How Old is Too Old?

When I wrote about my experience at my son’s Harvest Festival this year, it prompted discussions all over the Webfordshire about breastfeeding in public. Some of those discussions centred around the fact that I breastfed my daughter, who was almost three at the time. This post isn’t about what has been said about that, but about feeding toddlers in general, because it all got me thinking.

I fed Bean until he chose to stop at around two and a half. It never occurred to me to stop before then. He was down to a feed first thing in the morning and at bedtime by that point, and had reduced his feeds dramatically when he began nursery when I went back to work. I stopped working outside the home before Plum was born and so she has always been with me, and has never shown any inclination to stop so far. When I was pregnant with PK, she continued to feed, although she stopped for about a week right at the end of the pregnancy because she didn’t like the taste.  When she came to see me and PK in hospital after he was born, she asked for some milk, and climbed up on my bed (very carefully – I’d had a CS!) to get some. It was clear she had missed it.

When PK had all his issues feeding in the first few weeks due to his posterior tongue tie, Plum kept my supply going so that PK could have the chance to breastfeed after this tongue tie was released. And she fed often during the first few months after PK arrived – more perhaps than she had in the 6 months before he arrived. I’ve no doubt that it was one of the ways in which she reassured herself that she was not being ousted by the new baby. These days she likes to have milk when she first gets up, and will often, but not always have some before bed. Most days she will have some once (sometimes twice) during the day. PK’s first birthday was just before Christmas, and he has made it clear that he has no intention of giving up his milk.

It’s never really occurred to me before that I am practising “extended breastfeeding” – I’m just breastfeeding. PK in particular still seems like such a little soul that I can’t imagine trying to wean him off my milk. Plum would also be distraught to be told she could no longer have it – she finds comfort in it. I’ve no doubt that the time will come, in the not-too-distant-future, when she decides she no longer needs it, and that will be fine.

And so on to the real purpose of this post – how do you feel about older babies and toddlers nursing in public?  The law, of course (in England at least), is clear that breastfeeding any age child is protected, so I’m not asking about that. I now realise that some people who are more than happy to see young babies fed in public are not keen on seeing toddlers nursing. I know there are mothers who will nurse their babies but not their toddlers (even if those toddlers are still nursing) in public.

At some point during the last year, I felt uncomfortable feeding Plum in public and would tell her no, she couldn’t have any milk until we got home. This would always upset her, and I began to wonder why I was refusing. I realised that I was saying no because I wondered what other people would think. I realised that I felt I was being unfair to her, to deny her the comfort she wanted, that has always been available to her. It’s not as though she makes a scene when she feeds; in fact she’s very capable of feeding and protecting my modesty at the same time. And so I stopped saying no to feeding her in public, if I was able to.

And so I wonder, what do you think about toddlers nursing in public? Are you for, against, or indifferent?

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5 comments on “How Old is Too Old?

  1. I am still breastfeeding my 2 year old daughter, I don’t feed her in public very often as usually she’s more interested in whatever’s going on around her but sometimes she is insistent!! Funnily enough I didn’t breastfeed in public until she was around 8 months old because I felt so awkward about it and worried about exposing myself or people making comments. So I’ve only ever nursed an older baby or toddler in public – and I’ve actually never had a comment. I hope to be able to keep going until my daughter decides she’s ready to stop, and I think as she gets older I will feel more self-conscious about nursing in public but seeing as she’ll try to get into my top if I say no I’ll get embarrassed one way or another so may as well feed her!!

  2. So far, Ted is the longest I’ve breastfed (he was 2 1/2, Anna is 18 months and still breastfed) and towards the end I did find it difficult to feed in public. I’ve mostly avoided negative comments, though.

  3. I nursed my daughter until she was 18 months old, then weaned her to take meds for my arthritis that I wasn’t prepared to take whilst nursing her, and at that point was in a lot of pain, so needed them. She was down to once a day, at bedtime, so it wasn’t traumatic.
    My son weaned himself at 27 months. I think my personal limit was 2.5-3 years, so his self weaning worked well for us. Personally, I have no issue with toddlers nursing in public, I see 3 year old’s with bottles and dummies (ahem, my son still has his dummy, it’s a huge comfort thing, my dentist would like ti gone by aged 4, we will slowly wean him off it) and with comforters, I see nursing as a comfort and if it works for mum and baba then it’s their business. I know someone who nursed until 6 years, through Facebook, that was beyond my comfort limit, but again, they aren’t my kids. Other cultures do wean at much older and don’t bat an eyelid at toddlers nursing in public, I think the Western culture has got such a thing about boobs and making babies grow up too fast personally that breastfeeding a toddler is seen as weird, when actually it isn’t. Just my thoughts! 🙂

  4. I fed mine 12 months each and then decided to let my third go as long as he wanted. At around 14 months he was pulling my shirt off me in public! He was such a monkey I had to cut him off except at home. It was still rough stopping and he still does it occassionally. I love the bonding so much I hated to give it up.

  5. My daughter is 14 months and she is the longest I have breastfed. My son weaned around 11-12 months and wasn’t exclusively breastfed to begin with. While I personally don’t want to be nursing my daughter when she’s two, I think that it’s awesome that there are women out there that do so.

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