Should you breastfeed your toddler?

Many mums breastfeed their babies, but what about breastfeeding toddlers? Experts and mums share their views

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  • “I get negative comments all the time”

    Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world – and it’s so good for my son that I don’t see any reason to stop. I would never tell other women they have to breastfeed because it’s down to individual choice. And by the same token if a mum wants to carry on breastfeeding until her child is 5, 6 or 7 that’s fine too.”

    Nell McAndrew, 35, model and mum to Devon, 2, speaking in the Daily Mirror

  • “Other cultures feed for a lot longer than us”

    Breastfeeding toddlers was common in this country up to a couple of hundred years ago, and in some areas of the world, breastfeeding to age 4 or 5 is common, normal and accepted. At present, our society’s norms are that breastfeeding an older child (even a 1 year old) is unusual, and causes discomfort to some people. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.”

    Vicki Scott, Philips AVENT feeding and wellbeing advisor

  • “Older babies need solid food too”

    “As human breast milk is purpose-built for the human child, it would always be an excellent choice nutritionally. However, after 6 months, a baby needs to have a more mixed diet via the introduction of solid food. You can, of course, continue to breastfeed alongside weaning. Not only does breast milk contain the nutrients a baby needs in the correct ratios, but breastfeeding has also been shown to have benefits for the development of a child’s immune system and brain development.”

    Clare Jones, nutritionist with the British Association for Nutritional Therapy

  • “It starts to be an indulgence”

    “I think breastfeeding can easily become a comfort thing, both for child and mother. There’s a point when it’s habit rather than a source of nutrition.”

    Jo Holland, 35, from Kent, mum to Harry, 9, Bridie, 8, Erin, 6, Arthur, 4, Arwen, 2, Matilda, 1, and 29 weeks pregnant

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  • “Our culture has a lot of hang-ups”

    “As a nation we have a lot of hang-ups about breastfeeding. There’s the issue of feeding in public, and it’s also possible that people have a problem with children who are old enough to recognise what a breast is, being fed by it.”

    Alison Brown, midwife with Tommee Tippee

  • “Let children grow up”

    “I have to admit, I find it all very strange! I think mothers who breastfeed their children beyond toddler age are trying to hold onto something. They are trying to keep their little ones baby-like. Older children really don’t need breast milk as, by that stage, they should be getting most of their nutrients from their food.”

    Caroline Bailey, 33, from Lincolnshire, mum to Bronwyn, 18 months, and Leighton, 4 months

  • “Do whatever’s best for you and your child”

    “All mothers and babies are different. Children mature at varying rates and will wean at different times. We don’t set rules on when is the ‘right’ time to finish breastfeeding - the aim is to finish when both mother and child feel good about it.”

    Anna Burbidge, spokesperson for La Leche League

  • “My husband didn’t like it”

    “I breastfed my daughter until she was 2 years 3 months, just on waking and last thing at night. I even got negative reactions from my husband about it, but felt that it was my decision. My dad died of cancer and breastfeeding is supposed to help protect against it, so that's part of the reason I fed her for so long. I think that 2 years old is enough though.

    I wouldn't like to see a child of 4 still getting breastfed.”

    Audrey Williamson, 35, from Northern Ireland, mum to Christine, 7, Robert, 6, Sarah, 4, and baby No 4 due this month