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To still be BF my 4-year-old?

(408 Posts)
NaturalMama Tue 11-Aug-09 00:01:50

Sounds really bad in the title. My first post on here after lurking for a very long time. I'm also posting this in Breast/Bottle Feeding but figured this would attract some honest opinions as well.

I've started to get quite a few snarky comments and dirty looks when people hear that I'm still breastfeeding my eldest. These are not from mere strangers but from dear close friends and immediate family.

My eldest is 4.2, going into reception and he has had access to 'minty' (hmm his word) whenever he likes since birth. At the moment he currently has it after breakfast (and after I've fed his sister), in place of and/or just before or after his afternoon kip around 2pm, and just after tea. Sometimes more, sometimes just once. He is very excited about going to school but he's always been a very very shy boy and we've had talks about him not having minty during the day but he seems okay with it. I've never tried to get him to stop as I think if he asks for it, he obviously needs the comfort. He's never had a dummy/comforter and shows no interest in bartering minty time for toys, sweets, etc.

I had a baby when he was 2 who passed away at 4 months old. I do admit that feeding my eldest was just as comforting for me as it was for him during that time, and I felt it wasn't fair on him to go cold turkey when he was having an emotional time as well.

My youngest is just gone 7 months and she feeds about 5 times a day, obviously between when DS has a go.

Family is starting to tease DS about it saying he's not a big boy and his school friends will think he's silly. It's a private thing and we are always alone when we do it (apart from DD and DH) but family/friends ask me if I've stopped yet and I feel a bit huffy about it.

I know he's not getting anything nutritionally out of it, but can I ask the Mumsnet jury what you think? Is it harmless/comforting for him especially at a time of upheaval (i.e. sister being born, loss of second, starting school) or is it time to give it up and if so - how on earth do I go about doing this? It's not about me babying him as I have another baby I can happily feed for at least another two years!

Kayteee Tue 11-Aug-09 00:11:48

So sorry to hear about your baby sad firstly.

I bf'd mine till they were around 2 yrs old roughly. I have friends who went on much longer and I do know of Mums who carried on past 4. I personally don't have a problem with it and I think he will grow out of it in his own time. As long as you're both happy with it I'd ignore anyone else.

Probably once he starts school will gradually want to less and less.

Good luck yo you I say grin

bumpybecky Tue 11-Aug-09 00:12:57

YANBU to have fed / be feeding for that long. If he's happy, his sibling is happy and you're happy then I'd say carry on

It's not just about nutrition (which he is getting, there's calories in it after all, just he can get those elsewhere), there's the antibody immunity stuff as well as lovely Mummy / DS bonding.

At some point he will lose the ability to latch on so will stop feeding naturally. I think it's around 5 years old, but no source for that fact, just my (unreliable!) memory. So it's not like you'll be feeding him forever like that Little Britain bitty sketch that I'm sure has been quoted at you angry

As for the 'well meaning' family, tell them to mind their own buisness!

Becky (BF all of mine, dd1 13m, dd2 9m, dd3 22m, ds 19m and couting...)

Kayteee Tue 11-Aug-09 00:15:11

I mean good luck "to you"...not yo yo blush

cathcat Tue 11-Aug-09 00:17:31

How does your DS react if you say no to him? If he goes away happily and does something else then I would say definitely time to drop the BF.
Personally I would not want to BF a child of this age but I expect other posters will tell you it is your business and to carry on if you and DS want to. Of course this is your right. But the fact you are posting about it perhaps you are feeling that it is time to stop?
I'm very sorry to hear that you lost a young baby.

NaturalMama Tue 11-Aug-09 00:19:00

Kayteee Thanks for your sentiments!

Becky Didn't know that about the latch, very interesting. Teeth / biting has never been an issue, which others always tease me for ("You must be black and blue!") and yes, there is much David Walliams hating in this house angry

NaturalMama Tue 11-Aug-09 00:21:02

cath I'm posting for a general feeling (i.e. anyone's experiences) - will this make him feel awful when he goes to school and gets embarassed (if he talks about it at all)? Will it somehow harm him psychologically as my mother-in-law never fails to say when we speak? DH is very pro-breastfeeding and says he wants his son to have as strong a mother/son bond as possible so I'm getting mixed signals.

Of course I'm no idiot and know that it's not particularly 'normal' but neither is co-sleeping and it's seen as perfectly fine now? Just slightly confused.

cathcat Tue 11-Aug-09 00:30:42

That is great your DH is pro-BF. However surely the bond is strong enough now between you and DS? Will it make any difference to your relationship if you stop now or in a year?

