You aren’t STILL Breastfeeding?!

The headlines in today’s newspaper scream, “Breastfeed until school book sparks debate and divides mums “

According to the article, ‘PAEDIATRICIANS have slammed a controversial new book, ‘Beyond The Sling’ by Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik, proclaiming the benefits of breastfeeding her three-and-a-half-year-old son.”

Paediatrician Dr Scott Dunlop says most in his field would recommend breastfeeding for between six and 12 months. “There are no medical benefits. My personal feeling is that children who breastfeed for that long tend to over-identify with their mother, and so can struggle to separate,” Dr Dunlop said.

I wonder if Dr Dunlop and colleagues who share his beliefs actually know any kids who have breastfed beyond 12 months – or even six months, seeing he seems so unsupportive to breastfeeding women. In my own personal experience, the two greatest gifts we can give children are ‘roots’ and ‘wings’ – when the roots ( bonding and attachment) are secure and strong, the wings (independence ) come naturally, whether mothers are ready or not!

While it may not be everybody’s cup of tea (or drink of milk) to breastfeed beyond babyhood, I would like to explain a thing or two to those ignorant health professionals and journalists who sensationalise and create fear about what is a normal, natural, biological need for infants. I would also like to offer support to women who choose to breastfeed their babies beyond that ‘acceptable’ six or twelve months that Dr Dunlop mentions. You see, I have been there, breastfed older babies (yes, a 3 year old is still an infant – they aren’t supposed to be ‘independent’ of their mothers, just yet!). I have also copped the sort of flak that these learned men are dishing out – and some of this flak came from women as well as men.

While I was breastfeeding my own toddlers, I was told:

‘You will make him gay’ (Interestingly nobody suggested I would make my daughters gay, but it certainly made them all happy!)

‘You will be going to school to give him lunch.’ (Only if I’m on tuckshop duty)

‘He will be wanting a breast on his 21st Birthday.’ (He might, but it won’t be mine!)

‘It’s taking too much out of you.’ ( Mostly just milk)

As well as being a mum of five, I am also an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.  However, when I breastfed my first two babies, I wasn’t aware of the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding older babies and toddlers; with my first, I didn’t know anybody else who was breastfeeding beyond three months. I simply kept nursing them because it felt right. In fact, with each of our children, breastfeeding has been an integral part of my relationship with them and not just a matter of sustenance. As newborns, breastfeeding gave them a gentle beginning, and as toddlers, it soothed life’s little knocks, easing the discomfort of swollen teething gums and picking them up when they fell (or fell apart emotionally). Breastfeeding provided a quiet space in the day if they (or I) felt overwhelmed, no matter where we were. Even a few minutes ‘touching base’ at the breast seemed to nourish our toddlers at a deep, soulful level, reassuring them if they felt challenged. When he was three, my last baby told me, ‘Mummy, booby makes me feel brave when I get scared.’

Breastfeeding not only soothed my little ones but calmed me as well. Once, when our youngest was little and I was dealing less than coolly with a teenager, the youth in question looked at me with a grin and suggested, ‘Why don’t you go and feed the baby!’ I’m convinced that if prolactin could be bottled, pharmaceutical shares would skyrocket.

Although extended breastfeeding raises eyebrows in our culture, there are still many societies in the world where children are routinely breastfed until the age of four or five years or older. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding (that is, no fluids or food other than breast milk) for the first six months of life and that infants continue to be breastfed for up to two years of age and beyond. The nutritional and immunological benefits of breastfeeding last for as long as breastfeeding continues – as your baby grows, the composition of your breast milk changes to meet her growing needs. Some immune compounds in breast milk have been shown to increase at around six months (just when babies become mobile and are exposed to a greater range of germs), and as they get older and are breastfed less. In many instances, the long term protective effects of breastfeeding are related to its duration. Children breastfed for more than six months have one-third the number of middle-ear infections in the first three years of life than formula-fed babies, the incidence of allergies is reduced sevenfold, and they are also protected against bacterial meningitis in their first five years.

While the risk of a number of serious disorders (such as coeliac disease, insulin-dependent diabetes and leukaemia) increases when babies aren’t breastfed, your milk also protects your baby against childhood lymphoma, multiple sclerosis and chronic liver diseases. When you breastfeed your baby girl for at least six months, you reduce her risk of developing breast cancer later in life by 25 per cent. Mothers, too, benefit from natural term breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed for a lifetime total of two years have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. The risk among mothers who breastfeed for a total of six years or more is reduced by two-thirds, and because maternal bone density increases with each child who is nursed, breastfeeding mothers experience less osteoporosis in later life.

Because brain development is incomplete for several years, there is particular interest in the role of breast milk and children’s intelligence levels. One study in New Zealand demonstrated that children who were breastfed as babies performed better in school and scored higher on standardised maths and reading tests – and that the longer they had been breastfed, the higher they scored. Although research into the effects of extended breastfeeding on psychological development is scarce, another New Zealand study, which dealt specifically with babies nursed longer than a year, showed fewer behavioural problems in six- to eight-year-olds. According to the test results, the longer the children had been breastfed, the better they tended to behave.

So you see dear learned men, there are sound scientific reasons to keep breastfeeding if mothers and babies are happy. How long mothers continue to breastfeed is a very personal choice between mother and child.It is also about much more than ‘the milk’- nurturing through breastfeeding is not just about immunity or nutrition or intelligence, it is also about communication, comfort, and pleasure. Above all, it is about love: Breastfeeding is a physical expression of the love between a mother and child and it should be respected and supported. Perhaps next time you make headlines about how babies are fed, you could consider that only 14% of Australian babies are fully breastfed to six months as recommended by the World Health Organisation and you could offer support so that all mothers who want to breastfeed get to enjoy the experience for as long as they choose without criticism, judgment or fear of screwing up their child if they dare to make a choice that’s outside your narrow perspective.

93 Comments

  1. Marsha Says Reply

    I breastfed my daughter for 26.5 months. She then weaned herself, I didn’t have to do anything! She never had formula, ever (I am not anti-formula, but I am glad I never had to use it).
    I did not know about all those health benefits – wow!
    So glad I persisted with bfing in those first few weeks – it was very hard and bucketloads of tears were shed. All worth it in the end!

