I'm longing for support and comraderie from those nursing older children. My son is 6 years old and still going strong (though mostly at night).
I suddenly came clear on really needing support. I just found out last night that my mother-in-law told my son that he's to old to be nursing and should stop. I was devastated hearing this, and seeing how my son had heard it with a sense of shame and wrongness. Oh how my heart broke.
Above all else I want his eventual weaning to come from a place within him of joyful choice, self-esteem, and trust in his own instincts. Given this, I've never used shoulds or shame to suggest weaning to him. I've offered invitations, reassurance, and fun alternatives, but I have steered clear of shoulds and shame. Even when I offer my invitiations beyond a certain frequency, I sense I've crossed a line, and taken a divit out of the deep, precious, trusting relationship I have with my son. This then leads to a renewed commitment to take a break from even presenting alternatives to breastfeeding, and focus again purely on supporting his instincts about weaning.
So the last thing I wanted was for someone he loves to tell him he "should" stop nursing. It so didn't meet my needs for my son's peace of mind and self-confidence. So much sadness and mourning in the wake of that.
And then came my conversation with my MIL, and even more mourning. She is very, very concerned about him still nursing. Her biggest concern is one that's really never even been on my radar screen. She believes sometimes boys as young as 4 can have sexual feelings, that those might come up for him when he's nursing, he might get confused with that, and then experience this as a serious trauma and develop an Oedipus Complex. It doesn't help that he's in a phase right now (which I hear is common) or keeping his hands resting in his pants about half the day (we're homeschooling/unschooling, so he hasn't been shamed out of that). She's noticed this and thinks it might be associated with him still nursing. I soooo don't share that view, but there it is.
Given all of the above, I have two requests for those willing and able to reply:
* First, if you nurse a child 5 or older, how has that been for you? What have your internal struggles been around weaning? Separate from this whole thing with my MIL, I wouldn't mind it if my son decided he was ready to wean. Although it would be REALLY bittersweet, I could see it meeting needs for ease, greater connection with my spouse, and relief from processing the concerns of others. Yet I honestly see absolutely no end in sight. I'm still willing to periodically invite. Have you had any luck with that? Any suggestions on ways that involve no shame, shoulds, "nos" or trauma? [br]
* Second, have you ever been faced with the kind of concerns my MIL expressed? If so, do you have any resources I can offer her? I would love a link or two to something that could ease her mind on these topics. I've offered to get her the research I've seen about the normalcy of older nursing, but I can't find anything about her Oedipus Complex concern, andI wouldn't mind morelinks on the normalcy of older nursing. At one point I read something by Katheryn Dettwyler about 9 years old being a conceivable max, but now all I'm seeing in her stuff is 7. I'd love to present my MIL with the highest ceiling possible, to buy myself as much time as I can before she begins getting concerned again. Any links you'd be willing/able to pass along?
Thank you so very much for your time reading and considering this. Finding this list has been such a relief.
My oldest two (twins, now 8 1/2) nursed until 5 1/2 (DD) and just over 6 (DS; not sure exactly when he weaned). Your son is very lucky that you're able to continue to meet his needs for the closeness and connection provided by long-term breastfeeding, and realize that he will wean on his own when ready.
Re. your first question. We talked about weaning for a long time (years. . .) before it actually happened. I didn't feel a need for them to wean particularly; by the time they reached 4 or so nursing was just such a non-issue, part of our daily routine and a way to reconnect, comfort, reattach. Honestly, I don't think most of our friends/relatives knew we were still nursing. We didn't hide it but also didn't find a need to talk about it much. Not because of shame or avoiding it, but because it simply never came up (we brush our teeth before bed each night, too, but don't talk about that either). But the idea of weaning was something that came up because they're old enough to realize that most of their friends had weaned. So we talked about how someday they would no longer really need to nurse and would decide to stop. The initial reaction was disbelief which eventually changed to acceptance but not for a LONG time (DS once told me he'd nurse until he was 16 ;-) to talking about what would happen when they weaned (I'd told them stories about weaning parties and the like).
We did have issues w/ MIL (common theme!) telling them they were "too old" to nurse. She also told them they were too old for the family bed (they moved out early this year in spite of her saying this since they were 2), too old to have tantrums, too old to cry. DH had talked to her about our feelings about saying these things, which helped somewhat. We've also talked to our children extensively about how different people have different beliefs and ideas, and how Grandma's ideas are different than ours. We spend a LOT of time with all their grandparents, so we've had to hear this sort of thing a lot over the years. I think it's actually been a good learning experience for them and hasn't been particularly emotionally upsetting. But my children are very self-confident and don't get too upset about this sort of comment. It also hasn't been particularly upsetting to DH or to me, and our children are really good at picking up on our emotions, so your son probably is upset as well because he's empathizing with you (also a sign of healthy emotional development, by the way!).
