I’m still breastfeeding my 5-year-old son, I’ll keep going until he wants to stop
In a world where parenting choices often invite judgment and scrutiny, a mom from England chose to rewrite the narrative around extended nursing by embracing her unique journey of breastfeeding her son at five years old.
Amy Hardcastle’s story was met with mixed reaction online back in 2018 when she first shared her choice to continue to breastfeed her five-year-old.
“Just because it’s not a cultural norm doesn’t mean it’s weird,” she told Cafe Mom at the time. “There are things as a society we can have an opinion that it’s weird, but it’s not an objective truth.”
The first-time parent admitted she had no idea how long mothers typically breastfed for, and said she almost stopped when her son, Max, was just four weeks old because it was incredibly painful and he struggled to latch.
But “then once you’ve cracked it with breastfeeding, it’s just about how long you want to continue,” she said.
“Whatever works for you and your family.”
Five years on, in a new Facebook post from the same parenting publication, Amy’s decision to “just keep going” with her breastfeeding journey has drawn criticism and mockery from the online community yet again.
One commenter shared, “Too much! A 5-year-old, while experiencing a mother’s love, needs to also experience stages of growth and independence.”
Another wrote, “I feel like there are other ways to bond with a 5-year-old but to each their own.”
Another expressed, “Ummm no, now EVERYONE, including myself, is allowed to have an opinion, and this is absolutely not ok. After a child is old enough to talk, start preschool, or is the natural age of being able to be weaned off, it’s time to do it, usually at a year.”
But the feedback wasn’t all negative, with several commenters sharing their support.
“Do you, momma… No one else’s business,” one user wrote.
Another commented, “Whatever works for you and your family.”
Others chose to share their own experience with extended breastfeeding.
“My son and I made it to two years and two months. I received a lot of negative comments. It definitely did not matter to me at all what people thought. We did what was right for us,” one mother posted.
“I’m tandem feeding my 2 year old and 3 month old,” another wrote.
One mom added, “I did it with my last for 5 and a half years.”
Advice around breastfeeding
The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF advise newborns to begin breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life.
After reaching six months, they should start incorporating safe and nutritious complementary foods into their diet while continuing to breastfeed for at least two years or longer as needed.
However, this recommendation varies from parent to parent around the world.
Amy’s journey into extended breastfeeding began when she stumbled upon online parenting communities.
After discovering “green parenting,” a term coined about raising your kids in the most eco-friendly way possible, and “gentle parenting,” focused on being empathetic and fostering emotional growth and independence in parenting community forums, she decided these were two ways she wanted to raise her son.
“At first I just said, ‘Well I don’t know how long, I’ll just keep going,’ and then I joined groups for feeding older babies. Because even when you get past about one or 18 months, that’s when people consider that… like ‘Ooh, that’s old,’” she said in 2018.
Surrounded by like-minded mothers who practiced natural weaning, Amy said she would continue to breastfeed until both she and Max were ready to stop.
“If breastfeeding him was no longer working for me then I would stop. I chose to night wean him because I pulled muscles in my ribs from straining to feed him and lie comfortably in bed,” she said.
“I have no problem nursing during the day, so I’ll keep going until he wants to stop. I don’t have a problem continuing until he’s fully done.”
Amy hoped that by sharing her story she could empower other women to embrace their unique breastfeeding journeys without fear or judgment. She wanted mothers to know that it’s entirely normal to breastfeed for as little or as long as they choose.
“It happens, and that it’s ok,” Amy said. “You can do it until the child doesn’t want to anymore.”
In a world where every child and parent is unique, Amy’s story is a powerful reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting.