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How old is 'too old' to breastfeed? (long sorry)

(106 Posts)
NaturalMama Mon 10-Aug-09 23:59:52

My first post on here after lurking for a very long time. smile I'm also planning to post in AIBU (I'm made of strong stuff!)

I've started to get quite a few snarky comments and dirty looks while 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? sad It's not about me babying him as I have another baby I can happily feed for at least another two years!

bedlambeast Tue 11-Aug-09 00:15:47

Message withdrawn

bedlambeast Tue 11-Aug-09 00:19:16

Message withdrawn

AnarchyAunt Tue 11-Aug-09 09:22:44

So sorry to hear about the loss of your baby.

Your family have a bloody cheek trying to make your DS feel self-conscious by commenting angry and personally I would tackle them on this when DS is not listening. There is a good page on Kellymom about handling criticism of BF.

Nutritionally he still gets benefits, not just calories but immunity and antibodies too.

Emotionally he will be benefitting to - a 4yo would not BF if they didn't want to, and at a time of stress (such as starting school) is probably not the best time to wean. It's likely that he will start to self wean once he settles in at school anyway - he will grow more independent, and the ability to latch goes at some point anyway. It's a lovely thing for him, to be allowed to have that security to grow at his own pace smile

Builde Tue 11-Aug-09 09:59:07

My oldest daughter wore a blanket on her head right until the day she started school. Other reception children only gave up their dummies the day before and one child turned up in nappies.

However, once school began, the blankets, dummies and nappies all disappeared.

I think that your son will probably find it ok to do one thing at school and another thing at home. Children do understand that there are different rules at home and school.

However, if people tease him it will become a bigger issue than it really is. Plus, it undermines you and parents need to feel strong!

pigletmania Tue 11-Aug-09 11:01:37

Hi, will try and sound as sensitive as i can but its only my opinion at the end of the day. I am so sorry that you lost a dear baby and can totally understand the need to contiune to bf in that case. For me personally i would not continue to feed a baby past 18-20 months and find feeding older children especailly of school age reall uncomfortable. I only managed to bf my dd for a couple of weeks before encountering problems and reluctantly switching to formula. IMO it is time to wean your ds now, you have done fantastically well bf but he is now going to school and its a transition that IMO you have to make. I know that you might feel sad about letting go but it has to happen sometime why not now when he starts school. Please dont take it personally its just my opinion

mawbroon Tue 11-Aug-09 12:24:37

NaturalMama - you and your ds are doing nothing wrong.

If you are both happy to carry on, then carry on.

People who make stupid comments can be ignored.(I've already had the one about squirting milk through the school railing [WTF??] and it's another year until DS even goes)

As others have said, he will possibily find school (and the thought of it, leading up to it) a bit stressful, and nursing will be a huge comfort to him. Why would anyone want to remove the biggest comfort in his life at such a time?

And BTW, he is getting nutrition from it too!!

LeninGrad Tue 11-Aug-09 12:30:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

RedDeadFail Tue 11-Aug-09 12:35:07

I'm so sorry to hear about your little baby.

I think allowing your child to self wean is a wonderful gift.

However, I would tackle the family teasing him about it. It's casual, undermining bullying and very hurtful indeed.

pseudoname Tue 11-Aug-09 14:27:40

well done for feeding your boy for so long. It is no one's business so don't discuss it with them, even if they are close relations since you can't stop them from making negative remarks at your son.

In order to shut up the stupid relatives, I'd be brief and to the point that they can keep their disapproval to themselves. Do so every time they make a comment to your child about his feeding. "Something like I do not appreciate you teasing/bullying my son about his breastfeeding.' any 'buts' can be stopped with: I am not asking for your approval or advice, now stop it.

But then I am brusque and to the point but you may have to find your style to tell these 'kind' rellies.

They are doing it because you haven't stopped them and so they are under the impression that they can get away with it.

thisisyesterday Tue 11-Aug-09 14:33:09

naturalmama, he IS getting nutritional benefits from it still..
your milk is just as beneficial as it was to a newborn, with all its antibodies and clever stuff like that in. he may be able to exist without it, but that doesn't stop it being a wonderful additional food for him!

I think that it will be a great comfort for him when he starts school. even if he finds starting school difficult/stressful then he will be able to come home for his minty and relax and unwind with you.
I can't think of a better way to help transition him to school.

i know of several other children who started school and were/are still breastfeeding. 3 of these are now over 5 and still feeding.
it's fine! if you and he are both hapopy with it then carry on.

