What a nursing toddler REALLY looks like and my thoughts on extended breastfeeding

I’m sure by now you’ve all seen or heard about the recent cover of TIME magazine. If not, it was a mom nursing her child. No biggie, right? Well, her child is 3 (actually almost 4) and is standing on a chair in order to nurse while his mom stands with a hand on her hip.

Honestly, I like the photo. YAY for breastfeeding making it to the cover and yay for awareness of extended breastfeeding. It’s the title (“Are you mom enough?”) and the blurb (about attachment parenting moms going to extremes) that I hate. Obviously it was all done for controversy and it definitely worked–moms everywhere were in an uproar–about the title, the article, the photo…

Although I liked the photo, it’s clearly not how nursing a toddler typically looks and for people unfamiliar with extended breastfeeding, it may give the wrong impression or idea. Again, it was done just to stir the pot.

THIS is how nursing a toddler usually looks:

My son is about 2.5 years old. I never imagined I’d still be nursing him. My goal was always one full year of breastfeeding, but I’m not sure what I thought would happen after that… he’d magically just stop? I know your opinion on many things change once you actually have your baby, but even when Ryan was little, I thought “extended breastfeeding” was a little weird. Did I want to nurse my son if he was talking and asking for it? If he’d have memories of it later in his life? Weird.

But now I’m there. And I can easily say that it’s not weird at all. At least to me and my family πŸ˜‰ and that’s all that matters, right?

Ryan was down to nursing just once a day. Then I got pregnant with Rebecca and he basically stopped. He was about one and a half. Sure, he’d still nurse here and there if he fell and hurt himself or something, but it wasn’t a daily thing and I thought he had weaned himself… I thought we were done!

But when I was a few months pregnant, he started back up again. I blogged about trying to prepare for two kids, with one of my “concerns” being breastfeeding. Would Ryan want more or less? Some people said their kids stopped nursing when the baby arrived because the milk was for the baby! But others said their kids nursed more.

Ryan? Nurses more. MUCH MORE. After Rebecca arrived, Ryan asked for “milkies” all the time. If Rebecca has it, Ryan has to have it. If Rebecca is on my lap, Ryan has to be on my lap. He was not about to give up his milk and mommy time now!

It did start to be a little much for me–if I wasn’t nursing her, I was nursing him (AH! touching overload!)–and our new rule is three times a day… Ryan gets to nurse in the morning, after lunch (before his nap), and after dinner (before bedtime). He does ask for it more often, but we’ve been pretty good with the new rule.

“Why don’t ya just nurse him till college?” Hardy-har-har. Why oh WHY is that a go-to phrase? It’s not funny in the slightest. Even if I begged and cried to get Ryan to nurse till college, I’m pretttttttttttttty sure that wouldn’t fly. And he’s two. Maybe he’ll be 3. Kindergarten is a long way off, let alone college. I bet more moms practice extended breastfeeding than you’d think… by that age, it’s only a couple of times a day, which Β means rarely (if EVER) does it occur in public. You’ll never see it. I know for us, it’s always at home–on the couch or in bed. You wouldn’t have a clue unless I told you… or if you were at one of my family events, Ryan fell and got hurt, and started crying for milkies. πŸ˜‰

He’s still my baby boy and he still needs his mama. No, I’m not going to pump it and put it in a cup (a comment I saw). At this point, it’s more about comfort and bonding than it is about nutritional value–so a cup defeats the purpose. Besides, YOU are never going to see us nursing in public as I mentioned above, so WHY do you care?

And with Rebecca around, nursing all day, how could I possibly refuse my baby boy, who is having a hard enough time adjusting to a new baby in the house? He already feels replaced and confused by Rebecca’s presence, how could I take away one of his favorite things that allows us to bond after a long day while he has to sit and watch Rebecca get milk instead? Not a chance.

If I hadn’t told you that Ryan was nursing in these photos, you would have thought we were just cuddling on the couch and it’d be oh-so-sweet. Well, he is nursing, and it’s still super sweet…Β there’s nothing “gross” or “disgusting” about it and I’m tired of seeing those words, used to judge another woman. We’re all moms, we’re all doing the best we can, and we’re all doing what’s right for us and our families. We all need support, not judgment. Being a mom is hard enough! <3

EDIT: do you have a photo of extended breastfeeding? of you nursing your toddler?? if you’d like to share, please email me your photo so I can put them all in a future blog post! πŸ™‚ erdickey at gmail dot com

21 comments to What a nursing toddler REALLY looks like and my thoughts on extended breastfeeding

  • Ashley

    Very well said! My DS is 14 months and I never thought I would still be nursing after his 1st birthday, but it comforts him and it doesn’t bother me so why not!


    babydickey Reply:

    well said πŸ™‚ and congrats!


