If They’re Old Enough To Ask… Breastfeeding Beyond Age 1


extended breastfeeding“If they’re old enough to ask for it, they’re too old!” This age-old phrase about extended breastfeeding is one I’ve heard several times throughout my nursing journey with my last two kids. After an attempt at breastfeeding with my first, I was determined to nurse my second child and low and behold, I nursed her until she was after two years old!

Fast forward 5 years or so, and I’m still nursing my 2.5-year-old. You heard that right, he’s 2.5, walks, talks, and asks for milk and he’s 2.5 years old.

I know, what am I going to do when he goes off to Kindergarten?! Or college! I had the realization with my second child that there isn’t a magical age when they’re too old for a bottle/nursing.

I challenged the thought that when they turn one and start eating more solids automatically means they can’t nurse anymore. What is one more day? One day doesn’t make a difference whether a baby should be weaned or not. So, with both kids, their first birthdays came and went and we kept on nursing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) “recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and then continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond.” 

I listen to his cues and follow his lead. Now, I will say nursing a toddler is a whole different ball game than nursing a newborn or even an infant. Our bodies are truly amazing and how they just know how much milk to produce, how your milk changes in composition depending on the age of the baby etc. It just blows my mind.

The following are just a few aspects of nursing an almost-two-year-old I have discovered:

Why I Love Extended Breastfeeding

1. On your terms– When you’re nursing a baby, typically you follow a feeding routine- so maybe you know baby eats every 2-3 hours. With a toddler, you can set limits and nurse when you want to nurse. For us, we don’t nurse in public anymore. If we’re out and about and he asks for “milk, “I can say, “no,” by redirecting or telling him he has to wait until we get home.

Now COVID has impacted our limits due to being home so much, so typically I would have set times we would not nurse but since being home those times have been more flexible. But the beauty of nursing a toddler is you can create those limits. Some examples would be only nursing before bedtimes or certain times of the day. I offer a drink in a cup or use the power of distraction when I choose to say ‘no’ to nursing.

2. Quick comfort: Breastfeeding is more than just nourishment. It also involves nurture and a safety base. I know at times he isn’t breastfeeding for hunger but rather, for comfort and time with mom.

Especially now that we’ve returned to work/daycare, he nurses when we get home to reconnect, and that works for us. If I can’t nurse, I will offer a snack/drink or distraction and tell him when we can nurse. If he becomes upset in the middle of the night for whatever reason- I will nurse and it will rock him back to sleep. Whenever he is sick being able to nurse is both good for his immune system and offers comfort. Again, call it lazy parenting but it worked for us and I’m sorry, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to get some sleep.

3. Nutrition: Kellymom.com is a great breastfeeding resource and has lots of info on extended breastfeeding.

In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:

  • 29% of energy requirements
  • 43% of protein requirements
  • 36% of calcium requirements
  • 75% of vitamin A requirements
  • 76% of folate requirements
  • 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
  • 60% of vitamin C requirements

– Dewey 2001

4. Less stress– Especially after the one-year mark, the stress was long gone about how much I thought he may or may not be getting. I wasn’t stressed if he didn’t eat a great dinner either because I knew I would nurse later that night. I don’t stress if he doesn’t want to nurse either. If he wants to, great, if not, that’s fine too.


Child-led weaning– When my second child was done nursing, she literally told me “all done.” And never nursed again. At that point, I knew nutritionally and emotionally she was done. I knew she had completely outgrown the need. I plan to use this same approach with my son, now. When it’s child-led there is a more natural, gradual, softer transition, that didn’t cause either of us distress. Nursing sessions will be shorter and less often as time goes on until eventually, they stop nursing altogether. For us, this approach fits our parenting approach better as well.

In our society, there are so many expectations and standards that are placed on us, and that we place on ourselves. Extended breastfeeding falls into this category. It’s one that can be stigmatized and frowned upon.  

One thing I’ve had to remind myself is that at the end of the day, I can only do what’s best for my family. My nursing relationship is a special bond that is between me and my child(ren) and really it’s not anyone’s business. It doesn’t affect them in the grand scheme of things!

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I am high fiving all the nursing moms and giving myself a pat on the back, too!

Me and my little nursling



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