My 5-Year-Old Daughter Is Still Breastfeeding And I Don’t Know How To Stop

But all the limits only seemed to make her want it more, and I couldn’t bring myself to refuse her entirely. The way her whole body relaxed into my lap, the way she gazed up at me with those big, adoring eyes, the way she snuggled into my arms — she didn’t seem like a big kid. She still seemed like a baby. My baby

The right moment to wean just never arrived.

After her brother was born, I cut her back to two sessions a day. We talked about how big kids don’t need mama milk, and none of her friends drink it. But if I hoped that peer pressure would embarrass her into quitting, I was wrong. It made her appreciate it more. Like she was getting cake while all the other kids ate vegetables. She started telling her friends the “secret” that she got to drink mama milk. She even announced in children’s church once, as they discussed gifts that demonstrate love, that “my mama gives me mama milk because she loves me so much.” Sweet, right? She thinks it’s a gift of love. I sank deeper in my chair and contemplated switching churches while I prayed desperately that no one would figure out exactly what she meant by “mama milk.”

She wasn’t embarrassed at all. But I was.

So I cut her back more. I replaced her bedtime session with ice cream. (Because that’s healthier, right?) It’s been a month since she nursed at bedtime, but she still asks for it. I rock her instead and sing her a lullaby, promising that she’ll have mama milk in the morning.

And while I do that, I wonder why. Because ice cream is certainly not better for her than breastmilk, and rocking a 5-year-old in my arms is much harder than lying down to let her nurse. And if you can forget about the hang-ups our society has about breasts, if you can think of them as just another body part, like hair, or a hand, or a foot — then you’ll realize, as I have, that trying so hard to wean her is a little ridiculous.

If your child wanted you to tell her a story every time she got upset, would you say she was overly dependent on you? If she begged for a story before bed, would you insist that she shouldn’t need that and ought to be able to go to sleep alone? No. You’d trust that she would outgrow that ritual on her own when she was ready. And if she didn’t — if she still asked you to read a chapter to her from her favorite book when she was a teenage — you wouldn’t refuse. You’d know the time was fleeting, and that she’d outgrow it all too soon.

Does that mean I’ll let my daughter breastfeed until she’s a teenager? No way.

But I’ve let her breastfeed this long for her. And when I finally persuade her to quit, I’ll be doing that for me.

(photo: Bocman1973 / Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Lisa C. Baker, on twitter.
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    • CRS

      I just wanted to say that you have some serious guts to put this out there for all the Mommy world to judge! I thought it was a beautiful and heartfelt piece of writing, and it’s obvious how much you love and care for your daughter.

      I am curious, since this article appears to have been published about five months ago – what happened? Did you wean? Did your daughter self-wean? Did you decide to just carry on nursing? If you weaned, how did you do it and how did it go?

      All the best to you.

      • Lisa Baker

        Yes, she weaned! Actually, I should write a follow-up post telling how. Maybe I’ll suggest that to Koa. :)

    • Brandy

      Lisa, I’m so, so sorry you’ve been so horribly attacked for sharing this. I think it’s terrible that so many mothers out there feel like if you share something, then that gives them full license to judge you and tell you how to parent. These same women probably hate it when someone tells THEM how to handle their children, and yet they have no problem with going on someone’s blog or article and telling them how to care for their children. I hope you see my comment below asking to dialogue. I am in this same situation right now- so similar that my partner thought I had written this! lol- and I really wish I had someone with whom I could speak. Is there some private way I could give you my email address or my Facebook information? Thank you for taking the time to read this, thank you for taking the time to write this, and thank you most of all for your bravery in writing this. I’m sorry you are having to deal with such a cruel, intrusive backlash.

    • Kate Hastings

      Not only am I nursing my almost six year old daughter but her four year old brother and we DO nurse in public occasionally. My oldest has almost weened herself and I tell her no more often than not.. Not because I’m embarassed or I feel guilty about it but because her latch has changed and sometimes it really hurts.

      I can honestly say in my heart of hearts that I truly don’t give a rats ass what anyone else thinks about it and have, in fact, ended a couple friendships because they pushed their warped “sexualized” feelings on me regarding it.

      To say that it’s just comfort tells me that we as a society are not educated nearly enough on the benefits of breast milk. The composition if it doesn’t just magically change to water once your baby turns one. It’s still one of the most nutritious things they’ll take into their bodies.. Even if they’re almost six.

      As for the woman from Australia with the little boy? That’s doesn’t seem like what a normal extended breastfeeding relationship looks like but then again maybe all of the judgement and pressure coming from all directions has made both of them behave a bit strangely.. Who knows but extreme examples like that do not speak for the majority of EBF families.

    • Elizabeth Aspen

      You can’t “figure out how”? How about just not whipping the girls out? Saying ‘no’ and meaning it? She’s a kid, she’ll get the hint. Sorry, but this kind of thing just seems so incestuously weird.

