Reasons Why My 4-Year-Old Nurses (His Words & Mine)


Reasons why my 4-year-old nurses — according to him:

1). “It’s delicious.”

Obviously, breast milk tastes good. I’ve heard some adults who breastfed until school age say they have no memories of actually breastfeeding, but they’ll never forget the sweet taste.

At more than 3 years old, MaiTai weaned briefly in the last trimester of my last pregnancy. I really thought he was done. Then my milk returned in full force after baby Julep’s birth and so did his remembrance of the sweet, sugary goodness.

Of course he wanted to test it out, see if it had changed.

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(Incorrectly) Assumed Reasons Why My 4-Year-Old Nurses

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I think by now we can all agree exclusive breastfeeding is the optimal method of infant feeding. Our society is slowly but surely becoming more accepting (even approving) of breastfeeding (the concept of it, if anything).

But, here’s the thing.

I notice many of us still seem a tad obsessed with HOW LONG  a woman and child should breastfeed.

Okay, so you get it, you get it. Breastfeeding is healthy, it’s both normal and best, and breastfeeding in public is perfectly appropriate.

But do you pause when the breastfeeding involves a child older than you’d expect? Do you question whether it’s still good or still appropriate? Do you already firmly believe it’s not? Have you ever uttered the phrase “I support breastfeeding, but…” and concluded with an opinion about upper age limits?

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Gentle Mother-Led Weaning Strategies


So you want to wean.

You want to wean, and I hope someone in your support circle is listening. Breastfeeding unearths such strong emotions. That’s how it works, after all. And you feel strongly about this. So you’re weaning.

Did you know the verb ‘to wean’ originates from the Hebrew phrase meaning ‘to ripen’?  Presumably, the idea is when a child enters a state of readiness for being entirely weaned, he has ripened, and this itself is a significant milestone.

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Tandem Nursing Video: My 4-Year-Old & 9-Month Old


Here we are simultaneously tandem nursing my 4-year-old and 9-month-old sons. I rarely nurse them together because it can be overwhelming and aggravating for me — I get touched out so easily.

My husband took a video and I wanted to share it because it is so sweet to watch siblings bond as they nurse together. Holding hands, laughing, stroking each other’s faces and hair…

It is a much different experience than you might believe if you weren’t acquainted with child-led weaning, breastfeeding beyond infancy, or tandem nursing.



The Logistics and Worries of Tandem Nursing


I have a lot of trust these days.

Mothers in our culture are told she should wean her older child when she’s pregnant (“or else you’ll miscarry!”); that the older one will take all the important nutrients away from the new baby if they tandem nurse; that the older kid should be eating “real” food so nursing is no longer a “need” (as if breastfeeding is alone defined by its nutritional profile); that the older child will never wean on his own.

I was forced to confront the truth-to-myth ratio in these things I really had no idea about. I wondered if I’m doing things right, I consulted with my intuition (and my children because they’re wiser than we give them credit for — and, I’ll admit, online forums and a Tarot deck more than once).

I realized tandem nursing just happens however it does, despite any careful planning or controlling I may have preferred. On a deeper, more trusting level, I know this is happening as its meant to.

I know my almost four-year-old MaiTai isn’t going to bogart all the milk that my newly four-month-old Julep needs. I know it’s okay for me to nurse my older kid in public. I know I’m not the first or last mother to tandem nurse children aged several years apart.

But the logistics of it all… the logistics! There’s no map for this.

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Setting Breastfeeding Boundaries With An Older Child (Plus Nursing Aversion)


I know he is only three and a half. He’s still such a little kid. Next to me, he doesn’t look so little, being more than half my height and all. It’s like that 2012 TIME magazine cover, you know, when Jamie Lynne Grumet nursed her three-year-old, balanced with his feet flat on a chair, and everyone thought he must’ve been graduating elementary school.

MaiTai is an old soul, this kid. But he’s still just a kid, or transitioning to what most people imagine when they think of a school-age child (he’s not quite there yet), and only four years ago he was a floating fetus.

For whatever reason, child-led weaning is controversial in our society (the superstitions surrounding it are unfounded, of course). Many a mother is pressured with interrogation into why her child is “still” breastfeeding, “when are you going to stop this,” declarations of “at his age he shouldn’t be so dependent” and the classic “I’m all for breastfeeding BUT…”

At a wedding one year ago, MaiTai was 2.5 years old and I hadn’t yet encountered a situation when I needed to make him wait to nurse. Some of the messages/comments on the post I wrote about our experience nursing there said he should’ve been able to wait “at his age.”

Really? Are two-year-olds really all that great at waiting for anything? In any case, sure, he could’ve waited long enough for us to relocate to a dungeon or wherever they deemed more appropriate — but there was no reason for me to say “not here, not now,” therefore it didn’t even cross my mind.

There was no good lesson in making my child wait for something he felt he needed — in a moment when I was perfectly able and willing to give it to him — just to prove to overly-interested others that he can hold his shit together.

In this story of a mother and child forced to quit nursing to appease family, the author writes: “Those who had demanded that she wean her toddler didn’t even know what that breastfeeding relationship was; they didn’t know what they were asking; they were ignorant, and didn’t even know what they didn’t know.”

That said… Now that I’m tandem nursing MaiTai and his baby brother Julep, we do often find ourselves in situations in which MaiTai has to wait to nurse.

(Scroll to the bottom of this post for ideas about how to set boundaries).

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