Nursing 5 year olds and older - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 25 Old 05-26-2006, 04:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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When I was pregnant, I had in mind that I would nurse 2-4 years. I think 2 was the minimum because of the WHO recommendation, and 4 was the oldest because that's how long my nephew nursed. I planned to use CLW and thus my 5 year old is still nursing and plans to nurse forever, or so she tells me.

Nursing a 5 year old feels normal to me in that there wasn't one day when she suddenly seemed too old. Still, something has changed because I don't talk about it to friends. If someone asked how old she was when she weaned, I would feel awkward saying that she still nurses. I worry that she'll mention it at school and be made fun of. I find it hard to imagine doing this another year.

So, I'm beginning to wonder things like where in the world do they nurse 5 year olds? 6 year olds? Older than that even? I'm starting to question it, but yet I would feel uncomfortable setting an end to it before my Dd decides for herself. Again, when we nurse, it all feels fine. My Dh seems to think it's normal, although we've never talked about it one way or the other.

I guess I just want to hear from those who have or are nursing 5 and up.
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#2 of 25 Old 05-28-2006, 06:55 AM
 
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this past week, my oldest nursling graduated from kindergarten and the 2nd nursling graduated into kindergarten. as far as i know, it's never been an issue at school. they don't get teased about it, but i don't think they even talk about it. of course, not too many people know what "ninnies" mean or even "nursing".
6 mos ago they were both nursing 3 times a day. but i'm pregnant so my supply has dipped, etc so they tapered down some. the oldest (turned 6 this past april, 2nd will be 5 in august) was down to several times a week, but is now back to once a day. i'm sure it will go back up when the new baby is here, at least for a little while.
it's hard to talk about it to friends as it doesn't really come up in conversation. it's not the same as the high demand needs of a toddler. i haven't been around other mom's IRL that have nursed beyond toddlerhood (and those mom's i've just seen at group meetings, not family or close friends). doesn't mean that i'm the only one still nursing an older child, but where would you really have an opportunity to see it? or really talk about it.
i haven't been to this forum very often lately, but the CLW forum has more mom's that nurse 5 yr olds. so you might find more online support there.
as for nursing the older child, it's got to start somewhere...right? why not with you? what an excellent roll model you are for your dd. she'll have wonderful memories of her mom and nursing. as my ds likes to tell me, "thanks for the mamories".
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#3 of 25 Old 05-28-2006, 08:55 PM
 
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So, I'm beginning to wonder things like where in the world do they nurse 5 year olds? 6 year olds? Older than that even? I'm starting to question it, but yet I would feel uncomfortable setting an end to it before my Dd decides for herself. Again, when we nurse, it all feels fine. My Dh seems to think it's normal, although we've never talked about it one way or the other.
From what I've read, historically 5+ was more common. At this point, I've yet to find a culture in which doing so is common practice. OTOH, from the comment in a Brazelton book I read years ago, moms in Mexico would call their older kids over for a quick immune boost after nursing the baby. I would guess that if asked if those children were still nursing, they'd probably say "no", because it's not a regular occurance.

I would say to do what works for you and your family. DS and DD never reported any issues at school over this. I think the topic simply doesn't come up. You are well within the biological expectations. The AAP has no problem with bio-normal nursing, stating in 2005 that there is no evidence of psychological harm for nursing beyond 3. I've not even gotten any bad reactions when DD's continuing to nurse occasionally (we're 11 days since her last time today) has come up.

"What will you do once you know?"
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#4 of 25 Old 05-29-2006, 05:09 PM
 
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I'm nursing a 6 year old. He was nursing fairly frequently when his sister was born and he was almost four. He probably slowed down the most from five to six years. At the moment he asks about once every 3-4 WEEKS! His sister still nurses many times a day and at bedtime.

I have a friend who nursed very old children and had mentioned that they would nurse once a week, then more spaced out to once a month. It was hard to comprehend back then.

DS has spaced himself out. It's been interesting watching it.

It's funny too when he asks and it's not a good time, he'll ask again later that day or even the next day. It seems when the need is there, it's ever present until it's fulfilled. Once he's good, it will be a long time again.

HTHs!

Amy, Mom to ds 2000, dd 2004 and newest dd 3/2010!
Breast Cancer Survivor since 2007
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#5 of 25 Old 05-31-2006, 03:39 AM
 
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RubyWild, I've been in your shoes......the worrying, the what ifs, etc. Dd nursed through her 1st grade year and she never had a problem (one of her friends knew she nursed). I either worked or volunteered in her class for both K and 1st so I would have known if anyone hassled her or anything. Breastfeeding just wasn't a topic that came up in the children's conversations, and at that point dd was usually nursing at night (and early am through K) so it wasn't like she needed to nurse at recess or anything.