    • Amanda

      I loved your post Lisa, thanks for your honesty and your ambiguity – I SO get you. I remember being totally weirded out by a TV programme in the UK about extended breastfeeding years ago – and now I am one. My daughter, four, is adamant she doesn’t want to stop bedtime booby and I relate to pretty much everything you say. I have the same internal dialogue going on – sometimes I want my body back, other times I love the closeness but then worry I am doing it for me. Sometimes I think the only reason I wish she’d self-wean is because of what society thinks, other times I worry that the (many LOUD) nay-sayers are right and I’m pandering to her and not being boundaried. Although I have no problem placing firm boundaries in any other area….I guess until I feel the need it just isn’t going to happen.

      These days I don’t mention that we are still at it and only a couple of close friends know – one is completely supportive, the other recently said she now thinks it’s dysfunctional. It sure doesn’t feel that way. Mostly it feels completely natural and right us, for this particular mother and child. I worry about when / how it will stop but then remember worrying about those other self-directed milestones which all happened quite naturally. I also draw comfort from the statistics world-wide. It’s our society which makes us feel this is wrong and unnatural and up to us to stand firm in our mothering and do what feels right for us and our child.

      I also have no doubt it has contributed to her mega-immune system – my daughter is NEVER sick. I recently read a paper about the immuno-benefits of breastfeeding. Breast milk not only gives your child immunity from every pathogen you’ve ever been exposed to but if your child contacts a pathogen you haven’t encountered then immuno-messages are drawn into your breast ducts via your child’s saliva and within eight hours you’ve maufactured breast milk with immunity to that pathogen. I’m sure I’ve got the terminology a bit wrong here but hope you get the point…..breast milk is an AWESOME health drink!

      So once again thanks for sharing and stand firm in YOUR parenting decisions.

    • Modern Woman

      wow you’re retarded. just stop breastfeeding. simple. My son weaned himself at 18 months… I’m guessing you’re a stay at home mom with nothing better to do but pop babies, talk about babies, think about babies. Get over it.

    • L

      I totally understand how you feel. my son is 4 and still nurses once a day. I used sticker charts and two trips to chuck e cheese to help him reach the goal of 3 time a day, then just two times- morning and bedtime. He showed me he was ready to drop the night time so I encouraged that and when he asked to nurse then after a week I explained that he was big enough to go without it at night and he got a special “big boy” present (small lego thing). This was within the last month. we stillhave a few rough bed times but more and more he goes to sleep within twostories or Psalms- and the best part is he wants Daddy to do bed time now! I plan to let him have the morning time as long as he needs- weeks, months, or years. I needed that boundary of one time a day for my own sanity- esp with a nursing 1 year old. I did push that much weaning but didn’t force it.

    • Jessica Goodman

      I am still breastfeeding my 3 and a half year old son still going very strong my older son now 8 was breastfed till he was 5 so I am proud to be still breastfeeding my younger son I am 27 weeks pregnant with my third baby another boy and I plan to breastfeed my youngest son whos 3.5 years and my newborn until he is ready to stop and experts say breastfeeding is normal from birth to 7 years

    • elpiz

      Hi Lisa, I can completely relate with you! I’m still bfding my more than 4 yrs and a half little girl and she absolutely doesn’t want to quit. I’ve done most of the things you have told but nothing seems to work. The truth is that I don’t really want to quit too. Sometime I’d like to, but most of the time I still enjoy this precious connection we have. I feel that letting her still have boobs is part of being a mom. And letting her being a kid and growing at her own pace. She we’ll know when she’s ready.

      And, by the way, even if some of the people I know don’t agree with extended bfding, they all agree in saying that my little girl is one of the happiest baby they’ve ever seen. She’s always smiling and in a good mood and I do have received tons of compliments related to her behaviour. And I’m sure this is also thanks to my boobs!

    • Ashley

      I breastfed my son for ~12 months. I understand the attachment that comes with it. The first time I told my son no for breast milk, I cried. However, I knew it was the right thing to do. About 4 months after that, I stopped his use of bottles, and shortly after, a pacifier. If you see a 5 year old walking around, drinking out of a bottle, or sucking a pacifier, what would you think? Well, yeah, its a way of soothing. Yeah, it’s a form of a cup. Yeah, they may be drinking healthy things out of it, BUT IT IS WRONG. A 5 year old with a bottle is just as bad as a 5 year old with a boob. I don’t condemn extended breast feeding. I condemn the idea of not making your children move on to their NEXT stage in development. Although you would allow a 2 year old to bathe with a four year old, would you allow a 12 year old to bathe with a 14 year old? NO, or at least I SURE HOPE NOT. Because there comes a time when YOU the MOTHER, have to put a stop to things like this, and allow your child to develop properly!!! EVEN IF IT HURTS YOU OR THEM. This is why children are meant to be weaned sooner. Once they will be able to remember it, it IS wrong. NOT because they associate breasts wrongly or sexually, but because you may be traumatizing your child, by taking away something that they have known so long for comfort!
      If you continue this way, what is the cutoff age? 8? 10? 13? The longer you wait, the harder it will be. I think it’s time to put your foot down mama.

