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Nursing a 6 year-old, anyone else out there? Support needed

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
My daughter turned 6 last week and I have officially lost all support. The only 2 people who know we still nurse, my mom and my husband, have now openly expressed their disapproval (now that she's 6) when just a few months ago they were more supportive. My daughter nurses at least every night before bed, and she recently stopped nursing to sleep (with my encouragement). She and I made a written agreement a while back that she would nurse every other night once she turns 6, but now she cries at the thought of it. I would be pleased to see her wean now, but she's obviously not ready. I believe so much in true child-led weaning but I am feeling tremendous pressure to wean her, and she's not slowing down. For the first time I am wondering if I am doing the right thing by respecting her needs and letting her nurse as long as she needs.

Has anyone been here done that? I appreciate the open-mindedness of the Mothering.Commune here and would appreciate your open honest answers. Do I continue to respectfully encourage her to wean herself or do I let her lead the way even if that means 7, 8, or even longer and take the risks that go along with that? The last thing I want is for our community to think we're freaks (if they ever find out), or report us as child abuse (which is ridiculous but our society's ideals are messed up enough for it to happen), or worse yet, for my daughter to one day resentfully say "what were you thinking Mom". I know in my heart that I don't want to make her stop before she's ready.

Thanks for your help,
Mother Sunshine
post #2 of 21
I don't think she will say "what were you thinking" because obviously you were thinking of *her* needs, wants, desires....

I think you are in a tough spot, I have no idea what I would do myself. as most of the 6yo I know are quite mature (probably overly so) and I couldn't imagine any of them actually nursing. Although, nobody in my family has nursed past a year and none of them could imagine that..so who knows!

Anyway, your DD is old enough to talk to about it. if *you* feel uncomfortable with it she should know.

talk to her about wanting your body back (if that is an issue for you)...talk to her about what else you could do for her to comfort her beside bfing....

BUT: if you are both ok with bfing continuing then by all means do so! Nobody else gets to decide what works for *you* and DD! It IS your body, nobody else's...so if they are uncomfortable with it that is THEIR problem not yours!

post #3 of 21
This ideally would be a decision made between you and your daughter. I think the media has blown out of proportion the occ case of an older nursing child being reported. What you 2 do in the privacy of the bedroom is between you and her. No one needs to know!

I planned on letting my youngest self wean, but went ahead and closed up the milk bar when he was 4 1/2. He had no problems with it. Turns out it was a habit, not a need. If the child adjusts in about 3 days, it was a habit. If it seems traumatic for longer than that, it is a need.

I personally believe in child respectful weaning, not necc child led. It is a two way relationship, your needs and feelings are important too.

Read Mothering your Nursing Toddler, and How Weaning Happens.
post #4 of 21
Hello, Mother Sunshine!

my dd is only 15 months, so I have no actual experience with what you are going through. But even at her age, I am getting the "when" questions from my family. Like what you are saying about them being supportive before her sixth birthday, and not after - this is the same child as she was several days/weeks ago. How are things so different now? In your case, is she a different person now? Nursing a day before her b-day is ok, but not the day after? In my case, I am surprised that some people are saying "well, once she turns one, you've got to stop" hmmm..

this is between you and your dd. You sound like a caring and wonderful mother. Talk to you dd and figure out how important this is to her? (I like what Daryl was saying about habit vs. need) I have no idea what to say to help you with this.. but just wanted to post and say that you are doing the best you can for your child and your mom and husband should not pressure you or your dd.. that pressure might make it worse, too

post #5 of 21
just wanted to add a "THANKS"

it's because of mothers like you on this board that I have decided to go the child-led weaning way. I used to think "Ok, WHO says at least two years.. so I guess I"ll start gently weaning after two"

I honestly hope that it doesn't get to the point where I"m wondering if I"m doing the right thing by letting her wean herself. It just seems like if they're not ready, they're not ready. Regardless of their age. I know it's easier to talk about this in theory than to have to face your situation IRL. so here's another
post #6 of 21
I think I can help you. Mine weaned at 5.8 years, right before entering kindergarten.

I know with my dd the more I mentioned weaning the more she wanted to nurse. Just take it day by day. I started at 3 years of age talking to her about a Weaning Party when she was all done with her Milkies. We'd talk about what kind of party we would have and who we would invite.

I didn't bring it up all the time but it was a little nudge. I really didn't think I'd nurse much past 2 let alone 3

She was a pretty consistent nurser until she was 5. Then she started missing some days and at 5.4 years of age (out of the blue) I know sounds kind of weird, but I was really surprised when she told me she wanted her weaning party because she was done with milkies.

She didn't nurse for 3 weeks, we had the party and a few days after the party she told me she made a big mistake, she wasn't quite ready to quit.

So she nursed once every 2 weeks for the next 4 months.