Do you think your MIL will be truly receptive to research/information about normalcy of both your son's behavior and full-term breastfeeding? Obviously, every person is different, but the really negative responses I've experienced were from people who were certain that they were right. No research or explanation I was going to give would change their minds. Since I'm also convinced I'm right the best I could do in these cases was either agree to disagree or refuse to engage. "That's an interesting idea. So, how's the weather?" - change the subject. Or "This is what works for us. I don't think it's appropriate to discuss in front of my child. If you have concerns, please bring them to me instead." As far as my MIL, what's had the most effect has been taking ME out of the equation. DH or my FIL talk to her when her comments are inappropriate. She doesn't stop making them, but she stops making them to me or to my children (I hear about what she says to other relatives through the family grapevine).
The behavior you're describing is VERY normal for a 6 year old boy. I know I've read a lot about boys touching their penises in parenting books and publications over the years. One reference I found quickly at Dr. Sears website: http://www.askdrsears.com/faq/az9.asp. Interestingly, one of the approaches to the behavior is to INCREASE cuddling and snuggles w/ your child. It might help to give some of these to your MIL, so she realizes that this isn't related to nursing but to being a boy. And from what I hear, it only gets worse (but they get better at keeping it private ;-). At least for my son, it seems comforting to him and the hand always goes for the pants when he's nervous. Still sometimes at 8. From talking to other mothers, I think it's also common for little boys (and little girls) to touch their private parts while nursing. It feels good, it's soothing, they're relaxed and comfortable while nursing. Most mothers do ask their children to stop, or simply make sure their child is fully dressed while nursing. Depends on your comfort level, I suppose.
As far as research for older nurslings, there is very very little available. Most of the research on breastfeeding, even more recent, clumps anything after 1 year together. And very little looks at emotional health, psychosocial development, and the like. You might find information to reassure you at http://www.kellymom.com/bf/bfextende...ts.html#social (especially the note about the AAP statement "There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer." AAP 2005). There's also a book out recently - "Breastfeeding Older Children" by Ann Sinnott, which has sections about all the questions you brought up, with quotes from mothers. I got it off Amazon. There's also a blog, http://blog.longtermbreastfeeding.or...miF07saP9VEXY0, written by an LLL Leader who's done extensive research on full-term breastfeeding. It's relatively new, but I know she plans on getting more research posted when possible.
DD and DS are 11 & DD is 4 Our car is a bike!
Sharing our with 3, 2 & 4
But I've been downright secretive about nursing for at least the past year. We don't even nurse when DH is around anymore, and I don't think MIL or much of anyone else knows for sure that we're still nursing at all. DS is ok with that, and I haven't made a big deal out of it. But I really don't know how to deal with those issues, which is why we're so private with it.
I am sorry I cannot offer any advice as my son suddenly refused breast at 23.5 months old. I am now bf my 5 week old babe. I just wanted to pass on some hugs. I cringed and felt heartache knowing your son might have felt shamed, hurt, wrong about his life and his bf'ding when your MIL told him he was too old. This makes me very sad. I don't have any concrete opinions on "extended" bf'g...I only know that nursing helped my son develop into a secure, confident, safe, nurturing, lovely little boy. I wish we had nursed longer. I hope you can get support and resources here, and show your MIL it is NONE of her business to comment on. Much luck, and hugs.
Now when he turned 5 he stopped nursing, sometimes once in awhile he will fall alseep while having nite snuggles while i'm watching tv . He loves to watch Miami and NY too.
But if he finds out he's in my bed in the wee nite hours sometimes he will walk and head into his bedroom.
I say I had been there with all the assumed sexual talk saying sons are too old for them to be sleeping with or he's to old to nurse when he was even at 1 .
Better Babies said it's better to let them choose because if you decide to say No to one nursing time they could have a fit .
Your 6 yr old did you ever talk to him what his grandma said maybe say your grandma is part of a generation where nearly alll babies were bottle fed & looked oddly at anyone nursing so even if you were a baby she proably say something about it because old habbits die hard.
Like how many parents say Kids eat all your dinner or you won't get this etc or you can't leave the table which is called the clean plate club which led to more of children becoming overweight and adults who are overweight because they are forced to have no choice and to not listen to their natural instinct as in my body is saying I'm full but my plate isn't empty so my parents are telling me i have to eat everything on my plate.