  2. Susie Perry Says Reply

    Hear hear! I breastfed my little one until he was 2.5
    Years old. He self weaned. I didn’t force the issue
    He just gradually came off himself. I would of quite
    Happily carried on. At the end of the day it’s your own
    Personal choice. To be honest who cares what the so called
    Professionals say.

  3. kirrily Says Reply

    Breastfeeding became a very emotional experience for me with both my kids. I Felt a little rejected when my babes said No more.(14 & 19 months) this was even though i had done it to myself by introducing Visa milk at 12 months.

  4. Kellie Says Reply

    42 months and he is still going strong. He shows no sign of weaning from the breast yet and is a healthy, happy , super bright little bean:))

  5. emma Says Reply

    It is impossible to explain the joy breastfeeding an older baby brings! I think of it as a friendship that can make everything better. Tantrums, teething, tears and tiredness can be eased with Booby . Funnily enough, I find long term breastfeeding is frowned upon more by other mums than anyone else. I a not in anyway a bfeeding pusher. I do not care how a child receives milk,as long as the baby and mum are happy. I wish we could adopt the Mongolian attitudes toward breastfeeding…
    My motto is….when in doubt…get them out. Haha

  6. Jaclyn Says Reply

    Yes, I am sill breastfeeding my 28 month old daughter Dr Dunlop. I think I will follow the W.H.O’s (that’s the world health organization, not who magazine) recommendations and not your own. Perhaps you haven’t been keeping abreast (pun intended) with the latest information that Pinky has cited. Best get reading, it is readily available. Keep up the good work Pinky, there are a lot of people in your corner. I have had very few negative comments re our extended bfing but I just cite the above info and that puts the ignorant in their place and also educates them.

  7. Chantelle Says Reply

    Love your work Pinky, as always!

    (Still feeding my 2.5yo)

  8. Deb Says Reply

    Even though I’m a believer in extended breastfeeding (my oldest fed until she was 3 and self-weaned; my youngest is just 2 and is still breastfeeding), I do think that some of the studies quoted in this article – especially in regards to intelligence – are some of the reasons why women who encourage breastfeeding can get a bad reputation. I myself wasn’t breastfed and I have a post-graduate University degree. Maybe, had I been breastfed, I could be a neurosurgeon or string theorist, but I doubt it. 😉 I do, however, believe in the evidence that extended breastfeeding increases bub’s immune system responses, as is evidenced by my own healthy children who seem to suffer fewer maladies than their counterparts. My own GP is supportive of my decision, despite being the only woman she’s ever known to breastfeed for this long. I believe medical professionals should be supportive of the mother’s choice and comments regarding “attachment” and the “struggle to separate” cannot possibly be determined solely by breastfeeding. There are a myriad things that make up a child’s personality and tendency towards independence. How many people have raised two children the same way but they both have different personalities? This, I believe, is the narrow-minded statement that needs to be addressed as it leads directly to mother-guilt in having created a leech rather than a child,

    • Jen Says Reply

      I know that the stuff about intelligence levels and breastfeeding feels awkward to mention, but in fact there is very very strong empirical evidence for this from large meta-analyses of breastfeeding populations. I think we underplay its importance because we worry about the guilt of those who don’t breastfeed. I don’t think I tasted a drop of breastmilk as a baby but being white and middle-class in Australia helps a lot with being educated…. oh, what I might have been…..

  9. Cassandra Says Reply

    Thank you Ponky for being an absolute convicted voice for all Mum’s by being factual and emotionally supportive. It is Mum and babies choice and everyone else should just mind their own business. I have just finished feeding my little man 24 months, and I was stunned by how many people said to me “Are you still breast feeding?” And he was only 4 months then, I have had to deal with it ever since. Why do people feel so comfortable to be judging and providing unwanted hurtful comments?

    • Cassandra Says Reply

      Apologies Pinky, my auto correct changed your name.

    • AAA Says Reply

      With a post graduate degree surely you would know how statistics and correlation work? There is a CORRELATION and between breastfeeding and intelligence so that means that looking on a population level there is a relationship between children who are breastfed and intelligence. This doesn’t mean that formula fed babies are less intelligent than breastfed babies, some will be more intelligent, some will be average and some will be less so. It is a real bug bear of mine how someone expects to discount a entire study due to their own personal experience. We all know that person that smoked a pack a day and lived until they were 95. It doesn’t mean that smoking does not cause lung cancer just because of that one person’s experience.

  10. Nerida Says Reply

    Thank you Pinky! 14 months and my daughter and I are both loving it (and thankfully most people are very supportive so far). It’s a shame that the medical profession is not more informed about breastfeeding. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this natural and beautiful function of our bodies had the same level of research and expertise surrounding it as parts of our bodies do!

  11. Julianne Says Reply

    Awesome response Pinky. Pity you’re still having to write them though. Sigh.

    • sara Says Reply

      AAAggghh! How frustrating that such ignorance emanates from the very people first time mums may be looking to for advice!!! My blood is boiling and steam coming from my ears!

      I have been feeding non-stop for almost 5 years now, moving from my older child to my younger, now 18mths. I loathe comments from people such as ‘oh I bet you can’t wait to get rid of those nursing bras…’ And curse myself for not coming back with some witty comment!

      Our babies are babies for such a short time, we should enjoy our intimacy with them while we can! All too soon they’re off to school and those snuggly days are gone forever.

      I’m energised to read the comments from other Mums who are feeding their 3 and 4+ year olds!! Great to see. Enjoy!

      • Pamela Says Reply

        If you get the nursing bra comment again, go with:
        Well these are the most comfortable bras I’ve ever worn, they look fab (mine do anyway, thank you HOTmilk), and they may help reduce my risks of developing breast cancer, so ner! (Then be very mature and poke you tongue out, lol!).

      • Adis Says Reply

        This is an awesome arlctie! I’m sharing far and wide with all the breastfeeding moms I know who are returning to work. I want to breastfeed for at least a year, so now I know what I have to do. I go back to work in July so now I know my magic number is 8 or 9.