    • Marie

      Ok a woman should have her child at age 2 at the latest. Medically you can breast feed for 5 years before you milk will stop producing. Next time she asks for mama milk give her regular milk.

    • Mia

      She might stop in a year or so when the rooting reflex naturally diminishes. I wouldn’t worry about it she is getting beautiful health benefits from it. Why do you think they sell pediasure sidekicks for 5-8 year olds. Corporations and everyone who looks it up knows everyone should be breastfed until about 6 years old sometimes longer. Our society makes it hard to go with nature you child is normal and you should not be embarrassed for doing what is best for her, she isn’t. Science is on your side do more research and you will be fine with it.

    • Michele

      Hi Lisa – I have a similar situation with my 4.5 yr old daughter. How did she finally stop?

    • Jay

      All of you people are f**cking retarded. You all sound like sheeple, I’ll breastfeed my baby until she’s good a goddamn ready to stop. And did you village idiots know that your child’s immune system is fully matured around 5 years, so that’s a perfect tie to stop. What the fuck is with mothers today, it’s disgusting how breasts are treated. There not sex toys for your dumbass husband, there for FEEDING. selfish, stupid, ignorant people need to STOP reproducing, go get your tubes tied please! For the lovely woman who wrote this article, I thank you. Thank you for putting your child first, there needs to be WAY more people out there like you. Please don’t even listen to these morons.

    • 1soonerlover

      Lisa, you should never be ashamed to keep breastfeeding your 5 year old daughter; your breastmilk is the most nutritional food that she can ever get PLUS your breastmilk has so many nutritional benefits I can’t name them all!! KEEP BREASTFEEDING YOUR 5 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER!!

    • Ali

      Hi Lisa, what a great article, I could have written it myself about my almost 4 year old son and I. All the negative comments are so depressing, I will stop reading them now :(…I did see a bit further down that your daughter has weaned now, can I ask how it came about? Nursing seems to still be such a strong need for my son and I always thought I would wait until he self-weaned but not sure if he ever will!! Lol…I have 5 as the magical number in my head of when I will gently tell him it is time to wean. (I am also feeding his 21 month old little bro at the moment). I actually googled ‘extended nursing’ because I have just spent hours on facebook arguing with strangers who were posting extremely nasty comments in response to a woman’s article about breastfeeding her 4 year old. I can’t understand where all the hate comes from, it has really gooten me down! xx

    • Mrs_Moha

      I’m so over breast feeding my just-turned-two-year-old. I’ve tried cutting back, cutting out night feedings, distractions, etc. In the middle of the night I’ve woken up to him nursing from me… So much for cutting out night feedings! He crawls into my bed and lifts up my shirt and if I don’t wake up he just goes for it! Two nights ago he threw a two hour tantrum between the hours of 1-3am over me not letting him nurse. My husband tried to calm him down (after many failed non-breastfeeding attempts), but when he finally did calm down he was wide awake trying to climb under my shirt for another hour. If he didn’t share a room with his sister we would have tried to deal with it in his room, but someone in the house ought to be well rested.

      Lisa, what helped you wean? I’m at my wits end!!! I start a new job tomorrow which means 4 bedtimes away from him a week, but now I’m afraid he’s going to wake up in the middle of the night ISO boobs anyway.

      My daughter cut down to twice a day at 18 months and fully weaned while I was pregnant with my son at 20 months. I see no end in sight for the boy :(

    • Over it

      Yes, it is about you, because you worry more about your guilt than what’s best for your kid. The fact that she can go out and be somewhere and not need to nurse is your answer. Yes, you know how to stop. You’re just not doing it. WEAN HER. Got it? Good. Stop jumping every time she asks you to. Go to once a day. Go to every other day. Go to once a week… Then fucking stop. Also, take the opportunity to instill boundaries and respect for YOUR body, and you can both learn. Let her know mommy is a person with feelings, and what she wants isn’t so good for mommy.

      Then, you can STFU forever. I’m not normally aggressive, ever. I think i’ve just seen too much “I don’t know how” lately. Also, I’m not anti-extended breastfeeding. Just against powerless moms who are living in the era of mom-worship thanks to social media.

      I want to add that I’m not child free, and that I have two kids…. I know this rant probably sounds like I am, so I just wanted to clarify.

    • Jennifer

      It’s called grow up and be the MOTHER! This is rediculus. You could of easily weened when the baby was born, but no YOU held on. You tell her no no more end of story. She might cry but so does my five yr old when I tell him he can’t go swimming alone. Hell get over it just like she will! Grow a pair!

    • Andreana Phelps

      Freakish. Put it in a cup.

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