Is There an Age When a Child Is Too Old to Breastfeed?

Child breastfeeding

Is there an age when a child is too old to still breastfeed? The Doctors examined what experts and health agencies have to say about breastfeeding -- something that unfortunately often has a stigma attached to it when done past a year.

Coco Austin made headlines this week when she shared she still breastfeeds her 5-year-old daughter Chanel.

“Chanel still likes my boobs,” the model/reality star, who is married to actor/rapper Ice-T, said. "A lot of people are like, 'Oh, you're not getting the nutrition after 2 years old. Why do it?' And I'm like, My child's eating steak and hamburgers. She just likes a little snack every now and then and more of the bonding between the mother. Why take that away from her?"

Coco went to explain, "She loves on it and it's not like she's getting milk from it, but she's getting her little snack and it's kind of soothing her to sleep." Adding, "I don't want to deprive her of something she wants, just because society says you need to stop after 2."

So what do health groups and experts suggest on what is the right age to stop breastfeeding? The vast majority of health organizations and experts say the right age is when the parent and child decide to stop breastfeeding and they say there really is no magic number parents need ween by.

The Academy of American Pediatrics (APA) and the CDC recommend moms breastfeed children for at least 1 year if possible, and the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommend breastfeeding for longer, noting the benefits of breastfeeding for 2 or more years. The World Health Organization goes on to promote breastfeeding for "up to 2 years and beyond.” 

The New York Times reported on a study that looked at children who breastfeed up to 2 years of age and older and another group that stopped before 2, and the study found both groups had basically the same growth and immune function outcome.

"This study didn’t find any specific benefits to breastfeeding past age 2, it also didn’t conclude that it’s pointless. Perhaps there’s a hidden biological cue passing between baby and mother that encourages weaning after children have reached some developmental threshold, whatever age they are," The NYT reported. 

Additionally, labor and delivery nurse and internationally board-certified lactation consultant Hillary Sadler tells The Today Show that breastfeeding should stop when both mother and child are ready. 

The breastfeeding expert urges moms to not feel the pressure to stop if they are not ready. "I hear all the time that moms feel pressured or moms who stopped breastfeeding early because they felt the pressure of the world judging them... It doesn’t matter whether you’re weaning at three months or three years, if you’re not mentally and emotionally ready, you’re going to regret it."

When you and your baby are ready to stop breastfeeding, learn what a registered nurse and lactation consultant tells The Doctors moms should do, here.

More: Is Green Breast Milk a Cause for Concern?

More: Is It Safe for Moms to Breastfeed While Sick with COVID-19?

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