Is it possible to breastfeed too long?

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    My friend visited this weekend and expressed surprise that I am still breastfeeding my 9mo. I was surprised because she has 16 nieces and nephews and is an IM intern, so I’d think she’d realize that breastfeeding a 9mo is completely normal. Anyway, we got to talking and she expressed distaste about a woman who breastfed a 2.5yo. I have no problem with breastfeeding a 2.5yo, though I don’t think I’d want to do it. But then another friend pointed us to this youtube video about a woman who breastfed one child until 5, and is still breastfeeding the other at 7: I tried really hard not to judge while watching, but I just couldn’t help myself – it seemed extremely weird, if not wrong.

    I don’t want to start anything inflammatory. I think we can all agree that breastfeeding is a wonderful thing (which is not to say that women who don’t breastfeed are not equally wonderful mothers). But I’m interested in people’s opinions – is there an age limit? When is your child too old to breastfeed?


    Pregnant, but not a mom yet, but I have plans to breastfeed until at least six months, but preferably a year. Although, I will be in rotations then, and it will likely be through pumping that that breastmilk gets to my baby – so really – not actual breastfeeding anymore then.

    The Academy recommends doing it as long as it is mutually desired between the mom and child, which seems open-ended; however, my grandmother’s best friend’s daughter still breastfeeds her kids, who are around 7 and 9, and my grandmother’s BF thinks it is creepy. To the point that my grandmother was telling me about it after a visit to her where it came up in conversation. I’m sure everyone has an opinion, though. That’s just mine (I agree with my grandmother).


    I think more than about 2 starts to cross the line into creepy territory. 7 is just weird. Can you imagine if this kid’s school peers heard this? It’s one thing if you live in a village in AFrica and this is the only food available, but in the US breastmilk is just not a main nutrient past toddlerhood. In my totally off -the-cuff unresearched opinion. 🙂


    Teeth + nipples = HELL NO!!!!!!


    [quote=southernmd] I will be in rotations then, and it will likely be through pumping that that breastmilk gets to my baby – so really – not actual breastfeeding anymore then. [/quote]
    Southern, you might be surprised. Some women find that when they are weaning they can still nurse once or twice a day and not have to pump at work, at least for the last month or two. I found this to be true with my daughter–we were weaning, but I was still able to nurse her at night that last month during my surgery rotation. However it’s not true across the board; some women dry up pretty quick.

    Not to get off tangent or anything….


    I don’t know how old is “too old,” but my daughter agrees with the woman’s daughter: breastmilk is the most delicious thing in the whole world. She remembers that and talks about it occasionally, even though it has been many years since she has had any.


    My children nursed after they started sprouting teeth and it was never an issue. They all self-weaned at around 10 months.

    Baby EinsteinBaby Einstein

    [quote=pathdr2b]Teeth + nipples = HELL NO!!!!!! [/quote]

    Mine got teeth at 3 months so it would have been early weaning. They did bite a couple of times. That ended the feeding, no matter how hungry they were. They didn’t do it again.


    I guess it depends on what you mean when you say possible to breastfeed too long. From the mother’s perspective? From the child’s? From personal experience, my mom breastfed me until I was 3 years old. I’m pretty sure I don’t have any long-lasting psychological damage from this(!) although I do have vague, early-childhood memories of breastfeeding. These memories don’t weird me out though, in the same way that memories of me running around naked in the neighborhood as a 3 year old don’t weird me out. Maybe it would be different if I were much older. It doesn’t bother me at all, actually, that I was breastfed for so long. But, I would probably not want to do this with my kids (maybe breastfeed for a year?)

    On the up-side, I have 2 siblings who both stopped breastfeeding before they were 1 year olds because they both discovered and preferred bottles. Of the three of us, I am the only one who does not have any allergies (both of them have pretty bad hayfever.) Who knows if this is related, but I’ve heard that long breastfeeding can decrease the incidence of allergies later on in children.