  12. Melissa Says Reply

    Breastfed my first child till 12 months. Only stopped c Breastfed my second child till 5.5 years. Still Breastfeeding my third child at 13 months. No plans to stop for a looooong time. Breastfeeding is part of my parenting and

    • Melissa Says Reply

      Whoops! Sorry – sent on my iPhone before I’d finished. I meant to say : “Breastfed my first child till 12 months. Only stopped cos the book I was reading said it was ‘of no nutritional value’ past the first year. Between babies I researched, and discovered that was poppycock. Breastfed my second child till 5.5 years. Such a wonderful experience. Still breastfeeding my third child at 13 months. No plans to stop for a looooong time. Breastfeeding is part of my parenting and cannot be separated into ‘feeding’ and ‘nurturing’ as it is all intertwined.

  13. Jennie Says Reply

    How about everyone stop judging women and telling them what they should or shouldn’t do. Being a mother is hard work and a lot of us are juggling so much as well. I wanted to BF my lil guy for 12mths and due to health complications and stress I couldn’t even make it to a month. So now I read this and feel I’ve failed my son a little. He has Down Syndrome (although is incredibly healthy) and when I read about all the benefits I can’t help but feel guilty despite having no control over the situation. I believe in breastfeeding and if a mother wants to BF until her child is 3 then that’s her prerogative and noone else’s business. Women should stop judging women and men should keep quiet regards matters they clearly have no idea about. Btw – I don’t mean you’re judging Pinky, I’m referring to society in general.

    • Rachel L Says Reply

      Hi Jennie,

      I’m sorry to hear breastfeeding didn’t work out the way you hoped. It’s hard enough when both mum and bub are well, and it’s certainly not your fault if health problems prevented you from continuing. Your love for your son is evident – you haven’t failed him at all. Keep being a great mum. x

  14. Joanna Says Reply

    I breast fed my daughter for the first 2 years of her life and have noted that not only do we share a close relationship, she also has hardly been sick beyond the odd cold here and there. As women and mums we can be so judgemental; I had so much pressure to Not breast feed and it made others uncomfortable that I was still breast feeding her at 2. She self weaned on her own. Pinky your book completely empowered me and I now recommend it to many of my clients at my healing centre.

  15. Helena Says Reply

    Shame on any paediatrician who doesn’t support breastfeeding – what do they support – artificial formula, controlled crying, injecting toxic chemicals into babies, baby panadol? If more children were breastfed for longer, perhaps there would be less children spending time in hospital (as evidenced by the new Royal Childrens Hospital in Melbourne).

    Pinky – I think you should be teaching these paediatricians at university so they can pass on the good information to new parents.

    It’s very sad that the one thing that is as nature intended is not supported 100% by supposedly “learn-ed” doctors, it’s also sad as mentioned by Emma in the comments above, that full term breastfeeding is also not accepted by other Mums. I stopped attending my local ABA (breastfeeding association) meetings because there were comments (not directed at me) that mums who were breastfeeding toddlers (or older) might scare off new mums that were starting breastfeeding – thinking that they didn’t have it in them to bf for so long. This was perhaps the opinion of 1 or more individual members in the group, but I would have thought that the ABA meetings would be the one place to find complete acceptance.

    My son will be 4 in May and he is still happily breastfeeding. He is intelligent, sociable, funny & a little outspoken at times – he is an absolute treasure. I have to say though, I do have days where I’ve had enough, but then I trust his innate wisdom – children are more connected to it than most adults are – and we continue. I’ve also searched the internet high & low for more information about “full term” breastfeeding & it is extremely uncommon among “westerners” – I feel lonely because I don’t know anyone personally who is still breastfeeding an almost 4 year old & no-one in my family breastfed for that length of time. It’s hard in our society not to feel a little abnormal to have not weaned by this age.

    More mums like Mayim need to speak out and share their experiences to show the incredible benefits of full term breastfeeding and to show it as a normal part of conscious parenting.

    And just to let new mums know – breastfeeding looks different in a newborn (very frequent feeding) to that of a 3-4 year old. Through the eyes of a sleep deprived Mum doing many night feedings and many more daytime feeds, the thought of long term feeding may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t continue that way. The older children get, the less frequent the feeds become, and the more flexibility you gain again. My son feeds before he goes to sleep (not every night now) and when he wakes in the morning. Once we get up, the rest of the day changes day to day, sometimes once or twice, some days not at all during the day. So really, no more of a commitment than being there for your child as a mum who wasn’t still breastfeeding.

    Breastfeeding is good, it’s natural, it should be supported by every single person in our community (doctors included).

    • Rachel L Says Reply

      Thanks Helena,

      I hadn’t heard the term “full term breastfeeding” before. I like it!

      Good on you for persevering despite feeling alone. Perhaps you could go back to your local ABA group to find support from like-minded mothers. Chances are that unsupportive member may no longer be there?!

  16. Alex Says Reply

    I recently had to see a gynaecologist who is also and Obstetrician. When he heard that I “still” breastfeed my almost year old, he said: “He will NEVER want to stop. NEVER!” When I told hom I will feed him until either I or him want to stop, he laughed in my face. I just said: “well, fortunately it’s not your problem”
    I drove home fuming, though. I should have asked him what research he based this assumption on.
    My son is an amzing boy. Yes, he is very bonded to me. He is very affectionate and compassionate (mostly). He is also intelligent, inquisitive and independent – sometimes fiercly so.

    • Helen Says Reply

      That is extraordinary and should be a reportable offence!!! I’m so sorry you had to deal with such an obnoxious example of our ‘health’ care system.

    • Alex Says Reply

      Just stumbled over my own comment. I realised that the number 3 was missing from my original comment. My son was almost 3 years old when that happened. Happy to report that he’s now almost 4 and still breastfeeding. I never thought I’d feed this long. Before I had children my aim was 12 months so that I would not have to use artificial milk. I was not comfortable with the thought of feeding beyond that. I’m also not 100% comfortable with the thought of feeding a 4 year old. But I’m sure that once my son turns 4, it won’t feel any different than feeding a 3 year old.

    • Surbhi Says Reply

      Great article! My magic nuebmr would have been around 8 or 9 and by 8 months I was struggling with production no matter what I did but I was only feeding/pumping a total of 5 or 6 times. I wish I had seen that article before. So often you see others say how they can pump XX nuebmr of ounces per time or only need to pump XX times per day during a work week and I always was a little self conscious that I had to work so hard just to get close to those nuebmrs. It helps to see some validation that everyone is different and the storage capacity of a breast can vary so greatly from woman to woman, no matter the breast size.

