Breastfeeding an Older Child After a Long Pause

My (currently only) son is almost six, unschooled, and attachment-parented, but I was sick when he was little and could only nurse him for 20 months. He has never stopped wanting to nurse, and he still asks if he can nurse and often tries to touch my breasts. How normal is this? I have acknowledged his feelings, but I don’t think offering him my breast is an answer. I read The Continuum Concept and it seems to me that her view might be that anyone can be healed at any time by being given what they were deprived of, but I think this would send a very mixed signal to him, and I am not comfortable with a six-year-old at my breast. I would appreciate your view. Thanks.

It is interesting that your six-year-old son remembers breastfeeding after so long. I wonder if there is a nursing baby or toddler around him. I think that if you let him breastfeed he would be complete and done with it after a short time. Since you say that you don’t feel comfortable with this idea, then I would guess that he doesn’t get it that you mean a final and absolute no.

Many times, in an attempt to be gentle, we avoid being definite. If you don’t want to let him try it, I suggest that you discover what about your way of communicating conveyed that the subject is still open. Once you realize what caused the confusion, speak to him in a language that frees him from the hope he was nurturing.

Typical unclear messages are “I know you would like the boobie, but there is no more milk.” Or, “Now you are older and the boobies need rest.” Or, “No, I don’t want to. Not today.” Or, “Boobies are for babies and you are big.” And so on. Confusion can also come in spite of clear words as a result of intonation or body language. You can say “No, you won’t nurse any more,” in a swaying singing tone that may indicate “Yes, another time; keep trying.” It then becomes a game he plays with you. In such a case, he may not even be interested in breastfeeding but has discovered a way to get you. The whole thing may be really a game that works for him.

It is also possible that he needs lots of affection. Try to offer more cuddling and closeness while letting your child know in a clear tone and language that he is not to touch your breasts and that he will never be breastfeeding again. He may connect love and breastfeeding, so you want to tell him that you love him very, very much and that he won’t be breastfeeding ever.

If these words sound harsh to you, then it is a good proof that you may have used unclear language. Yet, it is harsher to keep him hoping than to set him free with the truth. If he really was hoping, then when your point gets through he may feel a great relief, or, he may cry as he finally realizes that it is over indeed. Either way it will give him and you great freedom. I hope one of this directions illuminates your path. I do offer phone counseling, if you wish to have further guidance:

With care, Naomi Aldort,


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