I’ll Breastfeed My 3 Year Old As Long As He Wants!

breastfeeding a 3 year old

My youngest is now 3 years old, which sounds so much older than 2 years old.  At 2, a toddler,  you can imagine that they are still learning words and not as sure on their feet, but at 3 years old they are expected to know so much more and are considered a preschooler.

Milk, To Feel Me Better

At three years old his whole life is changing, this is when he learns how his social groups work, how to draw, how to do basic sums and start to recognise letters.  So he of course needs extra comfort to help him through all the difficulties in his life and in the words of my 3 year old, when he’s finding life tough he needs ‘milk, to feel me better‘.

So yes, I am still breastfeeding my 3 year old and at the moment he is feeding a lot more than he did when he was 2 and a half, which I can only assume is because he needs a little extra comfort and support in the changes happening in both his brain and world.  I work on a ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’ basis of breastfeeding at this age, which generally works well for us.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it can get annoying, normally when I just want to sit down for a rest, but know that if I do he’s going to ask for milk.  Instead I try to walk around and keep myself busy so I don’t get pinned to the sofa!

There is also the night feeding, which has currently become more frequent throughout the night, again something to do with his development at the moment.  But when you just want to turn over and that little leg is draped over yours as an early warning signal, letting him know that you are trying to escape…

breastfeeding a 3 year old

You’re Making A Rod For Your Back…

Despite the above annoyances, I think breastfeeding definitely makes certain aspects of our lives a lot easier.  Getting him to sleep has never been an issue, I lie in bed (we co-sleep) and feed him, he unlatches when he’s finished and rolls over to sleep. EASY.  On the plane back from Lapland he was VERY tired and fed to sleep on my lap, it made our plane journey a lot quieter and I could give my attention to his big brother instead.  Any new place where we stay overnight he doesn’t need to worry as he always has his milk and his bedtime routine never changes, perfect!

Am I worried that he will be breastfeeding as a teenager? No.  A child who breastfeeds at 3 does not still feed as a teenager, the average weaning from the breast can be anywhere between 2.5 – 7 years old, whenever they are ready. At the older end of that scale it is more than likely that the child will only be having one feed when they go to sleep at night, which really doesn’t bother me.  However, when he gets older I would love it if he would also be happy about going to sleep without me occasionally, so I can go and do some other things at bedtime, such as going away overnight to go to a blog conference, ha ha!

Nope, I’m not making a rod for my own back, or whatever similar phrase you want to throw at me.  I’m parenting my child and letting him decide when he’s ready to stop breastfeeding.  When he’s ready he’ll let me know.

Doesn’t It Hurt?

Do you think I would be breastfeeding my 3 year old if it hurt?! Of course not! He has teeth, but they appeared a very long time ago and aside a few bites when they first came through, he soon got used to his teeth and kept them well out the way when breastfeeding.  If you actually look at the mechanics of breastfeeding you will see that the tongue is in the way anyhow, so no I don’t have to worry about it hurting.

Not That One, Mummy, The Other One

I personally find it quite amusing about how vocal our 3 year old is about which breast he wants and for how long. He lies down and points at the one he wants, then 20 seconds later sits up and says ‘this one now’ pointing at the other side.  Sometimes it’s literally 20 seconds on one side before he goes back to the other, but there must be some reason for the difference, perhaps they are different flavours?!  I tried to ask him what the milk tastes of, but all he will tell me is that it’s milk, his milk.

Sometimes when I’m lying in bed and don’t feel like moving I try to trick the poor boy and give him the same breast again, but he knows!  Instead of latching he leans forward and says ‘not that one mummy, the other one‘.  Or when I am sure he is asleep and try to creep away a tiny voice whispers ‘more milk mummy‘ and I sigh and lie down to feed again, blogging can wait.

But the times when he feeds awake are amongst the best, his little eyes stare up at mine and he sings little song like noises whilst feeding and hides his hands under my clothes for me to try and find and pretend to eat, it make him giggle every time and strengthens our bond as mother and son.  It’s hard not to feel close to someone who still needs you so fiercely when he is sad, tired or just disappointed.  I know he won’t breastfeed forever, so I will savour these moments for when it ends and know that I have given him the best start in life that I could.

J x

15 Comments

  1. January 11, 2017 / 10:48 pm

    Brilliant post Jenny. I’m still feeding my youngest who will be 3 in May. Other than my husband nobody knows I’m still feeding her, not even my family because I know their thoughts on it. But it’s the right thing to do, so I’ll keep going the same as you – just as long as she wants it.
    Nat.x

    • January 11, 2017 / 11:08 pm

      Brilliant! I can’t hide it from anyone as he feeds in front of family too, I don’t care though, it’s about him and not anyone else. 🙂 x

  2. Helen
    January 11, 2017 / 11:06 pm

    Moo is only 19 months and I already get “other one”. They can’t be conned can they?

    • January 11, 2017 / 11:09 pm

      Ha ha! I find it so funny how they can tell so early that it’s the same one! I really wish he had the capacity to compare my milk to food and whether they actually taste different?! 🙂

  3. January 12, 2017 / 2:34 am

    Aww so cute. My boy was so obsessed with his milk too!! It’s totally true about the bond it creates!!! I now sometimes miss those mommy son moments too. I love the way he used to look at my while feeding. And yes it was so easy to get him to sleep back then.

  4. January 12, 2017 / 4:20 pm

    It’s totally a personal choice and something which nobody else other than yourself can make a decision upon.