I think that's awesome that your goal was 2-4 years . I had planned on 1 year, that's how much I knew at the time , so dd taught me a lot about a child's natural need to nurse longer!

Like you, it simply felt right to continue. She never felt "too old". I totally understand why you are awkward talking about it with others. I know, with myself at least, it wasn't shame that I was feeling. It was my awareness that they wouldn't understand me. So I didn't want to put myself in that awkward position of needlessly defending myself or receiving the silent treatment for something that is absolutely wonderful and should be encouraged (if only they knew!). Society has a lot to learn about what it is to be naturally human and why we need to stop pushing our children to grow up so fast.

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Originally Posted by RubyWild
when we nurse, it all feels fine.
Trust that.

And that's so awesome that you have a supportive DH!!
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#6 of 25 Old 08-30-2006, 02:58 PM
 
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I've been meaning to look for a thread like this. It provides great support as my 5-year-old daughter heads into public-school, dual-immersion Spanish-speaking kindergarten, possibly with me and my 4-year-old son volunteering occasionally.
Both my children are nursing about three times a day, more if I encourage them, and I know the value of continuing to nurse, as does my husband, but I would like to be in a position to gracefully handle things if it came up as an issue.
We adopted my daughter and son when they were very little, not through the state, but I don't have the resources to find myself in a mess, no matter how much I might like to see someone else lead a court and media battle to give more families a clear path in this direction.
By the way, if you ever want information on adoption, please feel free to contact me. (Imagine if for most families the first two were homegrown, and the rest like mine. :-) There would be a significantly higher percentage of happy people in the world. And, I would of course like to see more children being adopted and out of foster care and orphanages into the kind of homes that know about mothering.com.) We volunteer a lot for teaching about adoption and adoptive nursing, and it breaks my heart how many parents don't nurse.
I guess I'll try to put away this worry about a school-aged nurseling and hope for the best. I just don't always come up quickly with what to say when someone is nasty, so it's a bit scary. Thanks again.
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#7 of 25 Old 08-30-2006, 06:03 PM
 
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How are things going Rubywild?

"What will you do once you know?"
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#8 of 25 Old 08-30-2006, 06:09 PM
 
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What a great thread!! I am only nursing a 21 mo, but it is so great to see how extended nursing benefits children. It encourages moms like me to keep going. I think it's really great!!! Thanks!
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#9 of 25 Old 08-30-2006, 11:45 PM
 
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I'm glad to see this thread. My older child weaned naturally at seven and my younger child was accidentally weaned at five, by me asking him to wait and then forgetting to remind him that he had asked to nurse, waited patiently, and now it was a convenient time.

Both of my children were homeschooled, but we were involved in a lot of group activities while I was tandem nursing my post-toddlers. I remember when dd had her first sleep-over, I tried to get the point across to the parents that she was still nursing at night and that I would come pick her up if it did not work for her to spend the night. They thought I was joking and laughed, but dd didn't have any issues. I don't think anybody knew that she nursed.

What child-led weaning looked like at the tail end was that she would ask to nurse for maybe five minutes every three months. Whenever I declared her weaned, she would ask again, so I stopped saying that she weaned, although I'm sure she's done now.

It was comfortable and pleasant for both of us. I wish that I had a memory of the last time she nursed, but I don't.

I've been afraid that my children would be embarassed if I talked about our experiences, but when we came across a nursing five year old IRL and the mother needed some reassurance, both kids were comfortable with my talking about this.

I do regret hurrying things along with my younger child, although I had never "planned" to nurse past two or three.
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#10 of 25 Old 08-31-2006, 05:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We're doing fine, still nursing at bedtime and upon waking. Strangely, I saw a friend I hadn't seen in a long time. She had just had her first baby at age 38 and asked how long I nursed. I was truthful, and it was fairly weird. She thought I was joking. She really didn't believe me. Then, when she believed me, she was nice enough about it, but nursing a 5 year old isn't really something I can explain to someone when it feels like unchartered territory.

I mean, I don't think it's damaging to my daughter that she continues to nurse, and I wonder if forcing her to wean could be harmful. So, we just keep on keeping on.
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#11 of 25 Old 08-31-2006, 11:47 PM
 
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I mean, I don't think it's damaging to my daughter that she continues to nurse, and I wonder if forcing her to wean could be harmful. So, we just keep on keeping on.
I am confident that you are not harming her by allowing her to continue to nurse.

