Extended Breastfeeding: My Personal Struggles

I clearly remember the first time I witnessed extended breastfeeding.  I was a young teenager when I glanced out my window at work and saw her.  She was nursing her toddler and I was shocked.  He looked so big.

Years later I was chatting with a friend and she told me that she was still nursing her one year old son before bed.  Really???  The look of surprise was all over my face.

I had no idea that women even did that.  I wouldn’t nurse for that long.  Would I?

Extended Breastfeeding: My Personal Struggles

After Grace was born, I expected that we would wean before she turned one.  I had heard of moms having problems with their milk supply as their babies got older.  I had also heard of babies weaning themselves before their first birthday.  With those things in mind, my first goal was to nurse Grace for 6 months.

Hitting that 6 month milestone was a breeze.  Of course I had a few issues to work through along the way, but overall breastfeeding came very easily to me.  My next goal was to nurse for 12 months.

I was so blessed.  I didn’t have problems with my milk supply.  Grace was always eager to nurse and showed no signs of self weaning.  My husband and friends were supportive.  Grace’s birthday came and went and we nursed on.  Suddenly I found myself “extended breastfeeding.”

Extended breastfeeding is defined as breastfeeding beyond the age of one.  It doesn’t matter that the medical recommendation is to nurse until age two.  If you are nursing past a year, you officially have a label.

The transition from nursing my 11 month old baby girl to nursing my 12 month old was seamless.  We turned the page on the calendar, but nothing else changed.  Grace’s desire to nurse stayed the same.  Our routine of nursing several times a day stayed the same.  It didn’t make sense to me for us to stop simply because of the date on the calendar.  So we didn’t stop.

I had heard a “joke” that when your baby is 11 months and 30 days old people will praise you for still breastfeeding.  However, as soon as your baby is 12 months old people will turn up their noses and tell you he is too old.  Sadly, I saw this first hand.

Grace was 13 months old when the first person questioned me about still breastfeeding.  “She isn’t done with that?” he asked.

I had become that woman I saw outside my office as a teenager.  I had become my girlfriend still nursing her toddler.  I found myself in this new world of extended breastfeeding and I wasn’t completely sure what I thought of it.

Struggle with Extended Breastfeeding? You're not alone.

At first I was confident.  Breast is best.  It was still best.  But then…

Grace got older and older and I started feeling more and more alone.  Around 18 months old I became concerned.  I had pumped a lot of milk for Grace (in case she weaned early – ha!) and she refused to drink any of it.  I tried sippy cups.  I tried regular cups.  She wouldn’t take it.  Then I tried cow’s milk and she wouldn’t drink that either.  A slight panic began to creep in.  How could I wean my daughter if she won’t drink any kind of milk?  What will I replace the breastmilk with???

I never hid the fact that I was nursing my toddler from my friends and although they were supportive, the comments started coming in…

My husband thinks it is weird you are still nursing Grace.

It probably helps that she is so little.  (Meaning that it doesn’t look as strange for me to nurse such an older child.)

Sometimes I hear about these kids who are 3 and 4 years old and they are still breastfeeding.  I just wonder how that is going to damage them.

Damage them?  By breastfeeding?  Is this the path that I was on?

These were things said by some of my most supportive friends.  They didn’t mean any harm.  They had all breastfed themselves.  They loved me and Grace, but their words stung.

I was extended breastfeeding and I was embarrassed.

Extended Breastfeeding: My Personal Struggles

Grace was well beyond 18 months old.  There were no signs of weaning in sight.  I was embarrassed and feeling a little desperate.

How do I even begin to wean her?  How did other women do this?  Could it be true that she was too old for this?  Was I the one that needed to let go?

I searched online for a community that could give me some answers.  I gobbled up everything I could find on extended breastfeeding, but it probably did more harm than good.  I found many passionate nursers, but they all seemed to advocate for self weaning and that can take a long time.  Many were nursing toddlers beyond 2, 3, or even 4 years old.  It wasn’t unusual for these moms to tandem nurse, breastfeed a baby and a toddler.