So a gal realized that when she was 400 lbs because if she didn't clean her plate she would feel guilty but once she got passed that guilty feeling she learned to listen to her instinct & lost weight .
Same with a gals hubby who ate what he hated first then ate his favorites which he ate too much of so when she told him to eat his favorites first he was ending up realizing he was full and didn't clean his plate he also lost weight.
So I'm saying many parents should leave some decisions,choices to allow our kids to have self -control because if we are telling them to ignore what their body is telling them that isn't good because I believe when a child still nurses he/she is not done with it & doesn't plan on be done with it.
Since your son is 6 is he in kindergarten or first grade ? Your son of still wanting to nurse may be that he more misses his time with you while he's at school and wants to bond with you and while bonding with you he don't see a problem with getting an extra drink with bonding.
Believe me mom was wanting so bad to move brendan out of my bed that she even tried to say hey everytime your not sleeping with mommy you will get a quarter from grandma boy was I pissed at that and I said he does not gain Money from that I rather have him feel a sense of achievement of heading to sleep on his own.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
I so, so value your responses. I was in SUCH dire need of support when I emailed, and you helped meet some of that need for me. How priceless that is to me.
Cheri, I particularly wanted to thank you for the links your found and passed along to me. Wow, that helped soooooo much! I'd love to dialogue a bit more with you, if you're open to that. BTW, I noticed you live in the Central Valley. We live in Sacramento. Do you belong to any local moms groups. Anyway, here are my replies to specific parts of your message:
Honestly, I don't think most of our friends/relatives knew we were still nursing. We didn't hide it but also didn't find a need to talk about it much. Not because of shame or avoiding it, but because it simply never came up (we brush our teeth before bed each night, too, but don't talk about that either).
The initial reaction was disbelief which eventually changed to acceptance but not for a LONG time (DS once told me he'd nurse until he was 16 ;-) to talking about what would happen when they weaned (I'd told them stories about weaning parties and the like).
We've also talked to our children extensively about how different people have different beliefs and ideas, and how Grandma's ideas are different than ours. . . . I think it's actually been a good learning experience for them . . .
Do you think your MIL will be truly receptive to research/information about normalcy of both your son's behavior and full-term breastfeeding?
The behavior you're describing is VERY normal for a 6 year old boy. I know I've read a lot about boys touching their penises in parenting books and publications over the years. One reference I found quickly at Dr. Sears website: http://www.askdrsears.com/faq/az9.asp. Interestingly, one of the approaches to the behavior is to INCREASE cuddling and snuggles w/ your child. It might help to give some of these to your MIL, so she realizes that this isn't related to nursing but to being a boy. And from what I hear, it only gets worse (but they get better at keeping it private ;-). At least for my son, it seems comforting to him and the hand always goes for the pants when he's nervous. Still sometimes at 8.
As far as research for older nurslings, there is very very little available. Most of the research on breastfeeding, even more recent, clumps anything after 1 year together. And very little looks at emotional health, psychosocial development, and the like. You might find information to reassure you at http://www.kellymom.com/bf/bfextende...ts.html#social (especially the note about the AAP statement "There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer." AAP 2005).
Thank you again. What a precious gift to have found this forum, and all of you! I'd love to hear from any others who feel moved to chime in, particularly those nursing 5 or 6 yrs plus. Thank you!
Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2009 Sep 9. [Epub ahead of print]
The Biosocial Correlates of Neuropsychological Deficits: Results From the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
Beaver KM, Vaughn MG, Delisi M, Higgins GE.
A body of empirical research has revealed that neuropsychological functioning is one of the most consistent predictors of antisocial behavior. It is somewhat surprising however that criminological research has been slow to examine the different factors that are implicated in the development of neuropsychological deficits. This study addresses this gap in the literature by examining the effects that a number of social and biological variables have on neuropsychological functioning. Analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) indicates that postnatal exposure to cigarette smoke, duration of breastfeeding, maternal involvement, and household income predicts variation in adolescent and adulthood levels of neuropsychological functioning. Implications of the findings are noted and discussed.
(longer bf - longest category 24 mo plus - inversely correlates with neuropsych deficits)
Pediatrics. 2008 Mar;121(3):e435-40.
Effects of prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding on child behavior and maternal adjustment: evidence from a large, randomized trial.
Kramer MS, Fombonne E, Igumnov S, Vanilovich I, Matush L, Mironova E, Bogdanovich N, Tremblay RE, Chalmers B, Zhang X, Platt RW; Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT) Study Group.