  17. Hannah Joy Says Reply

    Great article!! I fed my eldest till he was three and my youngest is two and still happy at the breast. I even (shock horror) tandem fed them for 8 months, which I think really eased the transition to brotherhood for my eldest. I couldn’t agree more, why is anyone criticising a mother for doing her very best? And why is it anyone’s business when the relationship and choices around feeding are so personal. Happy, healthy mummies and babies should be the biggest concern for these reporters, I worry about their intentions…

  18. Angela Says Reply

    BRILLIANT reply! 🙂 I have had a bit of a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding, overcoming many difficulties along the way. My son is now 8 and a half months old and we are still going strong, I’m so glad I persisted. It’s great to read about the benefits of extended breastfeeding, it reminds me of why I’m doing this when times get tough! Thank you Pinky.

  19. Danielle Says Reply

    Hi Pinky, nicely said. I am not really sure why people even feel the need to ask “Are you STILL breastfeeding” Do we ask them – “Are you STILL eating” or something along those lines? Well done to all those mums out there breastfeeding for as long as they can manage it. The more we do it, the more normal it will become. I am breastfeeding my 22 month old as and when she likes, although I wish I didn’t feel as insecure about doing it in public as I do, the bigger she gets, the more I feel eyes upon me… but I shall press on, as the benefits are too large to worry about other peoples opinions.

  20. Kim Says Reply

    Still feeding my 27 mth old milk junkie. How else do I get him to go to sleep? lol.

    • Liz Says Reply

      Kim, I am still feeding my 17 month old and there is no other way for him to sleep. But I love it. Love the hormones.

  21. AussieAnnette Says Reply

    All six of mine were fed at least into their 2nd yr, most into their 3rd yr and 2 into their fourth and fifth yr. I didn’t ever set an upper limit but went with the flow… for my sixth child I was a single parent with 5 at home, working and studying but still found the time to suckle her when asked…. I guess the proof is in the pudding. I have been single parenting the last 15 yrs, yet so far 5 have entered tertiary education, the youngest is 16 and already in yr 12 definitely heading for Uni as well. 4 are world travellers, and all are independent young people. Whether we can credit the length of time I breastfed them, or genetics or my parenting, they certainly were not made dependent on me, or babied or any of the negatives supposedly attributed to keeping children on the breast into toddlerhood. Admittedly at 16 and 19(2nd yr engineering student) the two youngest do not want to be reminded how much they used to ‘love’ Mummy’s boobies and how vocal they were about not wanting to stop feeding 🙂 (they were almost 3 and over 4). When you look around, how many youngsters do you see with bottles and dummies, well into their childhood days. I always maintained to the neg sayers that if I have the time and inclination to sit with my child whilst they suckle, whatever their age, it can only be a good thing and surely better than having them run around with a bottle. I will also admit to a slight cringe when I see a toddler being b’fed, simply because we are as a society unused to seeing it….even though I am an advocate and have fed babies/children for nigh on 20yrs all up and all into toddlerhood. The more it becomes the norm, the healthier a society we will become, surely. That bond that comes is one of strength, not dependence, and allows those babies to fly into adulthood with the knowledge that Mum was always there for them. Well that’s my theory and it has been borne out in practice.

    • Said Says Reply

      This is so depressing, but I went DOWN a cup size after I setppod breastfeeding. 🙁 I had NO IDEA that could happen, but as I started joking around with people about my pancake boobs, I found that it’s a pretty common occurrence too. How sad. All I want is my original boobs back.

  22. Free Says Reply

    STILL breastfeeding my 3.5yo. Also feeding his baby brother.

  23. Belinda Says Reply

    Great post!!!!! Still feeding my 2 year old – I doubt I am doing anything wrong since he is so fiercely independent and literally years ahead with milestones – obviously the bf has not been detrimental at all for him!! :))) I am sure it provides our little ones a firm foundation from which they can flourish. :))

  24. Kaylene Says Reply

    I am a big believer in extended breastfeeding and I am still feeding my 20 month old twin girls with no intention of weaning until they wean themselves, they will let me know when they’re ready. If we weren’t meant to keep breastfeeding we wouldn’t keep producing milk, so it’s quite obviously what the body is meant to do. Besides, I love the times when I get to snuggle in bed with one of my girls on each breast, nestled in the crook of my arm, kiss the tops of their heads and drift off to sleep. They are little for such a short time why not enjoy it and enjoy the bonding? I probably won’t have any more children after my twins so this is the only chance I will have to experience this in my lifetime and I’m not going to give it up just because some ignorant MAN says I should. If you haven’t breastfed yourself you have no right to comment… Good work once again Pinky!

  25. Liz Says Reply

    My baby was born premature in 2010, and was only 1.4kg at birth. He spent the first 4 weeks of his life in the hospital’s Special Care Nursery, in an isolette unit, being fed by tube, as he had no sucking reflex yet (very tiny prems usually don’t).

    I was extremely ill with pre-eclampsia (the reason he was born early), was on masses of medication and basically had no milk for him. I tried and tried to express, but to no avail – my milk never came in.

    Meanwhile, my little guy was putting on weight and doing well, thanks to formula.

    I hated that I couldn’t feed my baby. I felt guilty. If there was a breast milk bank, I’d have moved mountains to get us some (there wasn’t – although there was talk of establishing one, and I believe it has now begun).

    But eventually I had to realise that I needed to be the best mother I could for him, and that although I couldn’t feed him, I could do everything else for him.

    I am so thankful that today he is healthy and happy.

    • Bec Says Reply

      Thank you. Your reply had me i tears as my bub was also premature for the same reasons. She was born 2.1kg and could not breast feed straight away either. Everyday when I tried to pump at my babies bed side I felt like such a failure. The mothers next to me had mountains of milk for their babies and mine had hardly any. I didn’t understand why they had milk and I didn’t, after all, their bubs were also early. At times i have felt like the only one and that it was my fault, not the medical reasons people gave me.We struggled till she was 3.5 months (she was home at this point) then we had to go back to hospital due to her not gaining and she had severe dehydration. I cried and cried when they gave her formula and even after that I tried to boost my supply but to no avail. However since that day she has been a different baby. She was so sad and sick before then and now she is happy and healthy. Thank you for making me realize I am not the only one. Even today some people try to tell me I could of tried harder but I know we tried everything and in fact, continuing exclusively breastfeeding could of killed her.

