Google+ Authentic Parenting: Extended Breastfeeding?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Extended Breastfeeding?

Written as a submission for the April carnival of Breastfeeding, hosted by Blacktating.

When I set out to breastfeed my daughter, we planned on going up to one year, on the advice of my OB/GYN. In Belgium, breastfeeding beyond 3 months, when mothers take up work again, is already considered extended, going up to six months is really long. Beyond that... is straight out weird.
At that point I thought so too, but if breastfeeding up to a year would be good for my child, specifically considering I had gestational diabetes, why not offer her the best start imaginable.

Detail "Let The Children Come To Me", Lucas Cranach
One year became two years, and two will soon become three, and the end of our nursing relationship is no where near. We just moved on, day after day. When her first birthday came up it seemed off to quit, she was still so small. Her second birthday seemed so arbitrary. Any predefined moment in time would have been strange to just quit, as she is clearly not ready yet, and neither am I.

Over those years I read a lot, learned a lot and came to the conclusion that our nursing relationship would continue until she decides to quit.

It also became clear that a lot of women end their breastfeeding relationship because they don't see breastfeeding beyond a certain point as appropriate, or because they don't know how to juggle breastfeeding and work, or they lack support to nurse beyond a certain point.

Every culture has established its own arbitrary age up to which which breastfeeding is considered 'normal' and everything beyond that is 'extended'. Resulting to such language only makes it clear that you are indeed doing something out of the ordinary, something that is not considered 'normal'.
If we seek to normalize breastfeeding, specifically beastfeeding beyond that arbitrary point in your child's life, we should avoid using terms as 'extended', 'long term' or 'prolonged'.

Calling it 'extended' breastfeeding is not supportive, it is not motivating, as it suggests going against the grain. It needlessly singles out women who have just lactated on beyond an arbitrary moment in time.

We, lactivists, bloggers who promote breastfeeding, nursing mothers, should refrain from using these terms. In an effort to normalize breastfeeding beyond infancy, or any breastfeeding at all, watch your language!

Read some of the other posts:

Mama Alvina of Ahava & Amara Life Foundation: Breastfeeding Journey Continues
Elita @ Blacktating: The Last Time That Never Was
Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC: Old enough to ask for it
Karianna @ Caffeinated Catholic Mama: A Song for Mama’s Milk
Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Favorite Moments
Tamara Reese @ Please Send Parenting Books : Extended Breastfeeding
Jenny @ Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: The Highs and Lows of Nursing a Toddler
Christina @ MFOM: Natural-Term Breastfeeding
Rebekah @ Momma’s Angel: My Sleep Breakthrough
Suzi @ Attachedattheboob: Why I love nursing a toddler
Claire @ The Adventures of Lactating Girl: My Hopes for Tandem Nursing
Stephanie Precourt from Adventures in Babywearing: “Continued Breastfeeding”: straight from the mouths of babes
The Accidental Natural Mama: Nurse on, Mama
Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Gratitude for extended breastfeeding
Nikki @ On Becoming Mommy: The Little Things
The Artsy Mama: Why Nurse a Toddler?
Christina @ The Milk Mama: The best thing about breastfeeding
TopHot @ the bee in your bonnet: From the Mouths of Babes
Callista @ Callista’s Ramblings:  Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding
Zoie @ Touchstone Z: Breastfeeding Flavors
Tanya @ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Six misconceptions about extended breastfeeding
Motherlove Herbal Company: Five reasons to love nursing a toddler



  1. Great point - I completely agree! I'm always happy to hear people referring to 'full-term' or 'natural duration' breastfeeding instead.

  2. I agree! It's hard to normalize something you label to as extended or long term. I use "natural duration". From my blog on breastfeeding beyond 12 months:

    I won't "extend" anything, but I will nurse my sons for the duration of their need.

  3. Yes you are right it's not a great term, indicating that you are doing it past the age you should be or something.

  4. If we seek to normalize breastfeeding, specifically beastfeeding beyond that arbitrary point in your child's life, we should avoid using terms as 'extended', 'long term' or 'prolonged'.

    Yes, exactly! How about just 'breastfeeding'?

  5. I hadn't thought about the word "extended" being demotivating. Outside the blogging world, I know of no one nursing their children as long as I am (currently a 4yo, 3yo, 19mo, and pregnant with my 4th child). So many of my friends seem to fall over themselves in their eagerness to wean, so in order to explain what I do, I just say "extended." I'll be more careful in the future!

  6. Agreed! It is a hard habit to break, though. I've read other articles about what to call it. I like "natural duration" or "full-term" - those are quite nice.

    Visiting from Momma Jorje!

  7. Interesting point! I find that some people do not even consider "extended" breastfeeding as an option, and by using the term we are also promoting it.
    I myself are still breastfeeding at 28 months and do not see myself reaching a cut-off point very soon...

  8. It's funny, I also never thought of the modifier "extended" as being almost a barrier to a normal experience. Thank you for your insight and it was great reading your thoughts. It's also great learning about the different norms in varying countries.

  9. Thank you for your story and relating it to normalizing breastfeeding. I do a double-take every time someone refers to breastfeeding over...what? 6mo? 1year? 2years? "extended." Like you, ans so many moms, we've just followed our family rhythms. There are so many styles and durations of breastfeeding. Why label? I'm breastfeeding 3 children of differing ages. Does that make one better than or different than another? How would I label breastfeeding differently between them? It's all breastfeeding (aka normal) to us.

  10. I too had planned on breastfeeding a year, though I worried a lot the first year that my son would decide to wean 'early,' i.e. before a year. You are spot on that age cut-offs are arbitrary – thanks for reminding me! At one year most of his nutrition still came primarily from breast milk and it didn't seem the least bit natural or right to discontinue nursing. I do think ‘extended’ can be useful culturally to describe a group of mothers that share certain breastfeeding experiences in common. But on the whole I would agree with you that the term tends to marginalize this experience as outside of the mainstream.

  11. It's amazing how many arbitrary rules and norms the majority of us moms follow! It's hard to remember sometimes that the way we think and act are specific to our culture and times! Thanks for your insightful story.

    As my son's 1st birthday is next week, I've been thinking about weaning...but really only because of the recommendations and what other moms around me are doing. Your post reinforced for me that there's really no good reason to stop now!

    Thanks you for that!

  12. @onbecomingmommy: that's just great! I love it when I write something that really touches someone's life! Blessings to you and the little one, follow your hearts!

  13. it's really nice to stumble into you here. i am currently living in Panama and most seem to breastfeed for maybe a month or so. i have a 2 year old and am starting to feel a liitle uncomfortable about nursing in public...only because i am the only one! otherwise, i love it but i do feel that it has chnaged my comfort level which i find sad. thank you for making me feel "normal" again!


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