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to assess the long-term effects of breastfeeding on child behavior and maternal adjustment. METHODS: We followed up children who were in the Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial, a cluster-randomized trial of a breastfeeding promotion intervention based on the World Health Organization/United Nations Children's Fund Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. A total of 17,046 healthy, breastfeeding mother-infant pairs were enrolled from 31 Belarussian maternity hospitals and affiliated polyclinics; 13,889 (81.5%) were followed up at 6.5 years. Mothers and teachers completed the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and supplemental questions bearing on internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems. Mothers also responded to questions concerning their relationships to their partner and child and their breastfeeding of subsequently born children. RESULTS: The experimental intervention led to a large increase in exclusive breastfeeding at 3 months (43.3% vs 6.4%) and a significantly higher prevalence of any breastfeeding at all ages up to and including 12 months. No significant treatment effects were observed on either the mother or the teacher Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire ratings of total difficulties, emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems, or prosocial behavior or on the supplemental behavioral questions. We found no evidence of treatment effects on the parent's marriage or on the mother's satisfaction with her relationships with her partner or child, but the experimental intervention significantly increased the duration of any breastfeeding, and mothers in the experimental group were nearly twice as likely to breastfeed exclusively the next-born child for at least 3 months. CONCLUSIONS: On the basis of the largest randomized trial ever conducted in the area of human lactation, we found no evidence of risks or benefits of prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding for child and maternal behavior. Breastfeeding promotion does, however, favorably affect breastfeeding of the subsequent child.
Me, DH, DD1 (5/2009) and DD2 (10/2011).
I'm not crunchy. I'm evidence-based.
Vaccines save lives.
Have you let your MIL know how deeply this has affected your DS (and you)? It sounds like you have a relatively good relationship with her, and I wonder if she didn't realize that your son would react so strongly to what was probably an off-the-cuff remark. Perhaps if she's responsive, she could talk directly to him. And bring her concerns to you in the future.
Re. weaning parties. I think I've read about them in Mothering (of course ). Maybe also metioned in MOthering Your Nursing Toddler? I've heard both, them being offered as a benefit of weaning and as a bribe/encouragement to wean. Guess it depends on what works for your family (it sounds like you'd want to present the idea as a benefit. . .).
We did not have a weaning party for either child, but DD decided to wean while we were at the 50th anniversary La Leche League conference in Chicago. I mentioned the ideawithout really thinking either of them would ("Wouldn't it be neat to wean at the conference?"), because after all where else can an almost-6 year old announce that she's decided to wean and get lots of positive attention and support. But she loved the idea. I figured she'd start nursing again once we got home, especially since DS was still nursing, but she never asked or expressed any interest. It was a really positive experience for her, and clearly the time was right.
DS nursed another 6 or 8 months or so. His sister kept asking him, "When are you going to stop nursing?" Not being mean, but curious. One day he said, "tomorrow." And the next night, when he asked to nurse, sister reminded him, he giggled and said "Oh, yeah!" That was it. He did ask about nursing many times after that. I was pregnant w/ DD#2 about the same time, and he spent most of my pregnancy saying that one side would be the baby's and the other side, his. But those comments faded over the last few months and by the time DD #2 was born, he'd lost interest. Both tried to nurse once or twice, but mostly just being silly. I don't think either was successful. And I'm not interested in un-weaning an 8 year old!
Another study/group of papers: The Christchurch (New Zealand) Health and Development Study is a longitudinal study of over 1000 children who were followed from birth until age 21. There are many articles examining the data collected during this study, most published in the late 1990s. One of the primary researchers was D.M. Fergusson, who is listed as one of the authors on the majority of these articles (try a Google scholar search for this author for many of the papers). In this particular study, a “long duration” of breastfeeding appears to be any breastfeeding beyond 8 months. One review of this data found that children from 15-18 years of age who were breastfed for a longer duration were more likely to report higher levels of parental attachment, and tended to perceive their mothers as being more caring and less overprotective. This study also indicated a dose response – an increasing duration of breastfeeding was associated with higher levels of perceived maternal care during childhood. The researchers also indicated that extended breastfeeding made the children more secure and allowed for social growth. Breastfed children in this study were rated as more cooperative and socially better students the longer they were breastfed.
DD and DS are 11 & DD is 4 Our car is a bike!
Sharing our with 3, 2 & 4
I'm now a bit clearer that my MIL didn't realize how upset my DS was, even after I spoke with her the first time. Now that she's read the research I gave her and gotten more clear on how sad my DS was she does seem more open to saying something to him that I can get behind somewhat. So yea for that.