      • Pinky McKay Says Reply

        Oh Bec, how awfully sad for you. You tried so hard and you need to be proud of this but yes, the first rule is ‘feed the baby’ . If your baby is hungry and you have a low milk supply, this is when other milk is necessary- whether you can get breastmilk from a milk bank/ donor or whether you end up having no choice but to feed formula (its not rat poison!). It is such a grief reaction to not be able to breastfeed when that is your first choice. While I want to acknowledge your grief – big hugs to you – it matters just as much HOW you feed your baby- with respect and love, as WHAT you feed your baby. You are doing a GREAT job so try to ignore your critics – you know your story, your struggle and your truth, they don’t.

  26. Helen Says Reply

    I don’t understand why doctors have anything to do with breastfeeding? Why is he qualified to express an opinion? Doctors are for unwell children, not healthy ones. And they are not, by default, parenting experts. Breastfeeding past 12 months is a parenting choice, mainly. So doctors should stay out of it.

  27. Lizzie Says Reply

    I’ll bet that none of these paediatricians have EVER held a feeding baby at their breast.

    Child 1: DD = 2.5 years, self-weaned
    Child 2: DS = 4.2 years, breastfed throughout pregnancy with no 3, tandem fed until no.3 was 4 months when he suddenly complained that no.3 “Took his taste” and self-weaned. Not a single headcold since no.3 was born… ?colostrum super boost to immunity at 3.5 years??
    Child 3:DD = 16 months and still feeding

    ALL are super independent, great eaters of a huge variety of foods.

    This issue is the choice of the child and the mother only. Women need to be supported whatever their position may be. I do not know a mother that doesn’t want the best for her offspring.

  28. Marie Says Reply

    I breastfed my first for 26 months but felt a lot of pressure to cease. Fortunately we probably weaned at the right time because my son accepted this monumental change quite readily (although I shed many tears). Im pregnant with my second and hope I can breastfeed for as long as my baby wants it. I remember it was so difficult the first few months but the reward and bonding I had with my beautiful son are indescribable. I think its disgusting that there is a lot of social pressure to stop breast feeding early, its the most natural thing in the world.

  29. Anita Says Reply

    Our modern society is not used to an extended breastfeeding which was once a norm in our grandmothers’ day. My grandmother (European aristocratic) had 12 children (2 died at the early age) and she breastfed all 10 of them until two years of age. Her last child was born when she was 48 years old. I had my first child (naturally) at the age of 42. She is now 27 months old and still going strong and I have no intention of weaning until she is ready. She is not vaccinated so I choose to boost her immunity by extended breastfeeding and avoiding any sweets or junk food. She is healthy, intelligent (she recognised letters of the alphabet at 12 months) and happy baby, rarely sick with odd cold.
    To reply to Helena, I know of a mother that she still breastfeeds (night time only) her 7 years old son. It is the longest breastfeeding I have heard of, but as long as she, her son and her husband are happy it is no one’s business.
    Breastfeeding is part of the motherhood and it is a mother’s choice to breastfeed as long as she can/wants. I do not care what others are thinking. It’s their business. I follow my motherly instinct which I trust more than any ignorant opinion.
    Enjoy your intimate time with your precious babies/toddlers as long as you can. They are little for a short time.

  30. Sarah Says Reply

    Why does someone always have to moan that pro bf articles are making them feel guilty or like they’re failed? Only you can beat yourself up! Why shouldn’t women blow their own trumpets if they are proud? This article is not saying you should all breastffed for 4 years, ot’s just saying that if you *do* then it’s not harming anyone and is good for you both. Long term breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, beyond a year isn’t always practical or possible and some babies wean earlier than others. The important thing in my mind is to feed for as long as you and your child are mutually happy with and capable of and if you need help, seek help.

    • Audrey Says Reply

      I don’t feel guilty for not bf-ing. I had no choice and my kids are healthy (zero ear infections in 8 years) well adjusted, very close to mommy and straight a students. I have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. What I don’t like is other mothers trying (unsuccessfully) to make me feel bad by g things like “if you don’t nurse you kids will not be healthy” or “you are cheating your kids by not nursing” mothers need to stop judging other mothers!

  31. Helana Says Reply

    I agree with a commenter above who said that these doctors should not be allowed to comment on something they have no clue about – you cannot comment on breastfeeding if you haven’t breastfed yourself, I really believe that. It is such an emotional, personal and beautiful thing and no-one has the right to make you doubt yourself about it.
    I have breastfed my almost 3yr old for 2.5yrs and nursed her while pregnant with my twins, whom I carried until 39 weeks gestation. I am currently still nursing my twins and plan to do so for at least another yr or until they self-wean.

    I agree that new mothers and mothers-to-be should receive more support and more information about breastfeeding.

    Doctors certainly do not know everything and are ill-informed re a host of topics, only one of which is breastfeeding. My pediatrician is still amazed that my twins are being breastfed and are meeting all their milestones and are growing as well as they do. This tells me that in his almost 40yrs of practice he has probably never encountered anyone that has done what I am doing. I find this shocking to say the least.

  32. Alison Says Reply

    I am currently feeding 22 month old in happy established bf relationship. Don’t see what you do if you don’t feed as it fills so many pockets- feeding while typing, on phone, sadnesses, falls etc etc.
    Fed my eldest to about 6 1/2 years. Surprised myself but it just happened naturally that we did it that long . She still, at 9, occasionally squeezes in with her little sister when I’m feeling tolerant. The memories of a long term feeder last for life and I suppose even at her age she can see how nice it is to touch base like her sister does…

  33. Cristina Says Reply

    I am with you Pinky in that I breastfed for 3 years 9 months with my son because it felt right. I pretty much fed on demand all that time. Best way to get him to sleep, sooth him when he fell over etc.There IS more to breastfeeding than the best nutrition – it is a parenting tool. My son has just turned 5 and I am still learning about the benefits of breastfeeding. I am now training to be a breastfeeding counsellor with the Australian Breastfeeding Association and hope to spread the word further! Keep up the great work!

