A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Breastfeeding Toddlers and Small Children

I recently wrote a post called Common Toddler Breastfeeding Problems. In the comment section a woman asked me to write more about breastfeeding toddlers “because it can get really lonely.” That comment really stayed with me. I breastfeed an almost 3-year-old and almost 6-year-old. I have many friends and an online community who do the same so I don’t feel lonely all the time, but I certainly feel that way when I am not within that community. And I remember what it felt like when I had no mothering community at all. I didn’t even know another mother when I had my first son, Jack.

The reason why I started this blog and social media community was because of how lonely I felt. And because I sensed a message from society that unless I was using my body to sexually please men then I was misusing it. As usual I said, “Fuck that.” I know this has become home to so many women who are on their breastfeeding journey, but comments like the one above remind me that this community doesn’t even make up a tiny fraction of the parents out their trying to find their way through parenthood. There are millions of more moms out there feeling isolated, confused and vulnerable in their parenting choices.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, nursing in public, extended breastfeeding, breastfeeding beyond infancy

Maybe you made it through that early babyhood chaos and thought everything was hunky dory only to realize that your little Boobie Monster doesn’t seem to be taking less to breastfeeding. Maybe you planned to breastfeed “just for 6 months,” or “I will definitely stop at a year.” But as time passes your nursling seems more enthusiastic than ever to cuddle up and latch on. And when you’ve thought about weaning or just saying “no” a few times you feel the wrath of a tiny human with the strength of a possessed zombie. Or maybe you feel it’s just too soon. Maybe our gut tells you it’s just not time for this breastfeeding relationship to end.

And maybe people around you are starting to comment, “When are you going to stop?” “Don’t you think he’s getting too old for that?” Or maybe no one says anything at all and you can just feel the looks and side glances from friends or family or strangers. Most women who breastfeed a toddler or small child get some message from somewhere that this is unusual. That breastfeeding is “fine for babies, but when they are old enough to pull on your shirt you need to wean.” “You need to show her whose boss. She’s taking advantage of you!” “You’re just doing it for yourself at this point.”

If you are not prepared for this type of backlash (which most of us are not!), it can definitely feel lonely. At this point in breastfeeding many women who had gotten comfortable breastfeeding a newborn and small baby might decide to wean or hide that fact that they are still breastfeeding. I myself don’t talk much about breastfeeding Jack. He doesn’t breastfeed during the day much anymore, but when it comes up in conversation I sometimes say nothing depending on who I’m talking to. I know that if I say I’m breastfeeding my nearly 6-year-old that this could potentially make their head explode. I don’t much care about exploding heads, it only seems like a hassle that I would sometimes rather avoid.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, nursing in public, extended breastfeeding, breastfeeding beyond infancy.

I am sorry that you feel lonely. I say that with the deepest sincerity. Maybe it’s because I am so sensitive or because I am social worker at heart, I don’t know, but the loneliness of moms doing this beautiful and natural thing for their children and feeling lonely while doing it makes my heart sink. I want to do a world tour where I just fly from city to city and sit next a nursing mom and nurse with her. Then I feel angry and I feel like recording a punk rock album where I tell critics of breastfeeding to “fuck off” in song after poorly written song.

To the breastfeeding mother of a toddler or small child, you are not alone. I know you feel alone and being told that you are not alone does fuck all to fix that feeling. But I just want to scream at the top of my lungs FOR US ALL TO PLEASE COME OUT OF THE WOOD WORK!!!!!!!! Show all of these other moms that they are truly not alone and that we have their backs.

What you are doing is absolutely biologically normal. The struggles that you have with nursing in public are totally normal, we have all been there! The toddler who won’t sit still is on all of our laps and we just want her to sit still for one friggin’ minute! The biting and nipple twisting is a problem we can all relate to! That growing mouth feels super weird on our nipples and we totally need to start a support group for that! That creepy crawly feeling does not mean you are crazy, it’s real and it’s called nursing aversion!  There is nothing wrong with your child who nurses all night, that’s just want they do, we’ll sleep when we’re dead!

The bottom line is that we are normal moms doing what we feel is best for our kids. History, anthropology and biology prove that this is a perfectly normal behavior for kids. We can talk about averages if we want, but that gets really tricky with cultures that vary so greatly in breastfeeding norms. To keep it simple we can just understand that a breastfeeding human left to their own devices to wean on their own will wean somewhere around 2.5 years old to 7 years old. Boobs are for everyone.

You are normal. You are a good mom. Good night!


Further reading:

Common Toddler Breastfeeding Problems

Breastfeeding With Boundaries

Yes, Still Breastfeeding, For Me, It’s All About Me

Why Would You Nurse a 4-Year-Old?

7 Tips to Help Cope With Nursing Aversion

This is My Home; Nursing Past Toddlerhood

I Will Not Wean My 3-Year-Old

My Nursing Toddler Doesn’t Sleep Through the Night. Does Yours?

Full-Term Breastfeeding

Weaning, Your Story, You Own It

5 Tips for Weaning the Highly Sensitive Child

Wean That Toddler

And the Breastfeeding Goes On

My 2-Year-Old is Not Too Old to Breastfeed