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Why I’m About to Breastfeed a 3 Year Old… Again.

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Tomorrow my daughter is turning 3 years old. Holy moly. I don’t even know how that happened. I swear she was only born 5 minutes ago.

Her language development in the last month has been incredible, she’s catching up in leaps and bounds.

She eats like a champ. It is so satisfying that I can put pretty much anything in front of her and at the very least I know she’ll have a go at it. She loves vegetables so much she’ll swipe them off my chopping board before I ever have a chance to finish with them – she’s taken off with a whole capsicum chomping into it like it’s an apple.

She’s becoming such a confident and independent little person. As long as we stay within each other’s sight she’s happy to do her own thing or play with her friends while we out.

She is also breastfeeding. She is even still breastfed “on demand” (more or less).

Which means she probably breastfeeds more often than I really admit to anyone. At night she might breastfeed a couple of times (we cosleep, so I barely notice) or she sometimes has a bad night where she breastfeeds much more often. During the day she feeds very irregularly. Some days she might come looking for a breastfeed often throughout the day – and I have to tell her “No”. Some days she won’t feed from the time she gets up until bedtime; those days are becoming more and more frequent.

She rarely asks to feed while we’re out or if we have visitors. It seems like she’s worked out on her own that breastfeeding is something we do privately now. Not because there’s anything shameful or inappropriate about breastfeeding a 3 year old, it’s just that it’s no longer about food and drink, it’s something that is special, just for her and I – so she doesn’t need it while we’re out or if we have visitors. She can have a drink in a cup or a cuddle for comfort instead.

I get that it’s not the most usual thing to breastfeed a 3 year old. According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association a survey in 2010 showed that only 5% of children were still breastfed at 24 months and there is no stats on 36+. I imagine the percent is quite small.

But when it’s just her and I, feeding her to sleep, or her asking for “Booby and Peppa Pig” on the couch, it’s the most usual and ordinary thing in the world to us.

This is just what we do.

And the biggest reason for why I’m still breastfeeding her with no real plan to wean her in the immediate future is because; “Why not?”

I don’t have a reason to wean her.

When I was breastfeeding my son at 3 years old I had a very big reason to wean him – and it was a looming deadline – I was very very pregnant with our daughter and I didn’t plan to tandem nurse. So, I needed to wean him before she was born. Which actually was a lot easier than I’d anticipated. He practically self weaned.

Ideally I’d like her self wean as well.

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While I’ve had more than my fair share of criticism for my decision to continue breastfeeding beyond infancy over the last 6 years. I have also experienced a lot of curiosity from people – and that’s perfectly fine. I really don’t mind when people ask me why I’m still breastfeeding, as a genuine question, not in a questioning my decision kind of way.

Even if it’s a caught off-guard, blurted question, like a while ago I had mastitis and when I saw my GP she asked “How old is is your baby?” and I replied “2 and a half”… She looked a little puzzled and prompted “Months?” and I corrected “Years.” Her eyes popped and she started to ask “Why is she…?” and then shook herself and said, “It doesn’t matter,” and went on with my consultation.

I get that reaction a lot.

I don’t even mind it and I’m happy to talk about it!

There are a few other reasons that I’m going to continue to breastfeed my daughter for an indefinite period of time.

The health benefits of breast milk do not expire after a set period of time. I’m supplementing her immune system and as far as a favourite drink or snack goes breast milk is a pretty darn nutritious thing a child could ask for.

It’s recommended by the World Health Organisation to breastfeed “ up to two years of age or beyond.” I think 3 years still fits well within that recommendation of “or beyond”.

She’s a human child it really does make a lot more sense to me to give her human milk while I’m able to produce it and she’s happy to drink it.

But really the main reason is the simplest: because I can, because we want to and there’s no reason not to.

Not because I think she “needs” it, or even because of any particular parenting philosophy. We just do it because it’s natural and normal and when we have a reason to stop; we’ll stop. Whether it’s when she’s no longer interested or I no longer want to breastfeed her.

For me 4 years is longer than I’d like to breastfeed for, so she will be weaned one way or another in the next 12 months. But that said I only planned to breastfeed my son for 6 months – 12 months tops and look at me 6 years later having breastfed two children to the age of 3 (and counting). So who knows!

The thing that breastfeeding for so long has taught me is that everyone should be respectful of however long a mother and child choose to breastfeed for. Or whether or not she breastfeeds at all – for any reason. It is a deeply personal experience, and everyone’s reasons and journey is different. It’s not okay to judge someone else for making different, and harmless, choices with their own body and their own child.

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Happy Birthday!

 

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.

She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.

She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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22 comments

  1. Brigitte Du Guesclin

    Thank you for sharing the why. My son is 22 months and we’re still breastfeeding for the same reason. I fed my first 2.5 years 🙂

  2. Leah Sunshine

    ive only just started weaning my almost 4 year old (turns 4 in april) it was hard to do. But I still cuddle him to sleep which has made it easier.

  3. Charlie Sedanayasa

    And exactly why i fed Tu til 3.5 – why not? He weaned himself and we were happy all round 😉

  4. Emily Garratt

    I can only dream to have been in your position. I would have loved to have bf for 6 months let alone 6 years.

  5. Alison Henderson

    Love this. I was a mum who for her first 3 kids thought past one wasn’t for me. Child 4 fed till 21 months and I was 6 months with no 5. 5 is almost 9 months still going strong. Not sure how to wean her I’m not getting pregnant again!

  6. Alison Henderson

    Love this. I was a mum who for her first 3 kids thought past one wasn’t for me. Child 4 fed till 21 months and I was 6 months with no 5. 5 is almost 9 months still going strong. Not sure how to wean her I’m not getting pregnant again!

  7. We are still going at 2.5 and why not? It’s good for us both!

  8. We are still going at 2.5 and why not? It’s good for us both!

  9. Fantastic and go you! I am still breastfeeding my 2 year old and she’s showing no signs of letting go. Your business entirely and thanks for sharing. Each to his own. All the best!

  10. Fantastic and go you! I am still breastfeeding my 2 year old and she’s showing no signs of letting go. Your business entirely and thanks for sharing. Each to his own. All the best!

  11. Go mumma!! My 19 month old is still fed on demand (sometimes he’s very demanding) – but as you say I do it because I can, because we want to & there’s no reason to stop.

  12. What a beautiful story. I love the sound of the bond between you and your daughter. I am breastfeeding my 16 months old twins and kind of looking forward to stopping but don’t want to lose the magic bond either. So will keep going for now. Might drop the morning feed and keep a bedtime feed indefinitely. You sound a like a wonderful mother.x

  13. What a beautiful story. I love the sound of the bond between you and your daughter. I am breastfeeding my 16 months old twins and kind of looking forward to stopping but don’t want to lose the magic bond either. So will keep going for now. Might drop the morning feed and keep a bedtime feed indefinitely. You sound a like a wonderful mother.x

  14. Good on you for opening up and sharing this. Very well said, Rachel.

  15. Good on you for opening up and sharing this. Very well said, Rachel.

  16. Congratulations on breastfeeding for so long! I’m up to 15 months with my daughter. She is sick at the moment and the comfort breastfeeding brings her is all worth it!

  17. Congratulations on breastfeeding for so long! I’m up to 15 months with my daughter. She is sick at the moment and the comfort breastfeeding brings her is all worth it!

  18. Thanks so much for sharing . I am still happily feeding our girl who is 26 months old for the same reasons you are . 🙂

  19. Thanks so much for sharing . I am still happily feeding our girl who is 26 months old for the same reasons you are . 🙂

  20. That’s awesome! It really lovely to hear other people can relate as well. 🙂