  34. MaryAnne Daly Says Reply

    Fantastic article. Mothers are severely judged for breastfeeding their children for longer than what is considered the norm. We are in the minority and are a very harshly treated minority at that. Also until that MALE doctor can lactate himself he is really lacking the fundamental credentials to comment on breastfeeding a child.

  35. Bernie Says Reply

    Round of applause again Pinky.
    Where is this doctor? Think we need an older baby nurse in out front of his office. Am sure my 30month old son would be more then happy to show this doctor his milky smile.
    I get frowned upon all the time by family but I just stick to my guns even on the hard wanting to give up days.
    Love your work x

  36. Tanya Says Reply

    I breastfed my daughter for 26 months. Before I had children I knew of 2 women in the neighbourhood who had breastfed their (now adult) children for 2 years. I remember saying “ooh gross” to my mum when she told me and I still had that attitude even when I started breastfeeding. The first 6 months were difficult and then it all clicked and my instincts told me I couldn’t stop breastfeeding. My daughter loved it so much and it fit so perfectly with the way I wanted to parent. Knowing of those two women who had breastfed in my neighbourhood for 2 years now became my justification to continue, and some comfort that I was not alone in feeling the need to continue breastfeeding. When my daughetr was 12 months old I joined the ABA because I know of no one else my age breastfeeding a child beyond a year. Even though I didn’t regularly attend meetings the comfort of knowing I wasnt alone was so important and kept me strong when facing criticism for my extended breastfeeding. My story tells me a few things. Ignorance is one of the biggest threats to breastfeeding, I myself was ignorant and at that time I was a breastfeeding mother!! Once I learnt more the benefits of breastfeeding were so striking and encouraging. The second thing is how important it is for mothers to know of other women who have or are practicising extended breastfeeding. I have said on numerous occasions that all we need is a couple of celebrities to publicly breastfeed an older child and attitudes may start changing. For me it was those 2 women who had 30 years earlier breastfed their children for 2 years!!
    Good luck to all nursing mothers out there xxxx

  37. Sam Says Reply

    My son self weaned gradually and it took all the pressure away. He had fully weaned at 17and a half months. I wouldn’t change it for the world – such a special time for just us.
    What shocked me that a doctor and a acupuncturist rudley told me that it shouldn’t be happening (this was at 15 and 16 months)….One said, “You have to stop that it’s not necessary” the other said “Oh dear you shouldn’t be breastfeeding if he’s that old”
    You know what – my body, my son, his choice….we are all happy, healthy and stressfree 🙂

  38. Kellie Says Reply

    I just don’t understand what the problem is, I am still breastfeeding my 13 month old and he is happy, I am happy and so is daddy. I would be more inclined to be upset if a mother was feeding her toddler junk food! Also I find breastfeeding is so soothing during teething, comforting when my toddler isn’t quite sure of a certain situation and relaxing when we are both in need of some time out. That is what I call a happy, healthy family 🙂

  39. Nicki Zieth Says Reply

    Thank you Pinky for taking on these idiots. Any Dr who doesn’t fully support breastfeeding has NO understanding of real health. I did find the statements “over identifying with their mother” the most disturbing of all. I also find it the most crazy concept, babies should over identify with their mother, she after all is their MOTHER, she is not some robot, she is the center of the childs universe and rightly so, babies learn and get so much more than just food from their mother, they learn to understand and process the world via their mothers warmth, security love and guidence….for a DR to question this is also a indication of their lack of understanding of basic child development, bonding and attatchment.
    My breastfeeding story like many women has had its up’s and down’s I am also a fostercarer who see’s first hand what lack of attatchment, lack of mothering and lack of breastfeeding does to babies and toddlers, its essential that we do not just promote the health benefits of breastfeeding but that we also educate anyone that will listen that breastfeeding isn’t just about food. SO thank you Pinky for all that you do, for standing up for the women who continue to breastfeed their babies past infanthood, for the women who struggle with breastfeeding and societies opinions and for the women who need support around parenting in general.
    I have to smile at this uneducated Dr’s views as I look at my feircely independent 14 month old who still adores her boobies many times a day, they are her best friends…..this child that relies on nothing else for comfort, no dummies, no blankies, or Teddies etc, she recieves all her comfort and reassurance from the warmth and security of her mothers chest how can anyone say that is wrong.
    This isn’t about making mothers who have used formula feel bad, none of us want that, I was one of them in the past…..this is about insuring that women who want to breastfeed are not discriminated against.

  40. Jill Says Reply

    I breastfed my twin girls for 2.5 and 3 years. They weaned at different times. I felt fully supported by family and friends especially my partner. I never had any negative comments (part of me thinks they wouldn’t have dared!) They are certainly not mummy dependent due to being breastfed. In fact, the total opposite! They are both independent, confident and adventurous at 6 years of age. The proof is in the pudding…and my puddings are very well adjusted:)

  41. AJ Says Reply

    Im loving reading this thread. Im finding lately as I passed the 12month mark breastfeeding my little girl that attitudes are changing around me. Women(most who have children)more so than men make comment about ‘you’re still feeding?!!’ I think I thought I’d stop between 9-12months. I started making excuses even to my fiancé to why I was continuing.
    I questioned myself, am I too weak to wean? Should I stop? Am I being selfish?
    Like all of you the precious quiet time with my active 14month old is priceless/timeless.
    We are lucky to have the ability to feed & experience this amazing bond.
    High five to all of you & thanks Pinky for being such a ‘go to gal’ when I need some reassurance.

  42. Kat Says Reply

    Go Pinky!! Love your work!!
    I have fed all four of my children for extended periods – 23 months, 21 months, (self weaned) 16 months (self weaned) and currenly still feeding my 3.5 year old, who seems in no hurry to drop that last feed.
    It is sad that most people do not know I am still feeding and that I keep that quietly to myself.
    I know the benefits and have the wonderful support of my Husband in continuing to breastfeed our last child.

  43. Kathy Says Reply

    😛
    I was wonderin if you have a link to that world average 4.2 years statistic.

  44. trudie Says Reply

    my boys have not been harmed by feeding for ‘extended’ length 2 + years and 4.. or was it 5?
    as a Child and Family Health Nurse I am constantly amazed by the arrogant ignorance of our esteemed medicos.
    my boys are 18 and 21 and happily off at Uni – without a backward glance!
    – no separation issues there!

