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I have been breastfeeding my son since he was born up to now at 2 years old. I noticed that he really enjoys being fed and playing with my nipple. When he gets upset and I hold him, he will put his hand in my shirt.

I guess it is normal for a breastfeeding child, but I just wonder is it normal?

  • My son used to breastfeed around this age, we stopped having him breastfeed shortly after that. Its slightly unusual but not much really, I wouldn't be too worried unless its causing problems for you. – Mark Rogers Oct 23 '17 at 14:33
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    He never learnt that he can do differently. No longer breastfeeding is something that you have to teach him - smoothly but persistently. He won't say: "Please, gimme fork, knife and spoon, because I want to feed on my own." – rexkogitans Oct 23 '17 at 14:40
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    Anytime you find yourself stressing over your child's behavior as not being in line with "the norm" you need to stop and check yourself. Nine times out of ten these things are no big deal. Every kid is different. As long as he's not breastfeeding by the time he leaves for college, he'll be fine. Gently coax him towards the behavior you want to see and don't sweat it if he takes his own time getting there. – DanK Oct 23 '17 at 16:02
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    @rexkogitans I disagree, speaking from experience with two bf children (>2 years each). Both reached a point where they chose to stop without me actively weaning them. – Stephie Oct 23 '17 at 19:41
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    First read this as "25 yrs son still likes breastfeeding" – Señor O Oct 24 '17 at 21:41
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You can understand why babies and toddlers may do that - your body is the source of their comfort and happiness. It is normal for them to do it, although a more common comfort is sucking the thumb, for example.

As far as what age you may expect them to do it, this is entirely dependent on culture. Some cultures accept breastfeeding to quite an advanced age, others wean as early as possible - and habits like this track with weaning.

If it makes you uncomfortable, you could think about dissuading the activity, especially if your culture will not accept it in public.

At the end of the day, they will stop at some point, so you can guide this point. And provide other comfort as needed, which could be cuddles where you encourage him to keep his hands to himself, or hold a toy etc.

22

is [a 2.5yr old breatfeeding] normal?

This is largely a cultural question, and without information about your community is unanswerable.

However it may be helpful to understand whether it's safe or recommended, and why one might choose to continue or discontinue breastfeeding at a specific age.

First, there is no safety issue. While it is recommended to feed children this age solids, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively until 6 months, and then continuing breastfeeding as a portion of a child's diet until age 2 or beyond.

At age 2, however, a child's caloric needs are about 1,000 calories a day. You may find that breastfeeding exclusively isn't able to meet these needs, but it's possible their needs are met. As children ultimately will have to wean, many health organizations recommend introducing solids at 6 months and increasing them over time to meet the child's nutritional needs completely.

If you are not exclusively breastfeeding, and this is only a portion of their nutrition you are fine. If you are exclusively breastfeeding you'll need to make sure you can keep up with the caloric demands, and you should consider introducing solids so you don't have to go to extra effort once they are off at school and need to eat in the middle of school.

At this age, though, while nutrition is a large part of breastfeeding, children often are breastfeeding for comfort and safety, physical, mental, and emotional. It's a way for them to connect and calm down.

Again, this cannot continue indefinitely (generally) so at some point you should attempt to understand their needs and find other ways they can be comforted, calmed, acknowledged, and have your time and attention that doesn't involve breastfeeding. You don't have to wean to find these things, but once you have found activities and tools that meet these needs your child may choose to use them rather than breastfeeding.

Expanding their horizons can be important, if they only know one way to soothe themselves, then they will have a difficult time adapting to situations where they cannot choose their preferred method. It's not so much a replacement as it is an expansion of possible solutions.

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    Pretty sure that by the time a child is one, they will start to develop anaemia if they are only breast fed - but a 2½ y.o. will just be breast-feeding for comfort, not nutrition. – Martin Bonner Oct 24 '17 at 16:35
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    @MartinBonner In developing countries where maternal nutrition is poor, anemia is a risk for infants who are exclusively breast fed past 9 months: jn.nutrition.org/content/136/2/452.full . However, some countries recommend starting solids at 4 months due to anemia and other nutritional deficiencies: telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/8256929/… . In any case ensure the maternal diet is sufficient: safbaby.com/… – Adam Davis Oct 24 '17 at 16:50
  • In other words, if the mother's diet is incomplete, then, too, the breastfed child's diet will be incomplete. Even in developed countries, particularly in areas of food scarcity, or poor food choice, children and mothers can suffer from an incomplete diet. However, with a complete diet there should be little to no risk to exclusively breastfeed for longer than 6 months. Again, however, solids are recommended starting at 6 months (WHO) and 4 months (many developed countries) for other health benefits, such as lower allergy issues. – Adam Davis Oct 24 '17 at 16:53
  • My source was a paedetrician who was doing "child's led weaning". The slogan is "best til one, food's for fun". It's a good slogan, but not entirely accurate. – Martin Bonner Oct 24 '17 at 20:33
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The "twiddling" is very common. All four of my nurslings did it (the last is still doing it, at 1.5 years). When I was active on a discussion board for nursing mothers, I recall a couple of mothers who had weaned their children from nursing, but whose toddlers would still reach inside their shirts when in need of comfort. At least one of these was old enough to verbally ask for "touchums" (or something similar) when she needed this.

If the twiddling doesn't bother you, don't worry about it; if it does bother you for any reason, you can work on limiting it. Other websites, more dedicated to issues of extended breastfeeding, may be a good place to start for ideas on how to do so.