  5. January 16, 2017 / 9:09 pm

    Love this so much! Always lovely to hear positive stories about breastfeeding. I never understand why people think feeding to sleep is a bad thing?! Currently feeding my 2-y-o – I stopped feeding her older sister at around this time when I was about six months pregnant as I wanted a bit of a break, but have no reason to stop this time so who knows how long we’ll carry on for x

  6. January 20, 2017 / 7:39 pm

    I’m still feeding my nearly 1 year old. It’s her comfort and she loves to tap my other booby when she’s feeding from the other. I love breast feeding it’s amazing! Xx

  7. Lisa
    January 25, 2017 / 11:01 am

    Both of mine stopped at 5, though also stopped feeding during the night about age 2 and we co-slept too. It was all very easy and natural. The youngest got a big boy cabin bed at age 5 and moved out of our room in with his sister. He never asked again. It happened exactly as I had hoped, completely on his timetable

  8. February 8, 2017 / 11:25 am

    I really don’t want to cause an argument but I just thought it would be a good discussion point. I am currently preparing to study for my MA in Childhood, and feel that through this your child will become overly attached and reliant. The health benefits of breast feeding only really exist from 0-6 months of age. Yes, he is facing big transitions but these transitions will only become more daunting as he grows older. If you keep giving it to him when he wants it then he’s going to become reliant on it when he feels uncomfortable and upset. I think maybe at the age of four he should start to come off it so he can become independent and learn different coping mechanisms for when he comes across these transitions and changes. Why not just a glass of milk, or a teddy? Of course, no upset child should be ignored but as he grows, he is going to need to learn to problem-solve and learn how to overcome these issues independently. Again, I do not wish to criticise your lifestyle and I am aware that attachment parenting is a personal choice, but there are downfalls to some aspects of it.

    • February 8, 2017 / 1:31 pm

      Hi Olivia, Thanks for your comment. I think many people who aren’t as understanding of breastfeeding will think this too. However, there is a reason that the World Health Organisation recommends breast feeding for at least 2 years. Breast milk is not just for nutrition, but clearly it is helpful for that too, for example when a child is sick and not eating, they often will still have BM (stops dehydration as well as aiding nutrition) which will help them get over the illness quicker. It’s also been shown that breast milk has many important properties including containing natural antibiotics, this links shows some research that’s currently being undertaken: https://www.facebook.com/vixy.g/posts/761278424020083?hc_location=ufi. That last link also shows how the immune properties increase in the toddler years. Breast milk contains many important vitamins and calcium that are tailored perfectly to the brest feeding child’s needs due to the feeback process from breast feeding. This link gives you a lot of great information about why breastfeeding past infancy is not only normal, but also very important: http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/ebf-benefits/
      As you can see a glass of milk or a teddy is not going to be anywhere near as good as breastfeeding longer. Why give a child a glass of cow’s milk when they can have milk from not only their own species, but their own mother who’s milk is tailored the child’s needs.
      It has also been shown that allowing your child to be attached to you (including extended BF), will give your child the confidence to be more independent and happy to face more difficult situations than non-attached peers. They are more likely to explore and be confident in doing so if they aren’t pushed into independence, but allowed to find it at their own rate. x

      • February 10, 2017 / 4:09 pm

        This is some really good research and I understand completely. I also understand the psychological needs of a child, especially as they experience turbulence and difficult situations during their holistic growth and development. I also understand that when a child is ready to stop then they will. But through practical experience I find that helping children understand the problems they are facing, and assisting them in resolving them practically is also beneficial and allows them to gradually become more confident and independent when these problems escalate and they have encounter different experiences as they grow older. But honestly, I cannot argue with your point and don’t wish to criticise your lifestyle and your child’s lifestyle. I completely understand your view. As long as the health and well-being of your child is being promoted then who am I to criticise? I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog, as an early years practitioner myself, and look forward to reading more posts! x

  9. Helen
    October 10, 2017 / 8:24 pm

    I don’t normally comment on posts but after reading Olivia’s I’ll-informed opinions I couldn’t resist chipping in with my support.
    Thanks for being so public about your breastfeeding stage. Age three is still very young and it is only a strange concept in our culture because many mums unfortunately feel judgement and social pressure to “hide” any breastfeeding the older a child gets. It’s more common than most people think. It is sad that mums breastfeeding older kids can get so isolated and unsupported. I loved reading your story!
    Anyone with a specific education in lactation and the science of breastfeeding, nutrition, & child psychology will applaud you.
    I am currently breastfeeding my 4year old and my 1 year old. It works really well for our family. Thanks for helping to normalise the issue 🙂

    • October 10, 2017 / 9:06 pm

      That’s great that you are still feeding both your 4 and 1 year old. I think you’re completely right, a lot of people are feeding older children but just don’t talk about it. The more we talk about it the more we normalise extended breastfeeding. Thank you for your lovely comment. 🙂 x

  10. November 6, 2017 / 11:58 am

    Just came to this – lovely post. I loved breastfeeding mine – they stopped at 18, 22 and 26 months, when they wanted to. My eldest was really into solid food and was very active, so let go of me in favour of more portable sustenance (mostly water, some formula) but my younger children held on a bit longer. It’s a fabulous way of bonding and reassuring a child, especially if they are hurt or tired – mine would stop crying and sigh immediately with the relief of feeling safe, warm and comforted. I feel very privileged and lucky to have been able to do it.
    Re: Olivia’s comments, as far as attachment goes, as a mother, the close attachment I had with my children at that stage felt very natural and necessary and didn’t stop them from happy, healthy development; independence can and does evolve in parallel. Re: the benefits of breastfeeding after 6 months, as a scientist, I would refer to the WHO recommendations cited above, which are cited and supported by the NHS. The NHS clearly states that benefits continue beyond six months.
    Excerpt: “Breastfeeding still has lots of benefits for you and your baby after six months. It protects them from infections and there’s some evidence that it helps them to digest solid foods. It also continues to provide the balance of nutrients they need. The World Health Organization recommends that all babies are breastfed for up to two years or longer.”

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