I would however have words with the family memberrs who can't keep their noses out!

pigletmania Tue 11-Aug-09 14:50:31

Like the others have said on here, it is up to you and your child when to stop, they have also said that it will help the transition and stress, however IMO surely a child has to buid up other coping stratergies when encountering stressful stituations and cant rely on breastfeeding all the time through their childhood, mums is not always going to be there all of the time. This is coming from someone by the way whose dd (2.5 years) still has a dummy at nap and bedtime and bottle at those times, who is in the process of trying to pottytrain whilst weaning her off those things lol

HoppityBunny Tue 11-Aug-09 14:54:45

I understand the natural breastfeeding bio weaning age is from 4 - 7 yrs. If you were BFG in africa, no problem! But you are here, in the western world where everything is all twisted and distorted! I think you are brave and I don't even think children are ready to start school at the age of 4 or 5, I think 7 is more appropriate.

Your relatives should stop what they are doing to your son cos they end up making him feel embarrassed, ashamed and dirty about it. You want him to have happy breast memories not bad ones.

FrameyMcFrame Tue 11-Aug-09 15:05:30

NM, I think you are doing a great job and should kepp feeding him for as long as you both like. I bet your family and friends wouldn't pass comment if he was having a bottle of milk at bed time. I see many kids drinking out of a bottle on the way to school, why is that ok but breastfeeding older children not accepted.

Embuggerance Tue 11-Aug-09 15:14:21

well, I stopped bf at 2-y-o, with both my two as it seemed right for us at the time. But one of my dc carried on with a dummy til he was 5 (at night). Same difference really. He needed the security .
Ain't nobody's business but yours...

Dophus Tue 11-Aug-09 15:15:30

I'm sorry for your loss.

You have a lot of support here for bf however you have asked for opinions.

I also feel that your child is too old for bf. I feel the cut off point is when the child will be able to remember. My closest friend and her sister were bf to a similar age. Both of them now have an aversion to bfing and my frined was unable to bf her own children. In fact she was uncomforatble with the sight of any breastfeeding. My friend is the biggest 'earth mother' of all my friends but this was an issues for her and her sister.

I do't believe your family should tease your son but I do think that you should consider whom you are doing this for.

bedlambeast Tue 11-Aug-09 15:33:03

Message withdrawn

Dophus Tue 11-Aug-09 15:48:10

This has nothing to do with the sexualisation of breasts.

Sometime it is necessary to accept the culture in which one lives - this is, afterall, the culture in which our children are to be raised.

pigletmania Tue 11-Aug-09 16:04:23

bedlambeast you dont have to bf for the child to feel loved, i did not bf but we had/still have loads of cuddles, hugs and lovely bonding moments even whilst bottle feeding (not just an emotionless act of shoving bottle in babies mouth)and away you go.

pseudoname Tue 11-Aug-09 16:07:04

Dophus, other people who have been breastfed to the age when they can remember being fed have fond memories of it. smile

Aversion to breastfeeding can happen for other reasons past the age of weaning.

I find it amazing that you can definitively state that you are sure that it has nothing to do with sexualisation of the breasts?

I don't understand this 'you live in this culture so you must do as it does' even to the detriment of a positive mother - child relationship.

Taking this same opinion you expressed: culture is very pro dummy, should I have offered my child one?

pigletmania Tue 11-Aug-09 16:07:54

Other counties where natural term weaning may be the norm might be those where food and water are scarce so not really much choice, child starving or bf.

nickytwotimes Tue 11-Aug-09 16:12:48

Naturalmama, if you want to feed and he wants to be fed, then carry on. It has sod all to do with anyone else! As a few others have mentioned, it is perfectly normal for children to hang on to 'props' (of which ths is a superior one!) well into their childhood and it does no harm. Your wee boy will be getting goodness as well as comfort, both of which are very important.

mawbroon Tue 11-Aug-09 16:15:26

I really believe that EBF is something that is very difficult to fully understand unless you have done it.

NaturalMama - have you read How Weaning Happens? It is a LLL publication and explores weaning at all different ages. You may find it helpful.

My ds is 3.10yo, so only a few months younger than the yours NaturalMama. As far as I know, it's not something he talks about to anyone else at nursery or elsewhere, and if he is still feeding next August when he goes into P1 then I certainly wouldn't wean him just because he's going to school.

pseudoname Tue 11-Aug-09 16:15:30

"Other counties where natural term weaning may be the norm might be those where food and water are scarce so not really much choice, child starving or bf."


<goes off to find wall on which to bang head.>

Dophus Tue 11-Aug-09 17:22:28

My feelings on sexualisation are that it is 'not necessarily to do with' rather than 'absolutely not to do with'.

I diasagree that culture is prodummy - it depends on which culture you live (back to my original point).

Pseudo - this appears to be degenerating. The OP asked for an opinion - we expressed it. That you disagree with piglet and I is your choice but your way of doing it is perhaps not the most constructive.

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