5

Our son, raised in the U.S. and in Germany during that time, breastfed until he was almost 3 years old, if I remember correctly. He's now 11 and very smart and a really good and content and emotionally stable and socially amiable boy. Of course he would be that even without us, probably ;-). But long breastfeeding didn't seem to hurt. So I wouldn't worry with respect to the well-being of the child.

In retrospective I as the father would think it was a form of indulgence, of spoiling him, by my partner which continues in other ways till today and is only possible with an only child. To a certain degree spoiling is fine — we do love our children. But I would make sure that you set the limits which are necessary for your own well-being. After all, these are the only hard limits we want to draw for our children (besides protecting them from harm): When their behavior starts to infringe on other people's well-being, including their parents'. That well-being can also be social: It may be embarrassing when he grabs your boobs in public; that's a legitimate reason to tell him to stop it.

So if you always jump just because your little prince has a special wish or need, without consideration for your own needs and rhythms, then I would try to be a bit more assertive and start to protect yourself. Realizing that other people have limits and learning to respect them is an important part of growing up and becoming aware of oneself and one's surroundings.

But as far as the actual breastfeeding goes: You are fine.

  • Our son was breastfeeding for comfort up until about three too. Then he just stopped. (He's now 29, and fine too.) – Martin Bonner Oct 24 '17 at 16:33
  • Good point about the parents having to decide what to do if anything. I weaned my son a little after he turned 3, he didnt like it and i found it hard but we did it because then his dad could also put him in bed. The boobgrabbing went on though, especially when tired. (I also have a really great kid :-)) – Ivana Oct 26 '17 at 15:02
  • @Ivana Here too: Both mother and child were very sad when he was weaned! (For a day or so ;-). ) – Peter A. Schneider Oct 26 '17 at 15:19
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My daughter and her husband felt it was best to let my granddaughter essentially ween herself. My granddaughter ended up nursing until she was almost 4. She would do the same things as you mentioned in your question, especially at night. It was obvious that she just wanted comfort from nursing and the process was for comfort and goofing off. The pediatrician said it was normal and that they should just focus on teaching my granddaughter that it wasn't appropriate at certain times.

3

My wife breast-fed one of our girls quite longer than 2.5 years (can't recall if it was 3.5 or even 4...); another one more or less weaned herself earlier. Both turned out fine.

In my opinion, there are two aspects for you as a mother to keep in mind:

  1. I encourage you to do as you please, and ignore "customs" as far as you can. It's not the public opinion that should decide for you. Go with your feelings.
  2. You are allowed and encouraged to make up your own mind, i.e. you also do not necessarily let your child dictate your actions. You and your son are a team, not a hierarchy, at this point, and you have as much say as he. We are used to do what babies want so they stop crying, but at 2.5 he should be old enough to pick up some other habits.

On 1.: obviously, if you get penalized for still feeding your "old" child, then at some point the penalizing (whatever it may be) may be more than you can stomach. in this case continue with "2.".

On 2.: penalizing is not the only problem. For example, if your skin gets sore from the feeding, or if you are just not feeling that it is "right", then you can let your child know that.

Obviously it depends on the age of the child, i.e. at 2.5 you can hardly sit down and talk it through. But you can offer alternatives, and maybe bring up a slight barrier for breast-feeding. I.e., try to make the pauses inbetween slightly longer, try to gently nudge your child away from the breast slightly sooner and such. But basically just flood the child with alternative sources of food, and with alternative sources of "warm, cosy feelings". Get in a habit of cuddling a lot with no breasts involved, and such.

But in the end, rest assured that eventually he will stop breast-feeding.

The old joke "Oh, you're still breast-feeding him, how old is he now? -- Oh, the wee one is only in his 72nd month..." helps, I guess. :-)

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    Joined the community so I can rebut your first point. As a parent, it is your responsibility to help raise children to function well within a community. Those "customs" you advocate ignoring represent the fabric of right and wrong within a community, whether or not it represents actual right and wrong. We are social creatures, and the public opinion does matter in public places. – Aaron R. Oct 24 '17 at 16:00
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    @AaronR.... which is why I advocate that if they decide to ignore customs and if the public reacts in a way that is not acceptable to the parent anymore, then that is certainly a factor for them to decide to stop doing it. But that still does not mean that if country A usually weans off at 1 year, and country B normally does so at 3 years, that the one country is more "biologically" correct than the other. – AnoE Oct 25 '17 at 17:51
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    @AaronR., and after re-reading the question and my answer, nowhere is it stated that we are talking about feeding in public places. The only time the word "public" occurs here is my term "public opinion", and a rather unfortunate word placement which I have changed now. – AnoE Oct 25 '17 at 19:38
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As a man, I'm probably totally unqualified to answer this question. However I do have 4 children, all of them were breastfed. We never had issues weaning them. I suspect it was because at some point we switched to pumping the milk so it was more readily available (allowing me to take over care, or a babysitter when we wanted to go out).

I've recently been studying hormones on their impact on behavior, in particular oxytocin which is largely responsible for the "I miss this person" feeling. It creates the pair bonding that keeps couples together, and parents & children.

http://michaelwells.live/blog/love-101

Oxytocin is released during breastfeeding, so it makes me wonder if the physical act of breastfeeding could amplify oxytocin levels more than bottle-fed breast milk - similar to how a hug raises your oxytocin. If that's true it would explain why he feels especially drawn to the act of breastfeeding. Switching to pumped milk, and making that his only option, might be a good way to transition him if it's causing you difficulties.

  • You are not unqualified just because you are a man. You're a father, so that gives you at least as much authority as women who aren't mothers. Furthermore, experience isn't the only source of knowledge. You don't have to have been personally electrocuted to know that you shouldn't let your child stick their fingers in electrical sockets. – guenthmonstr Oct 26 '17 at 14:00

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