I am also confident that if done with gentleness and love, that weaning would not harm her, but if neither of you wants to wean, it's certainly not required.

"What will you do once you know?"
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#12 of 25 Old 09-01-2006, 01:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Meiri, thank you. I agree. I think it's just that I'm having mixed feelings about it but am not sure why. I think that perhaps If I lived in a culture (or could think of any that exist) where nursing 5 year olds was normal, my feelings would not be mixed. I would just be 100% fine with it, whereas now I'm beginning to have a few doubts about it. I think it would help if I knew in advance when she would wean. That way I could see an end to this. But, well, my sister sucked her thumb until she was 11 years old. Is my Dd going to want to nurse that long? See, I don't think I'm okay with that.
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#13 of 25 Old 09-01-2006, 04:50 PM
 
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RubyWild, fwiw I know there are other cultures who have traditionally nursed their children much longer than our current mainstream society. The Inuit (aka eskimo), for one, were known to nurse for 7 years. The ancient Hawaiians nursed past 4, I think it was. There are others, especially those who were/are cut off from 'modern' influence and constraints. Our society just happens to be caught up in pushing our children to grow up and be independent from their mothers at an age before they're biologically and emotionally ready. Throw in some demented images of the naked breast and it's function and we are doubly cursed for listening to our raw instincts and our children's individual needs.

My daughter weaned at 7 1/2. Like you, it always felt more right to honor her needs and continue. And it never felt right not to.
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#14 of 25 Old 09-02-2006, 03:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by mother_sunshine
My daughter weaned at 7 1/2. Like you, it always felt more right to honor her needs and continue. And it never felt right not to.
Would you mind sharing why she weaned at that age. I think some of my feelings stem from the fact that I wonder if she'll ever want to wean. Obviously, she won't want to at some point, but right now it feels that she won't.
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#15 of 25 Old 09-02-2006, 02:25 PM
 
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My oldest weaned himself at 3.5, but there's still hope for my youngest!
I just wanted to say, though, that I so totally admire you moms for nursing as long as your children need to! My mom nursed my sister until she was 4, but then weaned her because of a combination of social pressures and looming Kindergarten. I know she was not ready to wean because she cried and asked to nurse every night for 2 weeks. My mom cried too, and did not really want to wean her, but knew nothing of bfing longer. She had already nursed her well beyond anything anyone she knew would even consider, and was getting those "is she ever going to stop nursing?" questions. It was sad, for both of them, and I know that she regrets it.
I applaud all of you for being able to listen to your child's needs, and I'm so thankful that I have found such a great website I just wish my mom had had such a resource.

Homeschooling mom of 2 rambunctious, loving, spectacular boys, wife to an incredible man who has been my best friend on this journey <3

 

 

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#16 of 25 Old 09-03-2006, 01:49 AM
 
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Originally Posted by RubyWild
Would you mind sharing why she weaned at that age. I think some of my feelings stem from the fact that I wonder if she'll ever want to wean. Obviously, she won't want to at some point, but right now it feels that she won't.
I'm not sure why except that she was simply ready. I didn't encourage her and give her any nudges, so she wasn't weaning just to please me. She simply was ready, body and mind. I shared the experience of how it happened with everyone here at MDC. It should be here somewhere (in the archives maybe?). If you want to read it but can't find it let me know and I'll try to dig it up.

Fwiw, I felt the same way when dd was 5. I was feeling very alone so I panicked and tried to wean her. I was very gentle at first, I just talked to her about weaning and that maybe it was time. But when that didn't work I started not letting her nurse every other night for a few days, which wasn't gentle and is something I truly regret. If she were ready then I suppose she would have been fine with no tears or trauma. But it was a nightmare. She cried and was very sad and extra clingy. I was lost and sad but, like I said, I felt completely alone and was worried that she would never want to wean unless I made her (I temporarily lost my mind and trust in the process). After a few nights I realized this wasn't right. Dd was always sad, I was sad, and I could feel the forced separation and distrust. It wasn't right. Who was I trying to please by force-weaning her? Not the person that mattered the most in this journey . Luckily something clicked and we went back to nursing when she needed to. I realized how much nursing meant to her, how important it was. It took some time to regain dd's trust but we eventually reconnected when she realized I wouldn't do it again.

Do you think it feels like she will never wean because she might be going through a time when she really needs it right now? For us there were lots of ups and downs, not a steady decline. Just when she'd slow down in intensity and need, she'd pick back up again, and so on.