Tandem nursing did not appeal to me.  Breastfeeding a 3 year old didn’t appeal to me.  I was becoming desperate for some advice from someone who was supportive enough to build me up, but not so supportive that they pushed me beyond my comfort zone.  It was a difficult balance.

Please tell me that I’m doing the right thing for my daughter, but please, please, PLEASE don’t tell me that this is going to last for another two years!

Grace just weeks before weaning.

Eventually, Grace did wean.  It was peaceful.  It was done slowly.  It was the right time.

I breastfed my daughter for 23 months.  I was firm in my belief that the benefits of breastfeeding didn’t apply just to infants.  I had appeared confident on the outside.  Yet, on the inside I was just waiting for someone to tear me down.

Now I am here again in the same position.  Noah is 15 months old and we are still nursing about 4 times a day.  My goal is to make it to 18 months before we begin to slowly wean and to do it with my head held high.

I am fighting hard – fighting against that feeling of shame and uncertainty.

While I still am feeling bold I want to take a moment to address my future self…

Rebekah, take a moment.  Breath deep.  Noah will not nurse forever.  This is a temporary thing and the end is almost here.  In the blink of an eye these moments will be gone.  Soak it in.

Ignore the negative comments.  Respond with confidence to the questioning.  You are giving Noah an amazing gift.  His health, his heart, and his mind is benefiting from these moments with his mama.  

You are doing the right thing.  Take it slow.  Don’t rush.  Your heart, Noah, and your boobs will thank you!  You can do this.  The time will come.  Be confident.  You. are. amazing.  The end.

Can you relate?  Are you nursing behind closed doors and hoping that no one knows?  Are you wondering how, when, and why you are supposed to wean your little one?  My letter is to you too, mama.

This is a hard, ugly world.  We shouldn’t have to worry about something as beautiful as breastfeeding, but we do anyway.  I totally get it.  I’ve been there.  And I hope I don’t go there again…

Excess Lipase Acitivity


  1. I have been on such a similar journey as you with extended nursing my first two babes and now into month 13 with my third. I have never heard that “joke” you mentioned about the difference between nursing an 11 month 30 day old and a 12 month old. It is so sad. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to nurse my first daughter past 12 months, and like you, we did it with ease. Even though she was walking at 10 months, she still seemed like such a baby to me even at that age, and I couldn’t imagine taking something so good for her in so many ways away from her. I was definitely a lone extended nurser – even my closest “chruchy/natural” mama friend weaned her daughter, who was just three days younger than mine, at her first birthday. I became a closet nurser. I was fine with extended breastfeeding, but I didn’t announce or flaunt it to the rest of the world. She mostly nursed first thing in the morning, before nap time, and at bedtime, so we we’re always at home and so I didn’t have the extended nursing in public struggles. I nursed her until she was 16 months, because I was 5 months pregnant with my second baby and my belly was getting big and it was getting uncomfortable, now I wish I would have held on longer. My second baby, my son, nursed until he was 23 months, and only our very closest friends new and it was definitely getting to the point where people thought it was strange, especially because he was a boy, so you might want to prepare yourself for some of that as you extended nurse Noah. Both times I definitely dealt with feelings of embarrassment and uncertainty.

    Now I’m nursing my 13 month old and my next goal is to make it 18 months, and then we’ll see how long we continue after that. I’m hoping that I can find the confidence to share with others that I’m still nursing, to be an extended breastfeeding advocate finally, this third time around. It does speak volumes about our culture that even those of us who are veteran extended breastfeeding mamas who believe so strongly in the benefits, both for baby and mother, still feel the need to hide it or feel embarrassed and shameful about it in the face of questioning comments and misunderstanding from those around us. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us – it is so good to know we are not alone on this journey!

    1. Emily, isn’t it crazy that some people think babies need to be weaned if they are walking? Your baby walked at 10 months. My first walked at 9.5 months. They are still so little!! The nutrition of breast milk certainly isn’t limited by baby milestone.

      I’m thankful for your support. Our little ones are pretty close in age and I’m relieved knowing that I can turn to you for encouragement this time around. We can do it, mama! And do it PROUDLY!

