How late is too late for breast feeding? featured an article on breast feeding to the age of six today. I think we’ve discussed stuff like this before, but not too recently so I figured I’d start another thread.

This writer found breast feeding that late to be creepy.

I agree it’s definitely unusual. Some of the comments suggest that it could be abusive, though, or at the very least create weird boundary issues/not allow the child to mature on its own.

To me, it seems at some point a kid needs to know how to comfort itself/fall asleep on its own. There’s nothing wrong with getting comfort from mom and dad but at some point it seems like it could go too far. I don’t think breast feeding for comfort at say, age two, is all that bizarre, but at six it kind of is…

Also, this writer points out that many women who do breast feed to ages four, five, or six, do so in developing nations where they don’t have access to things like clean water. Is it a valid argument to say that because we don’t absolutely have to breast feed that we should try to wean kids off breast milk faster? I’m still torn on that.

To me it should stop around the time that the kid realizes running around naked is not really appropriate and when boys and girls start identifying themselves as a boy or a girl.

IMO Ann Sinnott is doing this for her own benefit and not that of the children. Does she have evidence that breast feeding till age 8 is better than not doing it? I doubt it as much as she says there is not evidence of the reverse.

We do know that the vast majority of people in our society are not breast fed till age 8+ and most are fine (or at least not messed up specifically because mommy did not breast feed them to a late age).

The article states: “They also claim it’s really about taking cues from the kids, letting them decide when they’re ready to wean.”

IMHO this is the crux of the issue. Kids aren’t in charge, parents are - end of argument.

Yeah; I thought the rule of thumb was to breastfeed until they can walk up to you and ask for it, haha!

Yeah, letting a kid or a baby make his or her own decisions is definitely not always the best thing to do.

At my son’s 6 month checkup his doctor said “Ok, he’s a big boy now. He has to start sleeping through the night. He’s not going to like it but doing whatever he likes is not the best thing for him. Move his crib out of your room, put a radio on in your room so you can sleep, put a bottle of water in his crib in case he gets thirsty, and let him figure it out.” It was tough. We really, really wanted to go comfort him, but we stuck to our guns. The first night he cried bloody murder for about 3 hours. The next night maybe 2 hours. An hour for a couple more nights. Within a week he was conking out as soon as we laid him down. He turned a year last week and he hasn’t woken up in the night since that first week after he turned 6 months. It was a little dose of tough love that has been hugely beneficial to all of us. We have friends with similar aged kids who didn’t follow this advice and neither the baby or the parents ever get a good night’s sleep, and it’s causing all sorts of problems for every party involved.

If for no other reason, a kid who breast feeds until they’re playing little league is going to have some huge social adjustment issues, and in my amateur opinion very likely some mother/woman issues.

I personally find it a little squicky, but here’s the thing. As all of us who are parents know, there’s nothing strangers like better than telling you how to raise your kid. And since my attitude to them was they should fuck off, I’m not going to ascribe any moral or scientific weight to my own personal biases.


Regarding Cisco’s anecdote, we never let any of our three kids “cry it out” for a single night, and they’ve all been great sleepers, no problems to speak of.

As for this breastfeeding issue, I like Whack-a-Mole’s cutoff of when the child is old enough to be able to tell the difference between girls/boys and develop a sense of modesty.

I’ve heard many people say that if they can ask for it, they’re too old for it, which IMO is ridiculous. First of all, very young infants can “ask for it” nonverbally, and even if you only count verbal requests, toddlers under a year can start using words, and I don’t think any reasonable person thinks that it’s weird or gross to be nursing a baby under the age of 1.

My mom, who had me at 16, at least partially breastfed me until I was 2 years old.

I wanted to breastfeed Josie until she was a year old at least, with no real exit plan after that, even though I pretty much hated breastfeeding the entire time I did it. I wasn’t doing it for my own comfort or convenience, I was doing it because of the health and psychological benefits to her. She had other ideas, and pretty much decided one day when she was about three weeks short of her first birthday that she wasn’t going to nurse anymore, and that was that. I continued to offer the breast, and she would take it for about a minute, then bite down hard, pull off, and grin. After about a week of that, I kept a bottle as backup, because I knew she couldn’t be getting enough (and my pumping supply was rapidly diminishing from its near-nothing levels to nothing at all), and she would bite almost immediately, knowing she was going to get the bottle. She was just done with it. I was actually a little bit conflicted, because I hated breastfeeding so much, but I REALLY wanted to make that one year mark and fell just a bit short.