With some trust and patience, it will happen. Nobody knows when, not even her. It'll just happen when she's ready.
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#17 of 25 Old 09-03-2006, 04:33 PM
 
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That way I could see an end to this. But, well, my sister sucked her thumb until she was 11 years old. Is my Dd going to want to nurse that long? See, I don't think I'm okay with that.
I very much doubt that she will wish to continue until anywhere near 11.

My experience with DD having weaned (I'm pretty sure) a few months after turning 7 is that over the last 3 years, she simply tapered down, had the occasional frequency spike, tapered down, went from falling asleep nursing most of the time to only occasionally nursing to sleep, to very rarely nursing to sleep. She went from a long time of once/week to once/2 weeks, to randomly, to only asking once in each of the last 3 months. Truly, when you allow them to, they do grow out of the need, whether consciously or subconsciously.

With DS, who stopped just after turning 5, the taperdown was similar, but less drawn out. For him, nursing became an "only if taking a nap" thing, then the naps went down in frequency. One day, it'd been so long that he'd apparently forgotten how! It was funny at the time, though he didn't quite see it that way.

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#18 of 25 Old 09-06-2006, 05:05 PM
 
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Great thread..enjoyed reading

Tiffany , mama to my 2 spirited girls, natalee (8/05) and scarlett (5/09)
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#19 of 25 Old 09-06-2006, 05:42 PM
 
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My now 8 yo weaned a month after he turned six. That last year was very infrequent (sometimes weeks) and I thought he was weaned several times but then he would ask again. He would always ask to nurse more when he was getting sick or feeling run down. We homeschooled so it was never an issue with school kids and he never talked about it to anyone but me. He obviously remembers nursing and we talk about it occasionally. I never intended to nurse a child that long but it was a natural progression and took so little time that there really seemed no reason to actively wean him. I am so grateful for the experience. He and I are very close and I learned so much about myself.
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#20 of 25 Old 09-06-2006, 10:16 PM
 
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Great thread!

I'm currently nursing my 6 year old (and my 4 year old and my 11 month old). Zack still nurses at least 4 times a week, some weeks he nurses every day twice a day. It depends on how life is treating him, I guess! It's a bit strange nursing him at the moment, but that's only because he lost his two middle bottom teeth and his latch is a bit off. I figure he'll know when he's done nursing and he'll stop then. As of a few days ago, his plan is to nurse until he's 9 ... well 8 years+ because he says he won't nurse anymore when he's 9. We'll see what happens.

My oldest self-weaned on his fifth birthday, planning his weaning for 6 months, then "chickening out" a week beforehand, then making the decision the night before his birthday to wean. He tried to nurse several times after that, one time being just last September when his little brother was born. It was one big nursefest when my milk "came in" and he wanted to join the festivities!

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#21 of 25 Old 09-06-2006, 10:25 PM
 
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FWIW, neither child had any issues at school. As far as I can tell, the topic simply doesn't come up in the children's discussions.

Now, DD did mention to her best friend this summer that she "still nurses", but apparently the concept went right over her friend's head. I had a nice discussion with her mom about it though. So Not an issue with us.

"What will you do once you know?"
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#22 of 25 Old 09-07-2006, 03:34 PM
 
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: needed this.
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#23 of 25 Old 11-06-2006, 08:41 AM
 
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I have to admit I am having some guilt about weaning my 5 year-old! The reason is that I know her and how much she loves nursing. And she has been so good about it. I can see how much she wants to nurse but she doesn't say anything or ask since we agreed to ween on Halloween!

I admit that I miss nursing her since it was nice nurturing time, once/day or everyother day.

So I am a bit torn about pushing the issue before she would have chosen herself. I didn't mind nursing her but I was thinking she was getting too old. Now that I am reading all of these posts I am wondering if I made a mistake.

I hate being inconsistant in stuff, like going back on a decision.

The only complication (besides society) is that I might want to have another child and that has not been happening. So I am concerned about my fertility while still nursing.
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#24 of 25 Old 11-06-2006, 10:30 AM
 
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Rant n Raven, i think every mom is going to question their decisions regarding their children. It's ok to change your mind.

It's only been a week since your dd weaned. You could always ask her if she feels she needs to nurse again. If she does she does, if she doesn't that's ok too. However, 5 yr's is admirable. Don't be too hard on yourself. If you regret your decision, just remember it with your next child. I bet your dd thinks the world!
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#25 of 25 Old 11-06-2006, 04:21 PM
 
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Rant n Raven, Every Mama tries to do what's right for her children but society so often interferes with that. If it feels right to continue, and dd still wants to, then nurse on! By giving her some power in the decision you are showing that her feelings and needs matter too. What a powerful thing to give a child....self-empowerment and validation.
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