since grown out of it, but I think I may talk to my pediatrician about other options besides cow’s milk if needed.

  • Good topic. I can’t say there should be a cut off for breastfeeding; its on a casy by case basis of what the baby needs. As an adoptee, I was never breastfed so I think to each her own.

  • Diana Zee says:

    Hi I have been asking myself the same question. I have reached that point where I want my body back. I was going to write about this on my blog this month. I guess great minds think alike 🙂 I would have to agree with playing it by ear and doing what feels right for you. Good post, I love all the comments!

  • I love your candid approach to Ext. breastfeeding. Some of your points made me laugh a little! I’m on nurslling #4 and he is 11 months. I have NEVER weaned a child earlier then 20-21 mths which included tandem feeding babies 17 1/2 mths. apart. People weird out about things they do not understand. I have heard the comment that “it crosses a line and becomes a sexual thing after the baby turns 2.” Totally weird but whatever they choose to believe. I will be sharing my stories this month on my blog. Thanks for sharing your post on the LATCH ON LINK UP!

  • Thanks for linking up to the Latch on & Link up Linky! 🙂

    I breastfed all three of my kiddos and they self weened. I think studies have proven breastmilk is a superiour food. Just like processed foods are not as nurtitious as fresh foods.

    However, that doesn’t mean someone can not be a smart, strong, healthy individual eating processed foods. There’s a place for everything and in a perfect world all mothers would have access to breastmilk. The container it’s delivered in doesn’t matter (breast/bottle).

    I also believe a happy momma cuddling a bottle & formula fed babe is better than a depressed, angry no interacting or holding beyond feeding breastfeeding mom.


  • Lisa says:

    Love the debate-potential in this topic! It’ll be interesting to see how it goes over on the discussion board.

    I was lucky enough to be able to BF all my kids. Some I weaned earlier than a year because I went back to work and just couldn’t express (manually or with the help of a machine). I continued to BF in the evening and very early morning which suited munchkins and mama and then it just seemed to stop naturally – they were more interested in porridge.

    For my youngest I was able to BF her until she was 1 when she started at daycare. I still BF in the evening and early morning as it’s convenient and suits the both of us (she’s just over 1yo).

    I think ‘extended’ is a culturally (and possibly ethnically) centric term. I suspect it’s a notion that is more likely to exist in societies where there’s some taboo about the natural functions of a body – where boobs are more comfortably seen as being for erotic pleasure not feeding a baby. I think in many places it’s such a mundane topic it just wouldn’t be on anyone’s radar as discussion-worthy.

    • Lisa- Thanks for your comment. I definitely think “extended breastfeeding” is more of a big deal in the US as opposed to other countries. It’s interesting that different topics are more “debatable” in different parts of the world.

  • Diana Zee says:

    I’m baaack….I just wanted to let you know that I nomited you for the Liebster Award. You can find more info on my blog http://parentingmeltdowns.com/the-liebster-award-2/ Have a great day!

  • I breastfed both my kids well past a year. I wrote an article about this too and how society critiques you for not breastfeeding but also if you breastfeed past a year. Weird is subjective. People often view things as weird simply because it is not something their family does.
    Melissa Matters recently posted…How to Make Going Back to School Pain-FreeMy Profile

  • Lauren Tamm says:

    I did wean my son before one year, mainly because he wanted to wean and did not seem interested in continuing to nurse. He really didn’t blink and eye and seemed to happily accept the bottle and sippy cup when I offered it to him. Despite the fact that I stopped before one year, I am very pro long term breastfeeding! And I think moms should go as long as it is mutually beneficial to the mother and the child. Kids all around the world are breastfeed well beyond the age of 3. I do think the US is due for a cultural shift when it comes to breastfeeding long term.

  • Just because something is different than your norm doesn’t make it weird.I think its amusing the people who call it weird clearly don’t understand what breastfeeding past one is. Just because a toddler breastfeeds doesn’t mean they can’t be without their mom for a few hours, or even overnight. It doesn’t mean they aren’t eating full meals or socializing with other children. It just means they still breastfeed, and how much or how often is different for every family.
    I breastfed my 2 year old until he self weaned at 15 months because I was pregnant, and I was heartbroken we didn’t make it to the TWO YEARS old that the WHO and AAP recommend. I am currently nursing my 8 month old, and will continue to do so until he decides he is done.
    If you chose to breastfeed 5 years or never, that is your business. I don’t judge others for how they feed their babies, don’t judge me for how (or how long) I feed mine.
    miranda papandreou recently posted…Mama May iMy Profile

    • Miranda- Thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you. I am hopeful though that people are starting to realize that breastfeeding past one isn’t so different and weird after all. I just recently weaned my son at almost 15 months. He’s just so into table food. I was a little sad about it, but then he bit me so hard that it hurt for a day after. haha I guess he knew what he wanted! I think every mom needs to decide what’s best for her family and child.

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