Full Term Breastfeeding – What It Is and Why We Are Doing It

Full term breastfeeding is a term which is not commonly used. You are far more likely to hear the fairly ambiguous term “extended breastfeeding” which refers to the act of breastfeeding a child past their first birthday. In this article I will explain what full term breastfeeding is, and my personal reasons for deciding to choose this path for myself and my child.

Full term breastfeeding is the practice of breastfeeding until the child naturally weans from the breast, which can happen anywhere from around 2 to around 8 years old.

Why have we chosen to do this? Our reasons are numerous:

It is what is naturally appropriate for our species. We are mammals, and mammals are designs designed to suckle their young until they naturally wean from the breast. When we ignore the things we are told by society, it is generally our natural impulse is to nurse our children.

The nutritional benefits. These don’t just stop when a child reaches one or eighteen months. Breast milk is an incredible, nutritionally dense food which will benefit a child of any age right up until they choose to wean.

Breastfeeding has an antibiotic effect and this can be especially beneficial as they reach the toddler stage, exploring and investigating more, mixing with more children. At a time when they can be fighting off surrounding germs, it works as a great protection.

That being said, if he does get ill, it is better than any medicine for comforting him, hydrating him and nursing him through any illness.

It is the ultimate comfort tool – and it makes parenting easy! Really, it does – when he is tired, when he is upset over something, when it all gets too much, this is our number one tool. If he doesn’t want to eat food or drink water, or if I forget to take snacks, it doesn’t matter – I have everything I need with me!

Lastly (and the best reason in my opinion!) – We both just love it so much. He still feeds a lot during the day and night and it is clear that he gets so much pleasure out of it. If he goes off with his daddy and I don’t see him for a while, when he comes back, his first words to me are “I need some milk please!” which is what he says each time he wakes at night too. It works as a great reminder for me to chill out and relax with my baby for a while, and it is so bonding and special. We have our silly games that we play and we have conversations where he will either pop on and off the breast or nod his head in an over-exaggerated way without letting go of the milk, which is hilarious! It is our time to reconnect and get back on the same page and is something that is just ours. I love it.

I didn’t always know I would be happy to breastfeed full term. I was weaned before I reached a year old and I have very little experience of seeing it in day to day life. Before I had children the one child I did know who was being nursed past a year was a little boy of nearly two, and honestly I wondered why his mum would bother. Now I’m really glad to say that I completely understand her motives and it feels nothing but natural to us as a family.

The fear that without an intentional weaning process, a child will simply never stop feeding, is unfounded. At some point before they reach around eight years old, a child begins to lose the suckling reflex which allows them to latch on to be able to nurse. This leads to a very natural and gradual weaning process, which although may feel sad for both parties, can be discussed between parent and child, as the mother supports the child in moving into the next stage of their life.

There is no rejection or conflict, simply a gentle goodbye and a mountain of comforting memories to carry in to the future.

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Have you heard of full term breastfeeding before? Did you know that weaning was optional? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below on whether you plan to breast feed full term.

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9 thoughts on “Full Term Breastfeeding – What It Is and Why We Are Doing It”

  1. I’ve heard of this before. I think it is a beautiful thing but sadly not one I can do. I’ll be happy to nurse my daughter during te day for as long as she likes but her night habits got to where she was waking me every 45 min to nurse as an 18 mo/old and I just couldn’t do it anymore. I got to resent her an I was so tired all the time. So finally we night weaned and it was the best thing for us. She’s sleeping better too and the bags under her eyes are gone and her mood has improved. I still nurse her before going to sleep and during the day when she wants (if I can).

  2. I love this article and would like to share it to explain why we are also full term breastfeeding but I can’t do that without citations! I don’t need the science (though I do like it) but my friends and family would benefit from seeing studies to back up the information here. Is there any chance you can link to them? X

  3. Hi, I can confirm that the loss of suckling reflex DOES exist and that it can happen more or less exactly AROUND the eight year old, not necessarily before. Both my two children were brestfed full term and both told me they began to not feel the urgency of suckling toward the end of the eight year. when my first son breastfed for the last time was 9 year old. the second is telling me that just now and he will be nine in february.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with natural weaning. It must feel so strange for you to be no longer feeding after such a long time! My son just stopped in September at 3 years and 10 months old, due to my milk drying up in pregnancy, but it feels very odd not to be feeding him. I am very much looking forward to feeding this new baby and wondering if he will try to get back on the milk! Time will tell. Your children will have wonderful memories of such a special and bonding time with you, how lovely for both of them!

  4. My story reflects yours. I had an intention to breastfeed for 6 months – 1 year, as my mum had told me this was a lot, but it never felt like the right time to stop so I continued. My son naturally stopped breastfeeding just before his 5th birthday. It was led by him and I think he lost the ability to suckle at this time. By then it felt exactly the right time, we both felt ready, and there was no sadness; it was not a wrench or loss for either of us.

    Breastfeeding gave me a way of loving my son in the most close and intimate way and being a good parent to him, instinctively. He’s approaching teenagerhood now, he’s very healthy and we are close and loving still. I also have funny and happy memories.

    I only knew full term breastfeeding existed because I saw it on a TV programme early on so it’s good to get the word about. As I fed my son out and about, lots of mums came up to me and said they’d fed their children until they were 5 (seemed to be the common age) so I started to think of it as normal. There’s lots of support and encouragement out there because we mums who’ve been there know it’s right and good and normal. In fact, full term breastfeeding is one of the joys of life.

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