DollyPS Tue 11-Aug-09 00:32:18

Nowt wrong with carrying on if this is what both of you want and sod the rest of them hen

You might find once at school he wont want boobs much or even at all as he will have other things to occupy him. 0r he may see himself as a big lad now.

I breastfed youngest till he was 3 and once he went to nursery that was him.

I went against what is classed the norm 23 years ago and breasfed till all my babies where over 1 as it wasnt heard of then. who was I to deprive them as they were so not ready to give up the boobs.

1st 1year 2nd 1 and a bit 3rd 2 years 4th 3years and 5th 3 years as well and they are now 23 21 20 16 12

nappyaddict Tue 11-Aug-09 03:03:15

YANBU. The only thing I would be worried about is that if he hears negative comments about it he may start feeling negatively towards BF. Does he feed in public? If so I may be tempted to keep BF to a home thing only to protect him from such comments. It is a shame we have to do this and I would never usually advise someone to stop feeding in public because of negative comments because we shouldn't let the idiots who make them win in making people feel ashamed, uncomfortable or embarrassed as it is neither of those things. But it isn't usually a problem cos the majority of children breastfeeding wouldn't be old enough to understand any comments made where as your DS is.

savoycabbage Tue 11-Aug-09 03:37:27

You have to do what you feel is the best for you and your own child. I imagine that there will be people who would be horrified at you bf a 4 year old, just as we on the MN jury are horrified at people letting their dc drink coke.

My 5 year old was picked on last week because of her hair clips. Also she has been picked on for having chocolate brownie in her lunch box (you are eating poo) and for having buckles on her shoes.

poopscoop Tue 11-Aug-09 05:23:25

Well, I shall be a bit blunt here, but I feel it is really time to stop.

An ideal oportunity to stop is now when he starts school. I am saying this because he is just using it as a comforter and reckon if he has a friend round to tea and asks for minty infront of them, it could well lead to a bit of ribbing at school, which then leads on to full scale bullying. You need to do anything to esure that doesnt happen.

I am prepared for a flaming as I know how pro breast feeding people are on here, including myself, but also wondering if there is connection with losing your young baby, which I was very sorry to read about sad

stonethecrows Tue 11-Aug-09 06:50:33

So sorry to hear about the loss of your baby.

Afraid I'm with Poopscoop here. I have been stunned by what little children will pick up on and bully others for in reception. I am absolutely sure that if the other kids had an idea your DS was still BF he would make a very obvious tarhet. I am not saying that that is right or acceptable, but it is the way it is. I think you need to stop as soon as possible.

racmac Tue 11-Aug-09 06:57:12

Sorry to hear about the loss of your baby - that must have been terrible for you and your family.

Im personally of the opinion that ist time to stop - he starts big school - he is a big boy and if the other children get word of it he will be open to teasing for the next 5 or 6 years.

I am very prof bf but do think there does come a time to stop.

SycamoretreeIsFullOfResolve Tue 11-Aug-09 07:04:21

I'm sorry for the loss of your baby sad

I can't argue with your right to carry on, and my education on MN these past few years has really broadened my views on extended BFing.

BUT, if you're posting in AIBU for some honest feedback, I would say yes, reception is a good time to stop, if you're feeling unsure anyway.

I consider myself an easy going, liberal person, but I still think I'd struggle to accept the reality of a close relative or friend bf-ing a school age child. It's different to agreeing everyone has a right to do it on an internet board....IYSWIM.

That, I am sure, says more about me than you, but I just am letting you know, as you seem to want to, what the general feeling out there might be.

I personally wouldn't want to add this complication into the mix of starting school and would be using the holidays to get him used to not having access.

Others will no doubt come on this thread and tell you how you can make it work, and how it's his decision when to give up, together with yours...it's nothing to do with anyone else....and tbh, it ISN'T. BUT, if you're concerned, there's obviously a nagging doubt and for that reason I've posted honestly smile

moopymoo Tue 11-Aug-09 07:04:26

Am surprised how many are saying stop. I think that it is perfectly fine and not actually that rare for a 4 yr old to be feeding esp if they have a younger sibling who is doing so. I think that he will find his own way with it and I really think the the bullying issue is not relevant - many of his classmates will have a teddy/sippy cup/ even a dummy and many will not be totally reliably dry - they are still little in reception. The mixed messages that you are getting from your family are being echoed here and I urge you to follow what feels right for your ds and yourself. They do grow up very fast reception year and I would not be surprised if he stops it himself.

