Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: we’re not anti-breastfeeding by any means. We think it’s a wonderful way for mom and baby to bond and multiple sources have proven that it is extremely beneficial to a child’s development. We also don’t want to shame the moms who choose to bottle-feed or formula-feed their children, either, whether it be out of personal choice or extenuating circumstances.
With all that out of the way, we are going to be delving into cases of what is called extended breastfeeding, which in the Western world, is breastfeeding past the age of one. (For reference, in places like India and parts of Africa, breastfeeding is the norm until age 3 or 4!) Some of the moms on this list seem to have chosen to nurse their kids for an extended period of time more for selfish reasons than any actual health benefit to their kids. You want to bond with your six-year-old? Read a book together or create a craft – don’t take out your boob for their school lunch! Real life, non-famous mamas seem to breastfeed their babies a lot longer than their celeb counterparts, but we’ve got eight stars who also raised eyebrows for keeping their baby on the breast longer than most people thought necessary.
16 CELEB: Kourtney Kardashian
Her siblings’ babies are currently getting all the press for bringing new life into the world (not that either Khloe or Kylie have confirmed as much on that front), but there was a time when Kourtney was the only Kardashian to procreate – which she did, three times, giving birth to sons Mason and Reign and daughter Penelope. Kourtney is actually a huge proponent of breastfeeding, and chose to nurse both Mason and Penelope (pictured here) well past a year old. Now, a year doesn’t sound all that long, but anything longer in North America is considered “weird” or indulgent, especially among the Kardashian clan.
According to an interview with E! Online, Kourt’s mom and sister were trying to push her to wean her children earlier than she or her babies were ready. Kourtney, for her part, would try to ease up a little bit, before shrugging off the criticisms, saying, “Why am I doing this, if I’m happy and he’s happy?”
15 REAL LIFE: Jamie Grumet
Remember this TIME magazine cover? It garnered a slew of controversy when it was published in May 2012. 26-year-old mom Jamie Grumet was photographed for the cover, nursing her then-three-year-old son, with the caption, ‘Are You Mom Enough?’. Obviously, criticism abounded, with many saying that Grumet was harming her child for her choice to breastfeed him into toddlerhood. It got so bad that Grumet actually began to receive death threats! TIME didn’t get off scot-free, either, with many people wondering if it was a good idea to put such a controversial image on their cover.
Grumet subscribed to the idea of “attachment parenting”, which has three tenets, including extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and “baby-wearing”, all of which have become more popular as millennials have their own children. (Grumet had been raised by attached parents herself, making her decision to rear her own kids the same way a no-brainer.) Her decision to be photographed on the cover of TIME was an effort on Grumet’s part to normalize extended breastfeeding as something that should be accepted and not stigmatized.
14 CELEB: Jada Pinkett Smith
A lot of busy moms – celebrities or not – might have to forgo breastfeeding in order to keep up with their hectic schedules. They can opt for a bottle or formula, or, if they still want to provide their child with breast milk, pump and dump, with the breast milk used later whenever needed. Jada Pinkett Smith, however, despite her work as an actress, chose not to have son Jaden ever see a bottle and instead simply took him everywhere!
By her own admission, Smith breastfed Jaden until he was 18 months old, toting him with her to premiers, award shows, and film sets in order to feed him. “I would just find a back room and hook him up,” she explained in an interview with a pregnancy magazine. You have to admire her chill approach to breastfeeding and her no-nonsense attitude to making sure her baby was fed and cared for!
13 REAL LIFE: Sophie Emma Rose
The Internet is a great place for new moms to commiserate over the stress of raising a child and hopefully get some good advice on how to manage it. Mommy blogs have proliferated in the past ten years with everyone having an opinion on the “right” way to take care of your kid. Take Sophia Emma Rose, for example, who posted a series of videos on YouTube espousing the merits of breastfeeding and trying to normalize it for older children.
Rose pointed to the nutritional value of breast milk, but explained further, “You also let your children know in a very physical way that you are there for them.” (What, like a hug doesn’t do the trick?) In this image, Rose is breastfeeding her four-year-old son Shaye, but said that women should continue to breastfeed until their children are eight! Another advocate of attachment parenting, Rose declared that kids aged seven and eight are likely to self-wean because they won’t “physically be able to breastfeed”. Okay then!
12 CELEB: Salma Hayek
Breast milk is a pretty amazing thing when it comes to being able to feed your kid on the go, but no one got to be quite as impressive as Salma Hayek while on a trip to Sierra Leone! (For her own daughter Valentina, Hayek breastfed well past a year old, and was open about how much she enjoyed the experience, likening it to being an alcoholic. “It is like, I don’t care if I cry, I don’t care if I am fat, I am just going to do it for one more week, one more month, and then when I see how much good it is doing her and I can’t stop.”)