So that's my story, and I will say that extra 4 months got mom really used to the idea, that this was it for my breastfeeding days. I took it well after that
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your support, advice, and hugs (and especially the thanks, Chi-Chi Mama). Your words really do help a lot, especially now that I am feeling so alone in this.

Cindy, thank you, I was hoping you would respond. I remember you being one of the few mothers here at Mothering who were nursing as long as we are. I was hoping that my daughter would slow down as yours has, but she's not slowing down at all, which worries me. If she were slowing down then I don't think I would worry as much. Hopefully she'll just suddenly slow down like you said.

I think DaryLLL might have a good point in that it might be a habit more than a need at this point, I don't know. I am trying to think up a way to respectfully encourage her to slow down. Right now that's hard because it is an important part of our nighttime. It's so weird because she isn't regimented at all during the day but come nighttime she has to have everything just so and in the right order otherwise it is hard for her to go to sleep. Nursing seems to be the most important part of the routine for her. I've tried replacing it with a story, a cuddle, tickle back, massage, etc but she always ends up asking to nurse afterwards.

I will continue to talk with her about it and hopefully we'll come up with something we are both happy with. She has already expressed that she would like to go camping to celebrate when she weans, but not until she's 7. I don't know if *I* will last that much longer. I don't want her to think that there is something wrong, which may be what I've been doing lately with all the pressure, so maybe if I back off a bit like Cindy said.

Like rwikene said, we are the only two people who have the right to make the decision, I guess I just have to be reminded every now and then.

Anyway, thanks again. Any more ideas (and support of course) are welcome!
post #8 of 21

I think you're doing great. I'm seeing myself right in your footsteps.

DD is 3.5 now, but insists that she won't wean till she's all grown up She already knows that she's bf-ing longer than other kids she knows, so I can't use a peer pressure argument

My problem is that my boobs are very different, and that she has a strong preference for the bigger one with the larger nipple from which I've always had more milk, right from the start. I'm pg, and the milk from the "bad" boob used to be clear when I pumped a couple of years ago, I think there's something with the milk ducts there that really makes the milk less nutritious. So I don't know how I'll tandem two children from one very small cupB boob that has never had that much milk in the first place...

I'm fine with her nursing, and until very recently I have always nursed everywhere at any time, but lately I feel a bit more of a tendency for myself to close us off a bit from strangers. I just hope that she'll feel compelled to share with baby, and to let baby go first if it comes to that...

Anyway, it's people like you who motivate me to keep doing it, despite soreness and strangers and family members and all... thanks
post #9 of 21
Also Mother Sunshine, a few months before my dd announced her desire to wean she had told me she was going to nurse until she about 8 or maybe 14

So you never know
post #10 of 21
Sunshine mom, you have my greatest sympathy and hopes for a rapid and happy weanling.

I asked my 3 year old recently how much longer until she thought she might wean, a short time or a long time, and she said "Oh, maybe a short time...maybe when I die."

We'll see, I really don't know what I will do if she is still nursing at 4, much less 6, but I have been working on weaning for a while now and she's still nursing at all kinds of random times during the day. I keep looking for boarding schools for 3 year olds, but other than that I really have no hope that it will happen soon.

mom to Emily (3.3) and Hazel (6 months)
post #11 of 21
if this helps, my son will be four in feb. he was ADAMANT about nursing till age 14. now he is 98% weaned. just 3 months ago i thought he would NEVER fall asleep w/out nursing. now he does with no problem. he was ready. your daughter will be ready too, & since she is older she will probably wean really fast. or not... either way she is blessed to have such a great & understandng mom. you rock! love, jenny
post #12 of 21

hugs for you brave Mama!

When I was nursing longer than most people I knew because my dd clearly needed it, the best advice I got was

"Your child is nursing enough to last a lifetime."

All the experts are now saying the human immune system matures at about age 5 to 7, so your daughter IS NORMAL. She is normal emotionally and physically/scientifically. HER NEEDS ARE NORMAL. Your ambivalence is also normal, especially in a society so FIERCELY set against extended nursing.

I agree How Weaning Happens is a great book. I agree you have a right to set limits and say to yourself "Job well done Mom!" and you also have the right to keep nursing if you choose. Too
bad our screwed up formula-and-cow's-milk happy, breasts-are-for-men-, society can't get behind you.
post #13 of 21
Just another thought. Of course all this depends on your child's temperament. My middle child, a high needs girl, was nursing at age 3 1/2. I was near the end of my next pregnancy with no weaning in sight. my nipples were excruciatingly sore, and I just could not stand to nurse her more than once a day. but she always wanted at least 2 or 3 nursings and would freak if I wouldn't let her. so in this case, I just went ahead and fully weaned her. (She didn't get the idea, wait til the sun comes up or any of that (to her) b.s.) Well, to my surprise, she weaned so easily and nicely, I was in shock. she was better having no nusings at all than the anxiety of being allowed to only sometimes. She started sleeping thru the night!

