I am the only person I know who 1. tandem nurses (a one year old and a three year old) 2. Extended nurses a three year old...and we're not talking "nurse to sleep" and "booboo" nursing. It's fairly often. I have set limits and I feel pretty comfortable with the nursing going on.
My issue is that I don't feel supported. At best, my family members (husband included) tolerate it and I find myself avoiding the topic with even LLL friends, because most don't choose this path themselves. I feel really isolated. AND I wonder if I am doing something "wrong" because my older son nurses so frequently, even with offering appropriate substitutes. My intuition leads me to believe that he simply needs this kind of comfort, but other external "voices" are pointing fingers at me, or so I feel.
I'd really like to see some other mothers chime in here and let me know it's normal to nurse a 3, 4, 5 year old so often. Have others had similar nursing experiences? What kind of personalities do these "higher nursing need" children have? (I'd like to think he's more sensitive and intelligent b/c of ext. nursing...anything to soothe my frazzled nerves ;)
Re: Really extended
People are always going to have their ideas of what's the time to stop nursing. I don't personally know where my or my daughter's stopping point is since she's only 15 months. (Pregnancy soreness may prevent me being able for too much longer) I would say that nursing a 3 year old is perfectly fine. I know that some babies self wean, but if your children are like my daughter, she doesn't show any signs of wanting to wean. She needs that cuddling and comfort she gets from nursing.
Re: Really extended
Even the AAP has a bit about nursing into the third year and beyond. They say, "There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychological or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer".
Each mother knows her baby/child best! Your intuition about your son’s needs sounds right on the money. You are meeting his need for this kind of comfort and interaction. You have set some limits so that the relationship works for you, too.
I’ve heard some mothers talk about worrying what their child might think as they get older and can remember nursing. One gem I found it Bumgarner’s MYNT was that “Nursing is a healthy relationship, and your child’s memories of it will be healthy”. In the introduction of this book she says, “Hopefully more experience with older nurslings will give us appropriate, child-oriented frames of reference in which to see the behavior of a nursing child. We will be able to realize the special and wholesome kind of relationship there is between a mother and her suckling child, even if this child is big, even if this child is dressed in ‘big boy’ clothes.”
Perhaps you could pick up her book again and re-read a couple of chapters? It might help you feel supported by LLL in general, if not your direct peers.
I tandem nursed when my dd was born. My ds was just over age of 2. He nursed into his 4th year. The running joke around here when he was age 3.5 to 4 was that I would say every week, "I think he's going to wean soon - he hasn't asked for it in a long time". But then he would always ask again! His extended nursing didn't usually come up in too many conversations because he would never ask when we were out and about, even when he was 2. He was always too busy and interested in the world around him! I felt supported (by husband, LLL, family) though I opted not to share the fact that he still nursed with certain people.
I was a little concerned about when he went to preschool but it never really came up. He was far too busy socializing and playing to discuss nursing with his new friends.
My dd is another story. She has just turned 3 and is a much more frequent and "out & about" nurser. She will ask sometimes in places where I just don't feel comfortable. She is mostly amenable to alternatives if we are out, but not so much at home.
She has a more intense personality that her brother, for sure. :) He has his intense moments but they are just different people.
Re: Really extended
Wow...I know you must feel very alone but it sounds to me like you know your ds very well and are meeting his needs. We have a leader in our group who's daughter just weaned and she's just turned 6 so you have a ways to go until I would think of you as being "really extended.":o I'm glad you've come to the boards because it provides such a range of support to help you stay the course! Good luck!
Re: Really extended
My DS weaned very recently, after his 4th birthday ... and I did in fact give his weaning that final little nudge, by deciding not to nurse at bedtime any longer (so for all I know he might have nursed a lot longer). He kept me guessing from the age of 21 months or so, because he kept tapering off and then picking back up again on the frequency of his nursing. Sometimes I knew why he again became interested in nursing often, and sometimes I did not know. The important thing, as far as I was concerned, was that our nursing relationship was always there for him to come back to, until he no longer needed it, until the num-nums stopped doing the trick for him.
