Inappropriate Breastfeeding or How Long is too Long?

I have been ruminating on this post for a while…which, of course, means that half of the things that I meant to say will get lost somewhere…and may seem somewhat disjointed…

Yes.  I am still breastfeeding my 20 month old.  No, I do not have a 'plan' for when the nursing will stop.  I didn't necessarily plan to be nursing this long, but it feels right for both me and for my baby and there isn't much of a downside.  It would seem that even my mother is somewhat concerned…

For some reason, breastfeeding has been in the news a lot lately. First there was that woman who got kicked out of a Dunkin Donuts for breastfeeding …though it seems that the problem may have been more about her choice to change her baby's dirty diaper on the table.

Lisa Belkin shared some of her 'Inappropriate Breastfeeding' file on her NY Times blog.  She shares the story of a mother who has resumed breastfeeding her 6 year old.  Does that sound strange to me? You bet.  Particularly the 'resumed' part…no, actually all of it.  At that age, it seems more about the mother's needs than about the child's…but I digress.

Mayim Bialik,a outspoken proponent of attachment parenting, recently shared on Kveller that she nurses her 2 1/2 year old 3-5 times during the day and another 4-7 times at night.  Does forgoing uninterrupted sleep for herself and her child seem strange to me?  Yup.

Our societal norms seem to be in constant flux, and no medical research has come out to say that you can harm your child by breastfeeding for 'too long.'  In fact, the World Health Organization's current recommendation is to nurse your child until they are two years of age.

While I can't imagine nursing my 4 year old, I try to suppress my knee-jerk ick, and applaud those who do.  Fellow blogger Dagmar Bleasdale shares a story on her blog about breastfeeding her then 2 1/2 year old when he was sick in an airport waiting for a delayed international flight and how the nursing helped them both pull through a horrible situation.  Could they have gotten through on ice pops and Pedialyte? Probably, but perhaps not as happily.

I'm not really coming out on either side of the extended breastfeeding debate.  I'm more fascinated that it is a debate at all.  How long do you think is too long to breastfeed a child? What is 'inappropriate breastfeeding, if there is such a thing?


10 thoughts on “Inappropriate Breastfeeding or How Long is too Long?

  1. It’s a common misconception that the WHO states you should nurse until 2. A lot of people quote that when saying that 2 is the age limit. It’s not. What the WHO actually say is they recommend to nurse to at least 2 years old and as long as mutually desired.

  2. The average age of weaning world-wide is 4 years old. Which means there are many cultures who brestfeed beyond age 4 🙂 All the benefits of human milk continue for as long as your child receives your milk. In fact, as your baby takes less human milk, these advantages are condensed into what milk is produced.

  3. That is wonderful! I nursed my second child until about 25 months, and I am so happy I did. I never thought I’d be an ‘advocate’ of extended nursing, but it’s funny how things work out.
    Also.. I’m stopping by from the blog hop. I’m a new follower & I hope you check out my blog too.

  4. I don’t really know how I feel about this. I think breastfeeding is great and you should do it until you are no longer comfortable doing it. Every mother and child are different.
    Happy New Year!!
    Fellow Blog Hopper:)

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