  • We’re in basically the same situation here. With both kids I’ve always aimed for a year and then just went with it. Hanna got down to once at night and then I had to start a med that she couldn’t have so we stopped when she was 14 months. With Oliver, again, I said a year… He’s going to be 2 in 6 days (eek!) And he really only nurses once in the early morning and that’s it unless he’s sick and then maybe a few times a day. And you’re right, no one sees it but us. I never thought I’d be breastfeeding a 2 year old or really even a 1 1/2 year old. But we’re there now and it’s fine. It’s not gross, it just is.

    I do honestly have to say though, being pregnant again, lately I’ve been sore and I’d love to be done until the baby comes. I’d like a little break, you know? I feel like we’ve made it this far and I don’t know how to stop. It makes me feel so guilty to tell him no. :\ (Help?)


    babydickey Reply:

    Haha, I feel your pain!! It was hard to nurse while pregnant from being sore and it is very hard to nurse TWO kids. Some days I get totally “touched out.” So… I would like Ryan to wean soon… but like I mentioned in my post, I understand why he can’t yet, while he’s still adjusting to Rebecca being here!

    It is hard to tell them no πŸ™ The best thing is distraction. I find that Ryan asks to nurse more often if he’s bored… if we’re playing and outside and I’m keeping him busy all day, it’s like he forgets to ask. And if he does ask, try to jump up and get a cup of juice, milk, or whatever. Or just get out a new toy so he forgets about it…. good luck!


    Tamara Reply:

    I agree. Distraction is good. I’ve noticed that if he asks during the day it’s mostly because he’s actually hungry so if I offer him a snack he’ll gladly take that instead. Or if he wants it in the morning and it’s not too early I’ll offer breakfast and he usually goes for it. It’ll be interesting to see if he wants it more or less when the baby comes. It’s only 5 months away so even if he stops now I think it’ll still be fresh enough that he might want to go back to it. Just going to have to roll with the punches and see. I will say, on a plus (and kind of personal) side, I have issues with my right side in the beginning. I’ve ended up using a nipple shield with both kids for a few months until we get into a routine. I’m thinking (hoping) this time I won’t have to because my boob will already be used to it, LOL! See – there’s advantages. πŸ˜‰ (Sorry for the book-long comments!)


    babydickey Reply:

    haha, that’s definitely an advantage! Ryan nursed really well as a baby, but I had a lot of pain. This time? NONE! πŸ™‚


  • Dawn H

    I don’t know where I draw the line personally. I find the thought of a 5 or 6 year old BFing rather creepy, but before then? Not really sure.

    Around 2 years old is where I personally see stopping BFing completely (if baby hasn’t stopped on her own already), but then, my daughter is only 6 months old! Who knows how I’ll feel then.

    I do have to say that your first photo is just beautiful!


    babydickey Reply:

    πŸ™‚ thanks! And I can say that I felt the same way when Ryan was just 6 months old… and, well, here I am now, haha.


  • jen

    I had to stop at 7 months due to meds and someone got her top teeth. Not sure how long I would have gone.


  • Ya know, I see this in a different light after reading your post. I mean, I can’t see myself breastfeeding for an extended time. But, I don’t have any milk (I do put Avery to my breast as often as possible, because we both enjoy it–her for the soothing and me for the bonding–which could also be considered “weird”) I was one of those who felt if the child is “old enough to ask for it” they are too old. But I do see your reasons for it, and your son’s reasons for wanting to continue. Especially with a new baby in the house.

    But even if I wouldn’t do it, I don’t have a problem with those who do! (Its not my boob and its not my child lol) My issue with the TIME cover was partly the way the photo was taken—showing it in a way that seemed so extreme—and those words “are you mom enough”

    We are ALL mom enough to do things that will be best for our families, and if that is extended breastfeeding, or not breast feeding at all, then so be it.


  • tina page

    I have a story similar to yours. I never thought of how long i would bf. It just never occurred to me that i might give a child that I birthed a bottle. When I had my first son he loved it and I loved it (I also got a job for WIC as a “lactation consultant” and was able to use him as a tool to show other young mothers how to do it…which was awesome1). He was down to not nursing very often at almost 2 when i got pregnant with my next son. He stopped feeding much at all when I was pregnant since it began o be uncomfortable for me; however when his brother was born he wanted it all the more and I did what I thought right by feeding him since he was having to share his mommy for the first time. He fed until about 3 1/2 years and weaned when he felt comfortable. He is now 17 years old and totally awesome and open with me. I found in our case it worked out just as intended. If your kids feel confident because they are listened to and their needs are met, all is well.:) Great article!:)


  • I nursed my kids for 3.5 years each. Our pediatrician told me to start on cow milk at 1 year and it made him have hives! I learned about extended nursing, which I now call “full term nursing” online from a breastfeeding support board, and found Katherine Dettwyler’s study, The natural age of weaning, and was convinced that it was not only “okay” to nurse a long time, but was the more natural thing to do.