From what I have seen, with my son and with other ENing kids, is not so much an extra level of neediness or intensity, but definitely an extra level of individuality, and paired with that, an extra level of trust in momma. These kids march to the beat of their own drummer, and they know deep in their core that their mothers are there for them. I don't know which is the chicken and which the egg -- whether EN creates the conditions for this personality, or whether the personality drives the EN. I suspect it is the latter, because it is so easy to see older children and adults with great uniqueness in their spirits who lack the groundedness and trust and connection that ENing might have provided for them.
It is hard to nurse a 3yo (or even older kid) when nobody around you accepts that it is a good and necessary thing. I'm surprised to hear that your LLL friends aren't supportive. Could you look around for a LLL toddler group? Or just visit another regular series meeting in your area -- different groups and Leaders foster different "cultures."
I think the best thing you can do for yourself in this situation is to keep reminding yourself that your job as a parent is to do the best you can to nurture your child by meeting his needs, where he is now. If he hasn't discovered yet that people around him won't always understand or accept who he is, he will soon -- and his trust in your acceptance and love will be the most valuable gift at that point.
The other thing I would focus on is the continuing immune support your breastmilk provides him. I often hear of kids who are slow to wean and then encounter some special health challenge that, it turns out, is greatly alleviated by the nursing. That kind of thing is impossible to predict, but it makes me see extended nursing, where life allows for that relationship, as a kind of insurance policy against some of the unpredictabilities of childhood.
It's all good, in other words. If your family and friends don't "get it," well, in the end, SO WHAT? If nothing else, when your son gets older and realizes that his long nursing relationship with you is a really rare thing in this culture, he will learn by your example that some things are far more important than meeting others' expectations.
Another thing to contemplate is that lots of moms nursing 3yos (or older) keep it all very hidden. Who knows how many of his preschool friends are still nursing in private? By nursing him in front of other people, you are helping to create a ripple effect that makes nursing any age of child more normal and acceptable. Kathryn Dettwyler, an anthropologist and leading breastfeeding advocate, made a point, whenever someone complimented her daughter, of saying, "Thank you -- she nursed until she was four, you know." I've been thinking I should do that that -- when someone says, "Your little boy is so smart and so friendly," I should say, "Well, thanks -- he nursed until he was four, you know." By associating great outcomes (happy, healthy, accomplished, well-rounded children) with extended nursing, we're helping create a discourse that makes it an open and approved activity.
Re: Really extended
Hi, I am nursing my dd at age 3 years 2 months. She does nurse frequently but not every day is the same of course and not every time lasts long.
I have known moms at LLL to avoid nursing their older children because they don't want to freak out any new moms that are visiting. Other moms nurse their child regardless. A lot of times the older children are busy playing and don't ask during the meeting but will as things wind down and we start to clean up. Some feel that new moms might be intimadated when they are just starting out and are trying to figure out how to make nursing last through the first few months.
I agree with the suggestion to seek out toddler meetings. There are also enrichment meetings that are not always announced so you can ask about these. Sometimes moms who have known each other for a long time "forget" to ask newcomers to come for playdates or other meetings. If they have not seen you nurse your toddler or you haven't said anything they may assume you are not tandem nursing. You may need to gather your courage and ask moms with same aged children to join you for a playdate and see if nursing comes up, if not perhaps you still have common interests to build a friendship on.
I really like the Tandem Nursing book by Hilary Flowers in addition to the Mothering your Nursing Toddler book mentioned above.
I am actually pushing dd to wean a little because I have been ttc and I think I am pregnant. I have been having problems with nipple soreness and just not feeling like nursing as much. I am trying hard to limit nursing to bedtime, nap and early morning. I do make exceptions though. Since we have other children we are often out of the house and I will NIP if I am convinced that it is based on a need and not just boredom. Yesterday we were at an all day church event and by late afternoon I gave in and nursed. If anyone noticed I don't know. A lady was nursing a newborn the entire day in front of us and that led to DD asking more I think.
I hope you feel better. I hope that you can find some support on this board and perhaps find a friend or two to share the tandem nursing/toddler nursing experience with in your area. I rarely am able to get together with friends who are doing the same as I am but I feel better knowing there are a few out there and that I can call them if I need to.