I think some kids are black and white and don't get the grey area of sometimes mom says yes, sometimes mom says no. Asking for it more often can be a sign of readiness to wean. I think How Weaning Happens goes into this. Older nursing kids can pick up on our ambivalence, and it makes them anxious and insecure.
post #14 of 21
Mother Sunshine,

Thanks for this thread - and to all who have responded. My oldest nursling is 3 years, 3 months old, and I have just found out I'm pregnant with #3.

DD1 will be almost 4 years old when baby #3 arrives, and I've toyed with the idea of encouraging weaning, as I'm not sure about the idea of nursing three! Plus, I've been having a difficult time (read: feelings of annoyance, rather than nipple soreness, although a bit of that as well) when DD1 nurses...

But I do so much appreciate the reminder that others out there have nurslings older than 4. And that nursing until 5,6,7 is normal. It makes me feel like maybe I can just relax a bit and go with the flow (so to speak ).

I do so much appreciate all of you here on this board!

post #15 of 21
Wow-this thread is good....
Mother sunshine I bow to you and your strength and the wonderful relationship you have with your dd.
I am nursing my ds of 33 months(wow I just realized he will be 33 months in two days...lol..) and he very much needs nursing and he does before bed,some during the night, at waking, before napping, during book reading, and anytime he has a major boo-boo.
I do not mind the nursing but worry if we come as far as you where I will get my support. Dh has said previously that 3 y/o is old enough and ds should be done....so come May we will see if dh has the same idea. He has not mentioned this at all lately.
(fingers crossed) Right now there are very few in our family who know we still nurse now, although some who do not get a surprise when ds needs to nurse and I do not rush to a hidden room...lol..
As with everything in parenting, you are always faced with so many choices right or wrong, and I really hate the anxieties it creates thanks to our societies views on childrearing.
Especially on this issue that is so important to our children and so normal, as others here have cited, it is just plain not right that we as mothers should have to worry about nursing a 6 y/o or not.
Just my two cents...I am glad to see so many of us here to hold hands with.....
post #16 of 21

Another 6-yr-old

DD, I tell everyone has been weaned for almost 2 years; she just doesn't know it yet!! Sometime after her fourth birthday, she started to have trouble getting any milk--her nursings had decreased to fewer than once a day. She had pretty much stopped nursing to sleep somewhere after 3 1/2, but would still nurse occasionally as I read to her at bedtime...

Anyway, i figured, once she could no longer get the milk, she would be done... She turned 6 2 weeks ago, and still every so often will say she needs to nurse...when I say, but you don't get anything, she replies, but it makes me happy to suck... So I let her...usually only a few seconds.

Sometimes now I feel like I would really like to discourage her, but really she asks now only in extreme distress. School has been tough for her in some unknown way. She'll weep and say she wishes she were a baby again...

What I have done, since she's my lil' scientist, is tell her that Kathryn Detwyller has linked the age of weaning in mammals to the coming of your second teeth. So when she's teasing me, which she does for fun sometimes, (you know, "oh mom, baaa! I've gotta have some"! [baa is her pet word for nursing] we talk about that. she finds that curious and funny...

I figure we only have a short time left, but it has been a wonderful ride, and I'm sure she will remember it with fondness.

Don't know why I'm saying all this, except to say I know where you are and how bittersweet it feels...
post #17 of 21
my dd (now 16) grudgingly weaned at 7; i was just tired by that point (and i think by 7 i get a choice in the matter, too )
the next two will nurse as long as we are both happy w/ it (the 2 yr old shows no signs of being 'done')
dd is a little embarassed 'mom! why did you let me!', but of all the things she is resentful about : , that's not one of 'em- i get the feeling she is just moaning for form's sake.
you are not alone

post #18 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so much for your heartfelt posts. Your support has been so incredibly helpful.
I have since eased up on my pressure to wean dd, we had a good talk about it, and we are back on track with our close relationship. As for dh and dm, I try to keep myself out of any more situations that welcome their advice. It really is none of their business. They should be grateful that we have such a secure, healthy, well-adjusted child.

suseyblue, thank you for your post. It is great to hear from someone who has BTDT and the child is now a teen. Your post helps encourage me, even with the risk of dd being a little embarrassed about it during the impressionable teen years.

darlindeliasmom, my daughter also has relied on nursing to help her cope with the stress of kindergarten. I know that nursing has helped her through her adjustment. Kathryn Detwyller's work has been a welcome relief for me. Her studies are fascinating. I'm not sure the adult teeth theory pertains to us though, my dd has several adult teeth already and no changes yet. Maybe she will slow down when she loses her top teeth.:

Thanks again everyone. This is a wonderful place.
post #19 of 21
post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 
What a wonderful link, thank you!
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