    Also, breastfeeding definitely decreases the mother’s risk of breast cancer later in life (according to my professor), and the longer the breastfeeding the lower risk of breast cancer later on.

    I guess at the end of the day it’s up to the mom and the kid!


    I just watched the above youtube video. I agree that this is a little strange. I think toddlers and young kids are one thing, but school-aged children are different. Personally, I think my cut-off for weird breast feeding is around age 4-5!

    SW to MDSW to MD

    My kids were all breastfed until the 8-10 month range, when it just simply became too much with work/school/etc. I will be breastfeeding this one as well, hopefully closer to the 10 month mark.

    I have to say, my kids got teeth later (6 mos), and that was another reason we stopped in the 8-10 month range. Ouch!

    My seven year old came home upset because a classmate told him that the place he had chosen for his birthday party was for babies. This is not the first time I have heard of some of the cruelness that is already going on in 1st grade- I can’t imagine the things children would say to a classmate who was breastfed at the age of seven.

    At the end of the day, it is up to the mother and child. I would definitely wean by 12-18 months, but that is my personal choice.


    Of course it’s up to mom and baby (or child, as the case may be). Also, teeth aren’t really a factor for a lot of people – just because they have teeth doesn’t mean they bite. I know the AAP recommends at least one year, and further as long as both mom and baby desire, but I just wonder if at some point there are social/developmental/psychological consequences. Freud would certainly have a field day with this one.


    I don’t have kids, but a funny story about this one!

    I have a good friend with four children, and all were breastfed until it was comfortable to wean them, or they weaned themselves (usually between 1-2 years). She knew the fourth was her last, however, and was having trouble weaning him. I knew this, but when I stayed a weekend at her house so she could get away with her husband she assured me that he was weaned now. She told me he typically woke up halfway through the night, at which point she’d bring him into bed with her and he’d go right back to sleep. He was three.

    “Now” maybe meant for a day, because when he woke up in the middle of the night and I carried him into the room he immediately wanted to nurse. I told him no repeatedly. A three-year-old, however, has a decent amount of strength and dexterity… yeah, he got plopped over on the other side of my husband so his sneaky little hands would stop pulling at my shirt. I don’t think in his half-awake stupor he even realized that I wasn’t the right person… or maybe he thought all women had milk.

    In hindsight it’s funny… I don’t know what I’ll do as a mother. As a non-mother it’s a little strange when a kid walks up to his mom and asks her if he can nurse, but maybe mine will do that, so I try not to judge. 😉


    My mother breastfed me until I self-weaned at 3 1/2. She weaned my brother at 4 1/2. I don’t think I’ve been psychologically damaged by the experience… 😛 In fact, I think it’s had little bearing on my relationship with her. We aren’t very close (for reasons pertaining to events in my teens) and I’ve always been an exceptionally independent person. I do remember breastfeeding and remember her stroking my face as I fell asleep. I still love having my face stroked gently as a calming technique.

    I intend to breastfeed for at least a year, longer if it works out that way.

    My personal opinion… 3 or 4 seems reasonable. Obviously, I’m in the minority. I’m not sure there are significant benefits (health or emotional) to breastfeeding a 7y/o. At that age, verbal communication and bonding seems more developmentally appropriate. I doubt it’s harmful, though.


    The more I think about all of this, the more I realize that the bias against breastfeeding older children is completely cultural. Sure, prehistorically women may not have breastfed so long because it was time to move onto the next child (I’m basing this on absolutely nothing, to be completely honest!). But surely no physical harm can come from prolonged breastfeeding. So the only problem becomes one of cultural and societal expectations. Just like many people in our society are (sadly) turned off of breastfeeding in general because of the sexualization of breasts, most of us think breastfeeding older children is weird or even wrong.

    Of course, just because something is cultural doesn’t make it unimportant. After all, we all have to survive in the context of our society. So social ramifications are important, and I think that’s really my only concern. Bottom line – it’s up to mom and baby!

    I’m still wrapping my head around all of this, but it’s proving to be a very interesting discussion 🙂

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