  2. Thank you! I nursed my twin boys a few months past their 2nd birthday so I relate to this in so many ways!

    1. Jessica, that is so awesome that you had the strength and dedication to nurse TWO children for so long. I’ve heard many women say that they weaned because they needed to “have their bodies back.” I get that. I can’t imagine what that must be like with twins though. Good for you, mama!

  3. Thank you for sharing your heart in this way, Rebekah.

    With my oldest, I had it in my head that I *had* to wean her at 12 months. It makes me giggle now to think about how completely surprised I was when I realized that, no, we *could* keep going.

    Fortunately, I was in a community where the culture very much supported extended breastfeeding. Not so much with my second daughter, so I can definitely relate to that feeling of embarrassment.

    Thank you again for sharing this. Such powerful words for so many mamas.

  4. It is really sad that today, with all the knowledge we have about the benefits of extended breast feeding, this attitude remains.
    People just thought I was plain weird, breast feeding my 3year old boy and 18mth old boy over the top of a huge pregnant belly!! I ended up breast feeding my first three children until they were at least three years old. My fourth baby got the short end of the stick. He was the one I deliberately weaned at about 2. I had just had enough. I had been pregnant and/or breast feeding constantly for about 7 years!! It does take its toll on a mamas body.
    I still wonder if I did the right thing, weaning him ‘early’!! That’s the thing about mama gilt. We want so much to do the best for our kids, the guilt gets you no matter what you do!!
    We do the best we can with what we have and He takes it from there!
    You are doing a good job Mama!

    1. Aw, thank you. Clearly you have done a good job too, Nona! Pregnant, breastfeeding, or BOTH for 7 years is a big deal!! You are amazing. Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. I am there right now. Fletchie is 19 months and still nursing on demand. He demands a lot. Especially at night. Neither of us are ready to wean but it would make so many things easier. I could be more confident when I leave the kids overnight (had to leave fletchie a few times and it hasn’t gone well). I think I got past a lot of those insecurities with my first two. At this point, everyone knows I have gone off the “crunchy” deep end. I do sometimes think “should I?” When he asks and we are out. I don’t want to nurse until 3. Buggy tried a few times after three and it creeped me out. When will we wean? I have no idea. I assume sometime after the new year when we are moved into our new house. Now if I could get him to sleep longer than 3 hour stretches and do that in his own bed…..

    1. Oh, Audra… Extended breastfeeding is one thing, but nursing that consistently at night is something else! You are amazing for sticking with it for 19 months. Just think… someday he WILL sleep all night and that means YOU WILL TOO! Oh what a glorious day that will be. Until then, stay strong, Audra. Stay strong. 🙂

  6. I had zero parenting ideals ingrained before we had little ones. Well, I knew I wanted to raise them to love Jesus, but I really had no idea how anyone went about anything intentionally – so I did a ton of research. My husband and I came to decisions we agreed on in each area and when someone disagreed with us (we’ve chosen to parent much differently than our parents did), we gently explained the research we’d done, and just let it roll off our backs. Like water on a duck. He’s good with it, I’m good with it. We’re good.

    That’s not to say I’ve never heard hurtful commentary or that I’d be unwilling to consider a different way of doing things if it were presented to me with enough evidence, but it’s helpful for me to just make peace with our decisions so that I can stand in them without worrying about the opinions of others.

    It’s frustrating that we even care about far past one we nurse – since all of the evidence points only to the benefits of doing so. Arg! I want to be your friend and live near you and infiltrate your friend group so that I can deflect stray comments that might sting. 🙂 First child syndrome – I want to stick up for you!

    *hug* mama!

  7. I Nursed My first daughter until she was about 26 months old. I had gotten pregnant…and been slowly encouraging less nursing… and one day I woke up to realize I had no more milk. At this point she was only nursing before bed and before nap…. for about 3 minutes each time…. so when nap/bed time came, I just said, Mommy doesnt have any more milk. Lets snuggle instead…. and that was it. No crying. no huge ordeal. I got lots of comments about nursing…. even a few slightly worried/supportive comments from my husband….. Ppl in todays society just dont get it…. but that’s ok. The tide is slowly turning and I will hold my head high. I am 2 months away from the birth of my second daughter and plan to do the same thing. Nursing an older child makes ppl uncomfortable. When my daughter would walk up to me and do the sign language for milk, ppl would burst out giggling…. like “OMG she can ask for it”…. when she was 1.5 my dad asked…. “when are you going to get her off the tit?! I mean I was all for it in the beginning because it’s natural and whatever but I’m pretty sure she’s outgrown it by now”…… I went to sure my daughter around the same age and a family friend said “oh, you’re not one of those ppl are you?!” My daughter had allergies to milk, so that was my easy way out…. but it’s still aggravating.