Re: Really extended
Big thanks to everyone who replied to my initial post. I think I'll take a look again at Mothering Your Nursing Toddler. I read it when I was preg. with number 2, so I think it's time to review. I appreciate all the ideas and personal sharing.
I actually started the first Toddler meetings in the area. (Reasons are obvious: lack of support for mothers breastfeeding past 2 years). We had one meeting with four other mothers with toddlers (which was great attendance for a new meeting!), and they are quarterly, but maybe we'll up it to more frequent meetings. I know there's gotta be more toddler-nursers out there. I hope the more we advertise and the word gets out, more mothers will show up. I want other mothers to get the support I know is so important to have. I still seem to be the one sharing information and giving support, without feeling like I am getting the support I need as a nursing mom sometimes. I feel very blessed to be able to come to this forum and find support in something as "far out" as toddler nursing. (I don't know why I feel like it's so "far out"...maybe it's my own bias I'm working against ? ;) I also avoid telling others I nurse a three year old while I'm at Series meetings b/c I don't want others to think I expect them to choose the same for their families.
I especially appreciate mothers who have been there, done that (nursing past 3 or 4) because that's the place we're at right now. It feels nice meeting other mothers who made it past the "18 month" hump and through adjusting painful latches, etc.
I still remember when tandem nursing was HARD or when I nursed a toddler and was pregnant. Those times were WAY harder than now, and that puts in into perspective for me, for now. I think of all WE made it through (including tandem nursing thrush) and I get a warm fuzzy feeling. Even with all the hard things, I really am glad I chose to continue our nursing relationship to this point. It feels good to admit that to myself.
Some helpful comments here reminded me of my older son's health issues. I wonder if that has been/continues to be a factor as he did have a flare-up of eczema when I tried to really limit his nursings during a stressful time (right after ds #2's birth). I also have food sensitivites and I have a nagging feeling that might have something to do with his EN as well. (He did start solids around 10-12 months) Well, I guess I can be glad he's nursed as long as he has b/c it can only help with allergies, hm?
The idea that he will someday look back and recognize that I nursed him according to his needs, versus cultural bias about nursing, really boosted me!
Once again, I thank everyone who shared. I feel supported here, and it's nice to know that wherever other mothers are on their own nursing/mothering journeys, we can show sympathy and concern for each other. Peace to you all!
Re: Really extended
We are almost neighbours since we are in N.NV! Sounds like you are doing great. Kuddos for starting toddler meetings. Perhaps now that warmer weather is coming you can add in some park days.
Re: Really extended
I enjoyed reading through this thread. I have five children and have been nursing straight through since the first. So I have been nursing...10 years - not all one child of course ;). Each nursed until the next was born and tandem afterwards, until they stopped and so on.
Currently I have an older 3 year old and 6 month old who nurse. The 3 year old actually tired me out a little more than the newborn, because as soon as my milk came in she started to nurse just as much and had night time feedings as well. She has had food allergies, and I think this might be part of it. She is in my lap now, but has slowed down on nursing a bit and sleeping more, and I feel better (more sleep). I don't quite know when each of my children stopped nursing, just one day we weren't anymore.
I have some groups of people I tell about extended nursing and others I just don't bring it up. Even at an LLL meeting sometimes it's easier for some moms with older nurslings to understand. We too have just begun toddler meetings, so I hope yours are an avenue that lead to meeting some moms who are more supportive. Although I don't mention it much, I will talk with moms who ask me or if it comes up, this became a positive thing for some moms to know that it was possible to tandem nurse or nurse through pregnancy or still be normal;), etc.
Re: Really extended
I would just like to post a quick something..
I am currently nursing a 3 year, 11 month old darling girl. She is only nursing about every 4 or 5 days right now, so I figure she will be done soon. (Although I have thought that before!!)
I would just like to point out that by calling this message board 'Extended Nursing', we are implying that one year or so is normal, and we are extending it past the normal amount. As many others have mentioned, Kathy Dettwyler and other anthropologist have shown that the biological age for weaning is approx. 2.8 to 7years. So actually, we a practicing 'full-term nursing', and nursing less that 2 years is 'abbreviated nursing'.
Just my $.02