    Both my kids have tested “gifted” so I guess “promotes brain development” thing worked out well. And I can attest to the fact, that it supports their immunity, because both my kids get over any bug faster than anyone else I know.

    It’s also really cool that they both remember nursing, because now they talk about the day when their children will get to nurse. This is exactly the way it should be. Breasts to them, are about nurturing a baby. They won’t escape the media, so they’ll learn otherwise, but nothing can take this early association away from them.

    I think people’s discomfort in seeing a child breastfeeding, stems from the fact that in this society, breast have only been seen in the context of sexualized ads or porn. Then, when they see something as pure and innocent as a child, placed into that perceived “sexual” context, they feel repulsed, and alarmed.

    They mistakenly believe that the nursing is perverted, when in fact, it is their own feelings that have been perverted, by a culture that has only recently, (in terms of human history), abandoned the natural method of nourishing and nurturing their young.


  • Shelbi

    I read ur blog often but have never left a comment. This was a very touching story. My problem with the Times magazine cover is the title. Coming from a mother who couldn’t breast feed, but really wanted to, it wasn’t a title you want to read its kinda like saying if you can’t breastfeed ur not a mother (maybe I took it the wrong way but that’s how I read it). I don’t have one problem with how long mothers breastfeed what so ever. My sister is still breast feeding my nephew who is now 14months old and a friend of mine breastfed her daughter until she was almost 3. Breast feeding is a beautiful thing and I again wish I could have done it who knows how long I would have done it. Knowing my daughters attachment to me she would probably still be breast feeding and she’s 5. πŸ™‚ I think what your are doing is amazing!! It’s physically draining breast feeding one child let alone two!!!


  • I weaned my son at 2 because personally, 2 was my limit. I’m all for extended breastfeeding but it was a personal choice. I’m so sick of women bashing each other for our choices. Breastfeeding your child until 3 isn’t going to damage him for life. America is so backward most of the time.


  • Beth

    Absolutely beautiful, Emily. This post brought tears to my eyes…and the pictures! Wow! Ryan is so very luck to have a mama like you. He must feel very loved.


  • Stephanie

    Good for you! I, like you, had only really hoped to nurse for the first year. It lasted until my daughter was 2.5! And I loved it. I fully planned on extended breast feeding my second child, but he decided to wean at 18 months. I was CRUSHED. I kept trying to get him to nurse, but he just didn’t want it any more (I’m sure you’d get a good laugh at an image of me trying to shove my boob in his mouth…). So sad! He also didn’t want to co-sleep with us! (my oldest is still in our bed most nights and she’s almost 6!!)

    Good for you – and beautiful pictures!!!


  • B

    Good for you! Ava just weaned last month – at 28 months old – and though I was like most people before children/when she was just an infant, I was actually saddened when she stopped. I will always count those 2+ years as some of the best, most beautiful bonding time I could have asked for with her. She still asks for “mommy milk” from time to time, and we explain to her that mommy doesn’t have it anymore.

    Also? Those pics are beautiful! I agree wholeheartedly with all you had to say about extended breastfeeding. It’s not weird, and for those who are against it, well, it’s really nothing to do with them, is it? Hopefully more people will butt out of women’s lives and bodies and mind their own business.


  • I am still nursing our 20 month old son. I think he nurses less than he used to overall. I definitely find that he nurses more when we are home, and he is bored. When we went to his grandparent’s house over spring break, he almost never nursed, and I thought he might be basically weaned. I really don’t mind nursing him too much. I think extended breastfeeding is great. It is a good bonding time for us. I would like to have him weaned by 2 years old, but I’m not sure if it is going to happen. We are going to his grandparents for 2 weeks this summer, so he might wean then. He is now able to go to sleep at night now without nursing, but he still awakes in the night and nurses. Anyway, beautiful pictures!



  • I am a mom of 3 that formula fed each one of her kids. It was the choice that was best for me. I honestly say, to each their own and only a mother knows what’s best for her babies and her family. Like a PP said, it’s the wording Time magazine used that makes the cover ridiculous. So long as we love, nurture, and care for our kids, we are ALL “Mom Enough”!


  • Pg

    I bottle fed both my kids. I had PPD and honestly, I found it tough to hold my kids for more than a miniute or so. I’m still like that. My first born is highly gifted and my second is too young to tell. I gave a more Montessori approach to my daughter which helps her to be more self sufficient… It works for us. We are all trying to raise happy, healthy kids and we all get there different ways!


  • mara

    mia mmma mi ha allattata fino a 8 anni


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