  45. Pinky Says Reply

    Hi Kathy

    thanks for requesting the link to ‘average’ age of weaning – I did have a reference but I thik I need to explain – it looks as though this stat has been ‘made up’ by somebody extrapolating Kathy dettweler’s Research – and taking a ‘middle number’ from the mix of cultures and propositions around what would be a ‘natural’ age of weaning – check out an article here – great reading

    http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html

    • Zeynep Says Reply

      If I could do something a litlte different it would be to not feel like I had to hide in my room. See, I was living with my parents because my husband was in the Navy and you can guess how that goes, and my Dad, I thought, would feel weird seeing me nurse my son and pump. When I was a kid he was very strange about private parts . So I hid in my room, a litlte depressed already because my husband was gone, a litlte from baby blues I think and I looked at the same 4 walls, no tv, no radio just me and 2 boys. I nursed and pumped and then fed the younger who wouldn’t latch on (until he was 6 weeks old). And since you feed about every 2 hours and it takes so long to get ready and feed and then get them settled, including diaper changes and all I barely had time to eat. I guess I would ask my Dad how he really felt. I think that if I had it would have made all the difference in those first weeks. If he knew I put myself through that because of what I thought he would feel I think he would be upset, a me and himself.

  46. Marianne Says Reply

    Hi Pinky,
    Thank you so much for standing up for all those mums and toddlers who are still benefiting from breastfeeding.
    I wonder – are you able to supply me with some references regarding the benefits of prolonged BF?

  47. Ange Says Reply

    Amazing! As a Lactation Consultant, midwife,and more importantly, my children’s mother, I am constantly amazed at the lack of knowledge amongst our esteemed health professionals. I am currently breast feeding both my 3.5 year old and 14 month old children. My G.P., bless him, cannot believe it. After feeding throughout my second pregnancy, I agree with a previous writer that tandem feeding facilitated my older child into becoming a fabulous big sister, and I was given great advice and support from my local MCHN. I was determined to breastfeed my children, based on the benefits that we are all aware of, and are continuiung to find out about,despite a difficult introduction and postnatal depression. Like many of you, I have simply followed the path that I aimlessly wander down and truly love. I am led by my children. Nobody can truly understand the choices that any of us make as mothers. We simply need to support our”sisters” in the choices they (we) make, rather than judge. None of them are made lightly.

  48. Raquel Says Reply

    Thank you Pinky . I get emotional just thinking of the lack of support from my partner and his mother when I continued breastfeeding my little boy past the age of one. Even before that time, the constant barrage of snide comments from both was enough to make me hide the amount of times I continued to feed him. My partner also called it ‘disgusting’.
    Even though we have now stopped (at 22 months) I’ll be printing out your response for back-up when I need it and to hopefully open a couple of small minds.

  49. Julieanne Hensby Says Reply

    Bravo Pinky!
    Julieanne Hensby
    Lactation Consultant, IBCLC

  50. Rowena Says Reply

    I got all sorts of flack- mostly from family (not my lovely hubby) for breastfeeding my son past 1 year old. I was glad I had a lot of info at my fingertips to inform them of the benefits and hopefully point out that they didn’t really know what they were talking about. (Son is now 6 years old and definitly not gay!) Interestingly with my daughter I have had no negativity towards extended breastfeeding. My son was glad when his sister was born and the milk finally came back and still tries to have booby now, but he has forgotten how to feed and my daugher (3 1/2 years) laugh at him. It is a nice bonding time laying in bed having “Mummy Cuddles and Booby”. The only downside is when they go to Nanna’s for a holiday and I get a bit sore!
    Long live Booby time!

  51. jessie's mommy Says Reply

    Dear Dr. Dunlop,
    As you have advised, we have stopped nursing promptly at 6 months, and I’ve told my dear little one no more hugs, kisses or cuddles for fear of her ‘over-identifying’ with me. We are currently looking for placement in either a boarding school or a job so that she is fully independent of me….
    Just kidding! We are still nursing happily along at 10 months and my girl is more than content with whomever she is with when I am not around, even if they don’t have a booby for her! Happy, healthy, social and very bright, we have no plans for stopping any time soon, even though we have met (and passed) all of my initial goals for breastfeeding, woohoo!

  52. Anna Says Reply

    I’m a GP mum to 3 kids, all breastfed for more or less four years. As a doctor I don’t actually see my role as being only for sick kids, but to promote health and wellbeing to prevent illness. The most obvious way to begin this journey is to breastfeed for as long as possible so that’s what I tell my patients to do. Most pay very little attention to be honest! I always love the few who continue full term breastfeeding to visit and let me know how they are going and to see their kids thrive.

    My first was a 28 weeker and despite all the NICU challenges came hoem fully breastfed at 36 weeks (kangaroo care was responsible for his thriving despite severe lung disease, septicaemia nad a brain haemorrhage). He is now 12 and I am so grateful for the way breastfeeding gave us so much special time after the horrendous beginning.

    Way to go to all the long term feeders around here!

    Anna

    • Pinky Says Reply

      Anna – would you be willing to be interviewed on 60 minutes – if so please can you email me and Ill give you the producers info so you can discuss and decide – it would be brilliant to have a health pro who HAS breastfed toddlers and is happy to speak out about wellness (email em pinky@pinkymckay.com.au )

  53. Natasja (from holland) Says Reply

    It’s great to see that women over the world understand the benefits of longer breastfeeding.
    Im still feeding my son now almost 29 months. Good site!

  54. Bridget Says Reply

    Just wondering I breastfeed my 4 kids for between 12 and 21 months each, yep clocked up a total of over 5 years breastfeeding, nothing on you Pinky!! But why do they still get gastro, asthma, colds and other sicknesses like the rest of their formula fed friends? My oldest is 9 and my youngest is 3? I hope the whole breastfeeding thing isn’t propaganda?

  55. Mel Says Reply

    Great article Pinky! I’d also be interested to read your thoughts about breastfeeding while pregnant. Another topic which is frowned upon in a western society.

  56. Amanda Says Reply

    Well said Pinky!!!!!

  57. Estelle Says Reply

    I breast fed both my daughters till the age of 6. They are both amazing young women, incredibly independent, the older one being an actor and younger doing a degree in photography. Thank you Pinky!!!!