Thanks for the weaning party response, and the sweet weaning stories! I'm feeling a LOT more comfortable about waiting until my DS weans naturally now that I've discovered so many supportive things in my research.
Speaking of research, thanks for still more! Yea! And thanks to all of you who responded in my time of need. It was priceless!
I'd love to hear from any others who feel moved to chime in, particularly those nursing 5 or 6 yrs plus. Thank you!
i have a 7 1/2 year old. right from day 1 my concern has been her emotional state mainly coz there is mental illness on both sides of our family. after her dad and i split up when she was 18 months old two things became even more important - bf and cosleeping as i had to WOH.
dd is a v. sensitive child and honestly as much as nutritionally bf has been great for her i think her biggest plus has been therapy. she nursed for comfort even as a baby. she was adamant. refused any kind of pacifier. heck she was smart enough at the hospital to refuse formula (TG because i didnt know any better and would have given her some).
i really do think for her nursing has her tremendously to feel secure. i know there was an emotional aspect to it because not only did she need to nurse after booboos but as time went on and i became aware of emotional growth spurts i realised she was nursing much more while she was going thru them.
my milk dried up when she was 3 - yup its me - but that did not stop her at all.
she was an extremely frequent nurser till she was 5. then she needed to nurse at bedtime and wake up time. at first grade when school started at 8 instead of 10:30 i think we had to skip the morning just coz it was either choose sleeping or nursing. plus it just being her and me and me starting school we were out a lot and would come home exhausted. so i think that affected her nursing. she has been slowly tapering off her nursing. she went from half hour nursing to ten minute nursing to a minute every time she was with me to a few times a week to few times a month and i think we finally may be done but i am not sure. the last time she nursed which was a month after she had asked i could tell she was losing her latch. she was horribly sick with teh stomach flu this last week, but not once did she ask to nurse. however we are still cosleeping and we do cuddle alot.
her dad is a tormented sad man. being the 4th out of 5 rambunctious boys of a single mom he never really got the attention he needed as a baby. i swore that would never happen to dd. she had a v. similar personality as a baby to him. my validation came a couple of years ago at TG when we were having dinner with exbil. he thanked me for doing such a good job with dd. he gave me the credit and said i was majorly responsible - not so much his bro. at the tender age of 5 her dad was a dark depressed little boy and whilest dd does feel extremely deeply compared to kids her age she is waaay confident and exhuberent a person. whilst that might be her personality i do strongly feel nursing and cosleeping help bring out the confident girl within her. rather than the scared insecured child that does exist within her.
dd has anxiety. shows up as stomach aches. thats a good way of me knowing when something is up even though there is no other sign. i think nursing and cosleeping has definitely helped with this. i think her anxiety would be waaay worse if she didnt have the secure feeling nursing gave her.
i have not had v. many try to stop me from bf. ex tried when dd was 3 but i ignored him. my mom tried when dd was 9 months old and 3 years old (i dont get it as she nursed my bro till he was almost 7) but thankfully i stay half way across the world from her. i have had a few curious comments when i was nip when dd was 2 and then 3.
and the funny part - she has done a lot of theatrics with my boobs. when she was little i bf all her toys. as she grew up she created plays where my boobs were characters and she would make them talk to each other and the moon.
she was a twiddler. i didnt stop it, but sometimes when it irritated me i would ask her to stop or if she was younger i would cover my nipple with my palm. we have had some pushing away contests then but i always won. as she grew older i would tell her why we couldnt nurse somedays. either i just didnt want to or it was painful. she was able to usually handle that. however on days when even that was a real struggle i ultimately allowed her to nurse.
my xmil reported me to CPS for nursing my son when he was about 4.5yo. she had always seemed so supportive, but after that i cut her completely out of ds's life. its been 3.5yrs and she still isnt welcome to speak to him. i would recommend to you that you simply disallow unsupervised contact between your ds and his g'ma.
and Wild Strawberries can be viewed instantly on netflix, the reviews are all so positive, i think i know what i'm watching next weekend the kids are gone.
I just wanted to say though, that the way you have articulated your beliefs around breastfeeding was inspirational to me. Thankyou for articulating it so well. I dont often hear people who really practise child led weaning, even in the la leche league and attachment parenting groups i frequent.
I think its wonderful that you can let your child decide when he's ready.
Last night, my ds asked to nurse, though he hasnt asked in over a week. :-)
we're getting the book for our LLL Library
I also wanted to comment on what a great, supportive, smart group of women that you are. I visit the boards infrequently these days (I was much more active 10 years ago) and I am constantly impressed by how wonderful you all are!