But had she wanted to, I’d still be breastfeeding her, and I’d probably do it until she was old enough to be potty-trained if she wanted to. Before then, she’s still more baby than kid.

I know a few mothers who weaned very gradually and continued occasional “comfort nursing” until the child was at least 5.

Doesn’t seem to have resulted in any problems. A doctor friend of mine told me of a late-weaner he knows whose preschooler son was a very precocious skier; apparently it was kind of bizarre to see the kid come whipping down a slope by himself and then glide on over to his mother and say “Mommy, nurse”. :smiley:

Seriously, I think what matters most here is whether the child is being allowed to develop out of infancy naturally in other respects, like eating solid foods and learning to socialize with other kids and all the rest of that early childhood stuff.

Yeah sure, if you’re actively trying to hold back your child in a kind of perpetual pseudo-infancy because you like having a helpless baby better than having a shrieky toddler or boisterous preschooler, that’s a problem. But if you’re just giving your toddler, or even your preschooler, an occasional comforting suckle during the pre-bedtime cuddle in the rocking chair, I have a hard time seeing how that’s necessarily squicky or maladjusted or damaging in any way.

Breastfeeding until eight!? For reference, I got my first period at 9, and by 10 I wore a 32B.

Children with breasts should not breastfeed. I’m going with that as my minimum standard.

There was a British doc awhile back, I’m guessing BBC? about this. Someone here will remember it - if only for the line when one of the kids says breast milk is “better than mango.” I could be misremembering, but I think one of those kids breastfed until she was 12.

Amen and amen.

I’m conflicted on this.

I certainly agree in a broad way but to me it leaves too much leeway. Which is to say it sounds like you are saying there is no line where you think it is appropriate to object because it is not your place to object because they are not your kids. Their kids, let them do as they please.

Granted there is a big gray area here but is there nowhere you stand up and call bullshit when you see it?

Only true child abuse, as it is defined in the law. Breastfeeding past the “normal” age doesn’t come close.

Granted illegal child abuse tips over the line easily. It’s illegal afterall.

That said I think you can cross a line that is not actually illegal but still messed up.

I wouldn’t call the cops if I saw someone breastfeeding a 3rd grader. I probably wouldn’t even say anything. But I don’t think I would be physically capable of concealing the fact that it weirded me out.

I think the Slate writer makes a good point about the time in a child’s development where they come to realize breasts are considered erotic. Of course it’s different for each kid and there’s no lightening moment where it suddenly strikes them that boobies are not only for feeing purposes, but it seems to me that if the period of breastfeeding starts to overlap with the child’s realization of the existence of sexuality per se (which I imagine hits a lot earlier than the advent of puberty and their discovery of their own sexuality), it could potentially give the kid issues.

Breastfeeding of an older child was a theme in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. Once the townspeople found out, the child was tagged as a bit of a freak, and the mother very much so.

It seems to me that if nothing else, socialization of the child would put an end to the practice. A child old enough to care about what his or her peers think would likely be mortified to have them learn that he or she was still breastfeeding.

Even if you think the mother is doing it for her own psychological enjoyment rather than for the kid? If someone is using her kid due to her own issues, that’s not exactly parenting at that point, is it? Arguably it starts to shade off into exploitation.

I remember seeing an (immigrant) woman on the Montreal subway (Metro) who quieted down he kid by breasfeeding him - the kid had to be about 4 or 5.

I also was visiting a friend one time, many years ago, when his little daughter started acting rambunctious and reaching for mommy. She wasn’t articulate yet, but it was obvious what she wanted and mom took her into the other room. The girl was about turning 2, I didn’t see anything wrong with that except that sooner or later that sort of scene would start to happen in more public places. I guess if you’re not embarrassed or don’t care then keep going for it…

I think I’ll go with “breastfeeding after their old enough to remember it as an adult” is past the line. I think I can remember things from when I was about 4 or 5 yo. When they start to bite is a good time to think about stopping.