But back to that Sierra Leone trip: while travelling and still breastfeeding her own daughter, Hayek saw a one-week old baby who was incredibly malnourished, despite the baby’s mother’s best efforts. Hayek then chose to use her own breast milk to feed the child, proving that the power of mother’s milk really knows no bounds!
11 REAL LIFE: Miira Dawson
The evidence to support the idea that breastfeeding can increase your IQ isn’t rock-solid, but that hasn’t stopped Miira Dawson from breastfeeding her five-year-old daughter – something she plans to do until the girl is 10! In addition to her daughter Tara, Dawson also has a two-year-old son, Ray Lee, and she breastfeeds both kids at the same time, three times a day, and shares the same bed with both of them.
Probably not surprisingly, the setup has placed a strain on her marriage, since her husband sleeps in a separate bed away from his wife and children, saying that he feels left out but has “little choice in the matter”. Plus, it sounds like there’s no chance of things stopping any time soon! According to Dawson, her daughter is addicted to breastfeeding and gets sad whenever the idea of stopping is brought up. Considering that the girl is school age, we wonder how much of Dawson’s choice is related to health benefits and how much is a selfish need to keep her children all to herself.
10 CELEB: Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani is a major badass, so it shouldn’t shock anyone to hear that she’s as about as apologetic about breastfeeding in public as she is for her bold style. The mother of three sons, Stefani breastfed all three, including oldest son Kingston, who was nursed well into his second year, even when she was on tour! “It’s just obviously really convenient for my lifestyle,” she explained after admitting that she didn’t know when she was going to stop. Stefani also credited breastfeeding for Kingston’s intellect, calling him “very bright” in a 2007 interview.
Later on, with son Apollo, Stefani took to Instagram to share a sweet snap of her giving her son a bite to eat while travelling in Switzerland, proving that babies don’t wait for a restaurant to get lunch – they just go right to mom! Stefani has been open about her choice to nurse her sons without demeaning or denigrating other mothers for going about things differently, something not all the mamas on our list can claim.
9 REAL LIFE: Samantha Williams
Samantha Williams isn’t breastfeeding the oldest child on our list (more on her later), but she’s certainly breastfeeding the most at once! In this image, we see Williams nursing her three children, aged 5, 3, and 7 months, making this mama a veritable breast milk buffet!
Unlike some of the other mothers on this list, Williams had no intention of breastfeeding for an extended period of time, but she felt bad for cutting off the older siblings when a new baby came along. While neither of the older children feel comfortable feeding in public anymore – which is something that should be considered for the other school-age kiddos on this list – they feed as frequently as once a day or as little as once a week. Williams, like the moms on this list and mothers in general, has heard all the criticisms about extended breastfeeding, but she doesn’t mind, and even as her husband on her side, who declares, “It doesn’t bother me what anyone else thinks. This is right for our family and that’s what matters.”
8 CELEB: Alanis Morissette
A lot of moms choose to allow their children to decide when they’re finished with being on the boob rather than wean them themselves, which was the route Alanis Morissette took with her son, Ever. Choosing to nurse him past two years old was the logical choice for the singer and activist, because that was when her son decided he was done with being breastfed. However, Morissette admitted that she was willing to nurse ever up until the age of five if he so chose!
Morissette also wanted to help other mamas out when it came to breastfeeding. When taking a flight from London’s Heathrow airport, the singer was forced to throw out the breast milk she had just pumped, causing her to advocate for a woman’s right to carry her breast milk on a plane in order to feed her child. Considering how many people are still squeamish when a woman chooses to nurse in public, we don’t see why this was such an issue!
7 REAL LIFE: Amanda Hurst
Generally, it’s probably a good idea to no longer breastfeed your child once they enter the first grade and are in school full-time, at least according to most of the people in North America. However, Amanda Hurst couldn’t disagree more, and actually made headlines in 2010 for her refusal to stop breastfeeding her six-year-old alongside her five-month-old.
If that didn’t weird you out enough, it might interest you to know that Hurst also breastfeeds other people’s children as part of her child-minding service! (We’re assuming that the other parents gave the a-ok on that one, otherwise that’s extremely strange.) Hurst explains that breastfeeding her six-year-old is like giving him a treat, because he has all his adult teeth already and eats three meals a day. Naturally, Hurst’s choice had garnered both confusion and disgust, and she only feeds her oldest child in private, owing to the reactions the two of them get if she ever tried in public.
6 CELEB: Danica McKellar
Another huge advocate for attachment parenting, we have Danica McKellar, best known for her role on the sitcom The Wonder Years. Now as an adult and mother, McKellar has been outspoken about her desire to breastfeed her son, Draco, choosing to do so until the toddler was two and a half.