StinkyFart Tue 11-Aug-09 07:06:06

I am so sorry for your loss sad

Let him stop in his own time; you can use the never offer never refuse technique

stonethecrows Tue 11-Aug-09 07:10:22

Moopymoo

I'm afraid there is a world of difference in the eyes of a 4 year old between a teddy / sippy cup, and betwen a 4 year old still BF. Again not saying that it is right, but there really is a lot of difference in the eyes of a 4 / 5 year old.

blondissimo Tue 11-Aug-09 07:18:14

Aw, NaturalMama, so sorry to hear about your loss - that must have been such a difficult time for you and all your familysad.
Have you actually talked to your ds and asked him what he thinks? Perhaps he might say that he is happy to stop as he will not have access to you whilst he is at school all day anyway. So you will automatically be losing a feed which you will need to talk through with him. If you explain that, then perhaps he can decide for himself?
I am pro breastfeeding, however there is always going to be a point at which you will have to stop, so this would give you a good opportunity, however if you and ds are both happy to carry on, then don't let anyone's bullying stop you.

TrinityRhinoIsInDetention Tue 11-Aug-09 07:20:27

So sorry for your loss sad

I am still feeding Gecko, she is 2.6

She wakes up through the night for it too

I have decided to let her self wean

I may try and orchestrate no 'boob' at night time in a while but I wont stop her in the day until she is ready

I wont get any hassle from my dh, close friends or damily so its easier for me

but I would like to say that its important you do what you and your ds feel comfortable with

please dont let anyone make the decision to stop for you.

good luck smile

gingernutlover Tue 11-Aug-09 07:26:09

Firstly, very sorry about your LO. sad

re the breastfeeding I am totally in awe of anyone who manages it at all let alone anyone who carries on past the first few months. And I see nothing wrong with it at all as a comfort to your ds and a lovely thing you share. I agree with the poster who said never offer but never refuse, so its totally on his terms to give it up when he wants I guess.

Just to say though, I am a reception teacher and whilst most of the children I teach are very accepting of the differences around them some would laugh and tell their mums and older children - just be prepared for that. Especially some of the girls in my class can be quite catty about little things even at such a young age.

Babieseverywhere Tue 11-Aug-09 07:55:37

YANBU grin

I think your last sentence says it all "It's not about me babying him as I have another baby I can happily feed for at least another two years!" You and your son are happy with your nursing relationship and that is all that matters. However I can hear how upsetting all the unwanted comments are from both sides of your family

This is an interesting article on the natural age for weaning maybe your family critics might like to read it.

I would ignore any critism about potential bullying from other children at school. If your child was being bullied for having long hair, the solution would be for the school to deal with the bullies not for your child to cut their hair....ditto nursing.

To be honest I doubt he will mention nursing to his classmates, simply as he will assume that every child his age nurses.

Just to reassure you that my daughter still nurses (she is 3 years old next week) and is starting nursery in September and I know she will be fine without milk whilst she is there and I guess she will continue to have milk before and after nursery as normal.

I found contacting my local LLL group very helpful. You get to meet other toddler nursing children and tandem nursers, makes you feel a lot more 'normal' I don't go frequently just when I want a boost. LLL webpage

HTH

SycamoretreeIsFullOfResolve Tue 11-Aug-09 08:05:53

Good post Babies.

dal21 Tue 11-Aug-09 08:12:06

Am very sorry to hear about the loss of you bub. sad

Having said that; I am posting with complete honesty as you have asked posters to do. I take my hats off to all extended bfeeders. Having said that; children in reception can be incredibly cruel....and the children he starts with in reception may stay together as a class throughout lower school. He may get teased mercilessly for this - and for that reason, I really think you should stop.

Sorry - but I think school is tough enough for LO's without adding this to the mix.

And as another poster has said, what will happen when his friends come round for tea?

MmeLindt Tue 11-Aug-09 08:17:11

I feel that the problem here is that you are posting this question on a board that is pretty pro-BF and pro extended BF. You are going to get a very different response here than if you asked the mums at the school gates.

I am sure that the BF was a comfort to both you and him after the death of your baby. It must have been very distressing for both of you.

IMO, your son is now old enough to get comfort from you by sitting on your knee, talking to you, being close to you. The BF is a habit that he will probably break soon anyway as he will realise that other children his age do not do this (if he has not already)

Perhaps you could initiate a conversation with him, tell him that you are not going to go "cold turkey" on him but how would he feel about no more minty. Let him take the lead on it.

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