    1. Ouch! You got some rough comments! I always think it strange when people say that little ones are too old to breastfeed when they can ask for it. I dare anyone to old a rooting newborn and tell me that they aren’t asking to nurse! Little ones start asking for it from day one!

  8. I nursed our first child for 13 months, our second for 18 months, and our third for 24 months. I was sad to wean our last child but did so in order to start medication for migraines (4-6/week). Nursing is a personal relationship between mother and child and it should last as long as mother and child are comfortable.

  9. SO relatable! I breastfed Aliza until she was 22 months, and I was 30 weeks pregnant with Canaan. My midwife friend told me that I was actually tandem nursing (apparently a pregnancy counts). I had those same struggles of feeling embarrassed but also empowered and grateful for the amazing relationship we shared. It was so special. I wish we could have those days back. Canaan is now 13 months, and I’m horrified at the thought of weaning him anytime soon. We’ll see how it goes! 🙂

    1. I agree, Beth. They still seem soooo little at just 13 months!

      Did your milk supply drop during your pregnancy? What made you decide to wean at 30 weeks?

  10. Thank you so much for your encouraging words! I am currently nursing my almost 18 month old son and I constantly feel torn about the whole ‘weaning’ issue. I love nursing him and the idea of child-led-weaning, but at the same I just want my body back to myself. I fear that he is going to nurse FOREVER…I know he wont, but it certainly feels like there is no end in sight at times (like your DD will not drink milk or anything other than water). I am thankful to be surrounded by supportive family and friends (and if they’re not, they at least keep it to themselves 😉

    1. Amen, Samantha! I totally remember that feeling/fear that Grace would nursing until college!! Yes, it will end, but when you are in the thick of it it can be so hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Good luck, mama. Send me an update sometime!

  11. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to nurse your little ones for as long as you both want to. I have nursed 6 for varying periods of time, and am sad to say that I have been, in turns, pressured to stop, unable to continue, and misled by healthcare providers. Now, as I nurse my (nearly) 24 month old, I am secure in knowing that I am doing what is right and natural for us both. If more of us do what we know is right for our babies, it will become more accepted and the jokes and looks and comments will stop. I’m not a breastfeeding “nazi”, and I know that not every woman can or wants to breastfeed. I support their choices, and expect the same.

  12. I’m not that far along with my baby (he’s almost four months), but I’m happy to keep giving him milk as long as he wants it. I do feel a little embarrassed by it though, and probably won’t advertise it as easily as I do other parenting choices I’ve made. It’ll just be our time to be together, and nobody needs to be given the chance to criticize. Good for you for sticking with it! American culture doesn’t make it very easy on breastfeeding mothers does it?

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  14. I love this post! Extended breastfeeding seems to be one of those things that’s easier to accept if you’ve been around it a lot or have done it yourself – all of a sudden you realize that while 2 used to seem so big they still are you little baby and it really isn’t strange. My turning 2 1/2 year old on Monday still nurses before bed most every night and I have an 11 week old. (I honestly think that Kenna nurses once a day has helped a ton with not getting engorged.) It’s something that I don’t really talk about with others unless they flat out ask because I know the majority will thing it awkward. 🙂

  15. I’m one of those firm believers in letting babies ween themselves. My 1st went to 22 months. My second nursed for 11 months. My third weened at 9 months old. Honestly, I wished the second two had gone as long as my 1st. But I respect that they didn’t want to continue for whatever reason. With my oldest, I did get weird looks and and some off-hand comments. I had to learn to trust my gut as a mother, and ignore the rude comments and looks. It’s awful that society puts mothers through such harsh criticism of what is the most healthy and natural way to feed a baby.

