There are some divided opinions about the right term to use when discussing breastfeeding older babies. The expression “extended breastfeeding” is not liked by all, nor is the term “long-term or prolonged breastfeeding”. We have not yet found the ideal words to refer to breastfeeding when children are over two years old. We will not enter into this discussion today, but here we would like to talk about questions you might have about breastfeeding older children.
There are several interesting articles about the benefits of breastfeeding in older children around. But this is something else we do not like to discuss at LactApp, the benefits of breastfeeding, and even less so, to justify breastfeeding children beyond the socially accepted first months.
Having to demonstrate with scientific evidence that what mothers decide to do is good and, even worse, that it is not harmful to their children is, in our opinion, absurd.
So here we are going to clarify questions and explain situations with older children to offer information to mothers in this period or who are considering not stopping breastfeeding.
So first of all, congratulations! Only a very small percentage of mothers and babies get to breastfeed until this age.
My child keeps asking for the breast. Is this normal?
Well, of course, it is! The idea that babies ask to breastfeed less as they get older is entirely wrong. When children are a bit older and can “help themselves”, they do precisely that: they lift their mother’s shirt or put their hand down her collar to reach her breast. In addition to being able to freely access your breasts, the child now has a voice (and a loud one, too!) and can ask for the breast, shouting if necessary, just in case you didn’t get the hint when they put their hand down your shirt. After the two-year change in feeding pattern, most children continue to breastfeed many times a day. And it is not until they start preschool (or kindergarten) that they start to breastfeed less, and if they ask for it less, this is only because of the separation from their mother during those hours.
Sometimes, the child gets angry and asks for the breast in a rude manner
Yes, that happens. No one is born knowing things, and no one is born saying “please”. In addition, the breast is something that children feel belongs to them. No one asks permission to put on their own clothes, use their phone or take something out of their fridge. Well, it’s the same for the child. In time and with your example, they will ask for the breast more calmly and politely.
If the child has a tantrum, can I still breastfeed them, or will I spoil them?
Who said that breastfeeding is just for eating? The breast has multiple functions, and it is worth taking advantage of them. For example, when a two- or three-year-old has a tantrum, offering the breast can get them to calm down almost magically. Breastfeeding a child when they are in the process of finding their ego does not spoil them or mean that you’re letting them get away with everything. On the contrary, it tells them that you will always be by their side, that you will help them overcome the bad moments and that they can always depend on you, with or without the breast.
My child is already at preschool/kindergarten and continues breastfeeding. Should I tell the teacher?
It depends. There are matters that we don’t usually share with strangers because we consider them to be intimate and very personal. And breastfeeding is one of those private family matters.
When children start preschool, the facility often asks about many things, and sometimes this includes breastfeeding. What answer you give is your decision. It has happened that a child has explained at preschool that they have been breastfeeding, and the staff there, because of ignorance, told them either that they’re lying or that breastfeeding is for babies. More than one mother has had to go into that facility to set matters straight.
I don’t feel like breastfeeding in public.
As they grow up, we usually “agree” with them on the times and places when they can breastfeed. And we usually do it for us, to avoid people’s looks or comments or simply because we don’t feel like doing it all the time. This decision is agreed upon between mother and child and is part of the evolution of breastfeeding.
My paediatrician disagrees with my decision to continue breastfeeding.
A paediatrician is an expert in childhood illness. Their job is to ensure that the baby is healthy and that your habits are not potentially dangerous to their health, ensure you don’t smoke at home, keep medication in a safe place, have the right car seat, and so on.
Your paediatrician’s opinion about breastfeeding older children may differ from yours, and it is only an opinion. However, there is NO evidence (here we speak about evidence – the medical language) that maintaining breastfeeding in older children could be a risk about which they should be concerned.
My family think it’s wrong. They say it’s a bad habit.
The wider family is usually a bit of a stumbling block, and anyone who puts up with their comments deserves a prize for patience. Discussing breastfeeding is not the best idea, and arguing with them about whether or not it is a bad habit is not worth it. The best option is usually to give them a big smile, always agree with them and then do whatever you want.
Is my child going to stop breastfeeding on their own?
They certainly will! We know it may seem impossible for you now, but your child will give it up eventually. All of them stop at some point. Besides, nature has it all figured out, and the baby’s natural growth prevents them from continuing to suckle in the long run. As they grow, they lose the ability to suck because anatomical changes make sucking more difficult: the mouth gets bigger, the cheeks lose the tissue necessary to hold the nipple and the areola inside the mouth, and the epiglottis descends. This marks the stage of stopping to breastfeed. It is also worth remembering that the natural term weaning in humans has been determined between two and a half and seven years of age.
Does my milk still provide nutrients, or does it not have nutritional value anymore?
Another widespread myth is that breastfeeding does not nourish at a certain age. It is not true, breastmilk, whatever the child’s age, always provides quality nutrients and immunoglobulins that protect them. In addition, it needs to be clarified that breastfed children still get sick like all other children, and it is good that they do because this strengthens their immune systems.
Up to what age can I continue to breastfeed?
There are no limits; you can continue breastfeeding until you and your child feel like it or until one of you want to stop. There is no reason to find an ideal moment; that moment is decided by each mother-baby couple according to their individual needs and desires.
We hope we did answer some questions here, but if you have any more, we will be happy to find an answer to all of them. Download our free App, Lactapp, for Android or iPhone, where you will find a consultation channel.