For a celebrity to breastfeed past the “typical” amount of time, McKellar is among a select few in choosing to go until toddler age. Part of the reason for this isn’t just the bonding she experienced with her son, but out of sheer necessity: according to McKellar, pumping simply didn’t work for her, and she wasn’t able to produce nearly as much milk as she could when her son was nursing directly from the breast. McKellar was also one of the few celebs to speak up in favour of Jamie Grumet, our TIME cover girl, saying, “I encourage moms to do whatever feels right…I say this to them: ‘You go, girl!’”
5 REAL LIFE: Denise Sumpter
When the first article about Denise Sumpter was published in 2014, her daughter Belle had the distinction of being the oldest known child in the United Kingdom to still be breastfeeding – at six-and-a-half years old. According to Sumpter, Belle might ask up to three times a day to feed from her mother, or she might only ask once or twice a week, which we imagine would be a strain on Sumpter’s system, were it not for Belle’s younger brother, who is 18 months.
Like the other mothers on this list, Sumpter explained that she wouldn’t choose to wean Belle unless the child asked for it, and points to the proof of her breast milk paying off: Belle is taller than any of her classmates, is rarely sick, and is a talented singer, violinist, and dancer. For her part, Sumpter does choose to feed her daughter in private, having stopped doing it publicly since the girl was four or five – except for the pages of newspapers, apparently.
4 CELEB: Kelly Rutherford
Kelly Rutherford may not have played the best mom or been a comforting parent in what was arguably her most famous role on TV’s Gossip Girl as Lily Van Der Woodsen, but in real life she’s far more concerned for her children’s well-being.
Following the birth of her daughter in 2009, Rutherford was open about her decision to continue nursing her son, Hermes, who was by then three years old. Admittedly, Rutherford’s son was nursing less than his infant sister Helena, but the actress expressed her love of watching the two of them bond as sibling while bonding with her as their mother: “It’s really cute when they’re nursing together. He just looks at her, and checks her out, and puts his hand on her little feet. It gives him this close-up intimate look at her, and it’s very beautiful to see them kind of get to know each other.”
3 REAL LIFE: Patricia Lawrence
Perhaps Patricia Lawrence should take a page out of the books of these other mothers and maybe keep her extended breastfeeding at home – especially since the child she’s nursing is on the cusp of being a teenager at 12 years old!
At an Arizona Burger King, Lawrence’s son Andrew reportedly said, “Mom, I’m thirsty”, and rather than give him a drink considering that they were at a fast-food joint, Lawrence simply lifted up her shirt and fed her son directly from her breast! Obviously, the outrage and disgust was swift, with people shouting at Lawrence and saying that what they were doing, on account of the child’s age, was downright incestuous, and Lawrence and her son were asked to leave the restaurant. Lawrence, for her part, defended her choice, and said that she will continue to breastfeed the preteen. She also said that they would be going to McDonald’s from now on!
2 CELEB: Mayim Bialik
Easily the most visible proponent of attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding, we have The Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik, who has written books on the subject and frequently takes to social media to defend her choices. Bialik chose to breastfeed her son until he was past four, as you can see in this photograph of her feeding him on the subway, and said that she herself was surprised, stating that she “never ever believed that I would be nursing a child over the age of three.”
Not only have strangers given Bialik a lot of flak for her choice to continue nursing her son past the standard age, but the actress has admitted that she’s received plenty of criticism from friends and family. Like a lot of critics of extended breastfeeding, many wonder if Bialik is setting her sons up for emotional distress or if it’s selfish to nurse a child into school age. It’s the long-term effects that seem to rub people the wrong way the most, rather than the immediate disgust at seeing a toddler latch.
1 REAL LIFE: Lynn Stuckey
Almost all of the mothers on this list have said that they would stop breastfeeding their child whenever their child wanted to, but that was not the case for Kyle, the eight-year-old son of Lynn Stuckey.
Kyle, five at the time, allegedly wanted to stop nursing from his mother’s breast but “mommy wouldn’t let [him]”, which led to the child being taken away by authorities under suspicions of child abuse. He was later returned to Stuckey and, eventually resumed nursing until at least the age of eight, albeit only occasionally, about every 10 to 14 days. Stuckey, for her part, maintained that she was not forcing her son to nurse, and that he chose to do so himself, despite the judge’s belief that “he is embarrassed and faces enormous potential emotional harm.” Stuckey claimed that nursing her son was a comfort thing, just like carrying around a security blanket, and that if the eight-year-old still wants to nurse “that’s fine with her”.
Sources: time.com, dailymail.co.uk, abcnews.go.com