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Breastfeeding Older Children: An Interview with Mayim Bialik, Ph.D

Mayim Bialik on Breastfeeding Older Children

You probably know her as Blossom from the 90s sitcom of the same name. You may recognize her as Amy Fowler on The Big Bang Theory. But she is more than a talented actress. Armed with a Ph.D in neuroscience and a knack for research, Mayim Bialik is now a champion of “attachment parenting” in her new book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way.

Breastfeeding Place had an opportunity to interview Mayim about her thoughts on breastfeeding older children. She offers moms who want to try extended breastfeeding some encouraging words.

Has extended breastfeeding impacted your relationship with your friends/family? How did you handle criticism?

The decision to practice child-led weaning is a hard one for sure. Most people in my family were not supportive, but with the phrases and techniques I learned from La Leche League, people learned to leave me alone about it eventually!

And with a small group of like-minded friends who parented the same way, I gained confidence and had friends to talk it over with when I did get comments or stares or criticism. A supportive community for all moms is so critical.

What advice would you have for a mom that has people criticizing her for breastfeeding older children?

Get support. Find like-minded mamas so you know who to go to to vent, or to share ideas with. I found that a lot of people didn’t really want to know why I chose to breastfeed an older baby and child, they simply wanted to tell me why I was wrong.

I had to learn that other people can have their opinions and it doesn’t make me wrong. And I constantly reminded myself that my boys were thriving and hitting milestones, and that they were pleasant, healthy, and well-rested. They also constantly showed me again and again how bonded they were to me, how secure their attachments were to me and their father, and how much they loved breastfeeding because it’s normal and healthy. Our children are the best gauge for us!

Breastfeeding Older Children An Interview with Mayim Bialik Ph.D

What is your personal favorite reason for choosing to nurse beyond one year?

That’s a hard one to answer; there are so many benefits: immunological, nutritional, emotional…I think that the big feelings that start to come for little people after they turn one year old can be so overwhelming, and I love that breastfeeding is this “reset” button for big scary feelings. Being close that way, and the reinforcement of safety makes exploring new things smoother and lovelier.

Mama is always the safe place to come back to, and nothing for me proved that more than putting them to the breast, especially when they were hurt, scared, or overwhelmed.

Breastfeeding provides a beautiful opportunity for the first lessons in positive and gentle discipline. It establishes that you are the parent, and that needs are collectively considered.

Have you struggled with setting limits or teaching nursing manners? How did you teach “nursing manners” when you’re breastfeeding older children?

Even on day #1 of life, breastfeeding moms are teaching their babies how to survive by offering the breast in ways that are comfortable and safe for mom’s breasts and baby’s well-being. When babies bite or pull away from the breast without removing the nipple first (ouch!), we get to firmly and lovingly redirect that behavior. It’s not hard to do and it’s important to remember that mama’s needs are incredibly important.

Breastfeeding and especially extended breastfeeding is not about the child getting everything they want all the time no matter your desires or needs. It’s about the child and mama working together to have a relationship that works well for all involved. Needs have to be balanced and as we teach manners. We show that everyone’s feelings matter!

How has extended breastfeeding helped you to mother your toddler?

When my boys were toddlers, breastfeeding was a wonderful source of comfort, safety, and reconnection. Everything was made better at the breast and I nursed through so many tears and tantrums and fears that I don’t know how I personally would have managed otherwise. Of course, all parents have skills, and I am not saying breastfeeding is “better” than hugging, but for a nursing mama and toddler, it is a phenomenal reset button and I am so grateful I was able to do that for both of my sons.

Are you able to be away from your breastfeeding toddler overnight?

I chose not to night wean my older son. He nursed every 2-3 hours all night until he weaned just after two years old. I was never away from him, and he also never drank from a bottle.

My second son nursed with the same blessed pattern (!) until he was three years old, and although he did take bottles of my breast milk when I worked or was teaching, at night he never took a bottle. I did choose to gently night wean him at three, but I had never been away from him for a night until some time after that.

This is something that a lot of people find unbelievable, that I never went away or could be away. For me and the women who choose this, it’s a sacrifice of personal “going away for a night” needs that ends when the child is done nursing at night, and it works very well for the thousands and thousands of families who do it!

Beyond the Sling Mayim Bialik

Mayim’s Book: Beyond the Sling

Pick up a copy of Mayim Bialik’s book,  Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way. With the heart of a mother and the mind of a scientist, in this book Bialik talks at length about co-sleeping, baby wearing, and breastfeeding.

Trisha Gilkerson is a happily married homeschooling mom to 4 rambunctious, lovable boys. She and her husband blog at where all of their interests on healthy living, faith, family, and homeschooling collide. Trisha founded and hopes that everyone who visits finds fantastic information and leaves feeling encouraged. You can check out Trisha's personal blog and follow her on facebooktwitterpinterest, and google +.


  1. […] now two years into nursing my third baby. Struggles this time around have been few. I do enjoy breastfeeding more than with my first, but I […]

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