  16. My minimum breastfeeding goal is two years (currently at 21 months). I feel like this is normal, and I certainly do not feel any shame or embarrassment around extended breastfeeding.

  17. It is so nice to see so many women are supportive of extended breastfeeding.

    With my oldest I nursed for 1 year & he was weaned pretty easily.

    I know they are all different but I am having quite a challenge with #2. He is 24 months & shows NO signs or interest in self-weaning or quitting at all! I can totally relate to Audra – still on demand. I have tried to keep it just before bed but I am expecting #3 & truely haven’t had the energy or felt well enough to battle a frustrated & upset toddler.

    I went out of town this past weekend so we didn’t nurse all day Friday or Saturday. I became SO engorged & in A LOT of pain! I finally caved Sunday afternoon because it was so awful.

    I would like to be done…Any help &/or advice would be great.


  18. Great post, and lovely photos! Your nursing story is a lot like mine. I began with goals for how long I would feed my daughter, but the goal kept moving and moving! We both loved this really special time, it’s impossible to describe that feeling…

    My daughter stopped feeding shortly after her 4th birthday. She would have fed for longer probably, but my milk was running low. And when I used to explain to her that there wasn’t much milk left in the boobies she wasn’t too upset, because I think she felt ready too. It was so lovely to know that I could do this for her, it was special to be able to give her exactly what she needed for so long, I’m really grateful for that.

    I wrote a post about why I breastfed until she was four (website link). And how most women don’t usually set out to do it for that long. It just kind of happens!

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Jayne. I wish people didn’t look at the calendar so much when they think about breastfeeding and weaning. I believe it is so much more of a personal decision than a date on the calendar. Thanks again for sharing!

  19. Thank you! I know this post is old but I was desperately searching, looking for someone who felt like I do! My DD is 16 months old and still nursing…a LOT! I knew that my family didn’t agree with my nursing past one, but not until recently did I start to feel embarrassed by it. I was nursing her at a restaurant (covered) with my husband, parents, and sister. Everyone (except my husband) acted completely embarrassed by it! It just broke my spirit. I started thinking of ways to wean her. After reading this, I’ve decided that I’m going back to my original plan to let her self wean. There are going to be a lot of things in the future that my family doesn’t agree with, but ultimately I’m going to do what I feel is best for my baby! Thank you again!

    1. Ashlee, oh girl… *sigh* I feel your pain. Honestly, I got to the point where I stopped nursing in public. Even if people didn’t say a word, I was anxious the whole time just waiting for someone to call me out. I think 16 months old is still pretty young, but in the future if you decide that breastfeeding is a private activity, don’t feel bad about that. It doesn’t mean that others have “won.”

      Also, I love comments on old posts. Keep ’em coming!

  20. Rebekah, I have a 20-month daughter and I’m still nursing her. In my religion, it is recommended that we nurse our babies up to 2 years old, so I’m pretty confident that I’m doing the right thing. Now that WHO also recommends extended breastfeeding, there’s even more reasons to do it.

    But, you are right when you are facing other people who are not familiar with extended breastfeeding, they will look at me and sort of ‘amazed’. I’m now working and still pumping milk at my office. I frequently share nursing room with mothers of 4-month old baby and when she asked how old my baby is, I got sort of embarrassment, even though, I shouldn’t, I guess, haha. Anyway, thanks for this post. I know I’m not alone and there are lot more other mamas needing more encouragement to continue nursing their babies.

  21. My daughter nursed exclusively until 18 months. She had texture issues with food, and up to that point, would spit food out or gag/choke on any food in her mouth. She really thrived on my breast milk alone! She was chunky, healthy, and happy! People would ask what solids she was eating, and get really concerned to hear that she wasn’t “eating”. I had to make eating MY priority, or else I would have very little energy. She weaned at 2 years, no fuss. I really didn’t care what people thought about it. . . Her health was my first priority. I can’t believe that people would treat nursing boys different than girls! Talk about discrimination! To me, 2 years is an absolute minimum.

    1. Marie, thank you for sharing your story with me. You should feel very proud for how long you were able to nurse your little girl. Good job, mama!

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