  58. Chantel Says Reply

    Thank you for this article! My DD is only 6 months old but I intend on Breast feeding her until she self weans. I came across the article unfortunately looking for ‘Good reasons for full term nursing’ since my husband isn’t too supportive of it. I’m hoping to change his mind with some of this information so thank you for that! Kind of off topic.. But I’m wondering if any mamas can give me advice on starting solids. I figured id start them now but I’m scared to mostly because I don’t want it to affect my supply (and I definitely know to nurse first before feeding her solids) The second part to this question is what about when they turn one and you HAVE to give them solids, how often do you switch between nursing and solids and does it affect your supply? I just want to be able to breastfeed her for as long as possible (even if it is against my Mother’s and Hubby’s beliefs) and would hate for solids to ruin that. TIA Mamas xx

    • Kait Says Reply

      Chantel, I know exactly what your going through!
      I’d like to thank all the mums who have said how hard the first weeks are. I have just had my first. He was 3 weeks early at 3.4lb. And my husband in the beginning was very unsupportive saying bottles are more convenient. I also had his mother and sisters at my house every second day trying to tell me I was selfish because no one else would get to feed him and every time he unsettled they said the poor thing must be starving. The stress made my milk dry up and for a few days we had to mix feed. I was devastated. This group has been a key factor in turning my attitude around. Using fennu greek and blessed thistle, expressing, copious amounts of water and an “I-cant-hear-you” attitude. I have more milk than I did before. My husband is right on board now after hearing the benefits. He didn’t realise how awesome breast milk is! Maybe dr Dunlop needs a breast feeding wife, because we are so clever aren’t we!

  59. Bethany Says Reply

    It is disappointing when individual health professionals express their person opinion under the name of professional advice. It reflects badly on all physicians, and decreases community trust in doctors.

    I would like to highlight that in contradiction to Dr Dunlop’s statement the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends at least 1 year of breastfeeding as outlined in their position statement on breastfeeding: ‘exclusive breastfeeding for about 6-months [ie breastmilk alone, no artificial milk or solids] … with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.’

    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/02/22/peds.2011-3552

  60. Sar Says Reply

    I’m starting to love those snide comments surrounding me still breastfeeding myfirst bubba who’s 15 months old! Best one was “your not still giving him boob are you” bam, in lightening quick response and without battering an eyelid I replied “I plan on feeding him till he’s 18.” No response! Game, set, match! The facial expressions on this man was hilarious!

  61. Raji Says Reply

    Thanks for the article Pinky.
    You know , I am reading this in the middle of my sleep 🙂 as I try to stop breastfeeding my daughter who is 2 by now.. I am trying to wean her off but she s so arrogant and did not want to stop.She cries and cries and atlast not able to convince her, I finally give up.Almost everyone except a very few gives me a weird look asking,”Still breastfeeding?”.I did several methodologies, like story telling where she will listen to the whole story calmly and then cry for milk 🙂 :-).oops…my total energy gone and there had been no use..I tried applying some sour / bitter taste substance so that she will leave by herself and everything was in vain.And still contribute feeding.:-) :-).Am happy to see this article that there are really moms who breastfeed upto several years.I too agree that there is nothing wrong in feeding until she herself weans.But still my daughter is lean yet very active and eats anything she likes and at the time she wants.Everyone tells, only if you stop feeding she will start eating even better..Am depressed with these kind of messages.Anyway happy and convinced about your wonderful explanation..

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  68. Kay Says Reply

    I love this article, I can’t believe some of the comments you received regarding breastfeeding your toddlers – people are so ignorant. I do think its down to education and support offered to mothers. With my first, I stopped feeding when she was six weeks old. I had an emergency c-section, which I was put to sleep and then she failed to latch correctly. Day’s of syringe feeding and hand expressing ensued and then eventually manage to latch with a nipple shield. Throughout it all I felt so alone. Formula became my saviour. HOWEVER, with my son he latched straight away after I had my planned section. I did get a major cracked nipple but soldiered through and now we’re still feeding at 14 months and it feels completely natural. I have always said I will let my children lead the way and I will then support their needs. He will let me know when he’s done feeding. I write my own blog and recently wrote about breastfeeding post 12 months to help other mums —> <href=http://www.mummyburgess.co.uk/2016/11/breastfeeding-post-12-months.html xxx

  69. Damaris Sosa Says Reply

    “Hello Aluta Spell, I have no words to express my gratitude, Aluta Spell…I have fought with infertility issues for more than a decade. My Gyn told a year ago that one of my tubes was blocked, and had insisted that IVF was the only option left for me. I was desperate and terrified due to my relatively advanced age (I was 38 a year ago) and the 2 ovarian cysts that were giving me hell, that I would be childless. My husband and I decided we will keep on fighting as I have read many awful stories about the side effects, the low success rates and pain involved with the IVF procedure so we kept looking for a natural alternative. We almost gave up and then I found your website http://freespellsolution.weebly.com and contacted you for guidance BEFORE I bought your medication. You were so supportive and kind that I immediately ordered your herbs and started taking it along with my husband who had poor sperm motility(an issue that your program addressed as well). After two months of trying I got pregnant with my first baby boy. With one blocked tube and 2 ovarian cysts, I think this is nothing short of a miracle! Thank you for everything, contact him on his website http://freespellsolution.weebly.com

  70. Natasha Brendon Says Reply

    Nice blog and recommended for breastfeeding mothers. Parsley is proven home remedies to decrease breast milk naturally.

  71. Denise Lau Says Reply

    I’m still breastfeeding my 13 month old son and I’m happy to keep going as long as he is fine. He has self weaned to 2 feeds a day with an occasional night feed or two. Because of this, we share a very close relationship and he is thriving so beautifully 🙂 I give kudos to mum’s who are able to breastfeed as long as they could because they are feeding their children to the best of their abilities.

  72. loqman Says Reply

    Breastfeeding can be very difficult if you are just starting out (that is if you are a new parent). However, it also comes with several benefits that may not be available to you if you use other means. For example, if you decide to be using formula, you will have to spend money. And that means you could be spending a couple of dollars every month just to get things going. However, breast feeding will leave all these cost since you aren’t buying anything.

    http://babygearspecialist.com/best-baby-swing-for-older-babies/

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