Mom Who Breastfeeds Her 5-Year-Old Son Wants Parents to Wean at Their Own Pace

Amy Hardcastle

Amy Hardcastle
Amy Hardcastle

We all know that mom who seems like she's been breastfeeding forever. But do you ever feel that nagging urge to question her, or worse, have you ever been straight-up judgy? Well one mom from Lancashire, England, wants to change your opinion completely and is now defending her choice to breastfeed her 5-year-old son. While some might say that her son, Max, is too old to still be nursing, the mom pushes back against this notion. "Just because it's not a cultural norm doesn't mean it's weird," Amy Hardcastle told us. "There are things as a society we can have an opinion that it's weird, but it's not an objective truth."

  • Speaking to CafeMom, Amy tells us that she decided to breastfeed after seeing other women online share their experiences.

    Amy Hardcastle
    Amy Hardcastle
    Amy explained that she changed her entire way of thinking after finding natural parenting groups online. "I think the 'green parent' was one that I followed, I followed 'natural parent,' or 'gentle parenting,' and I would read all of the questions that people put in and all of the answers to figure out what did I think," she says.   

    "But before that I don't think I had ever seen a breastfed child and I said to my mom, 'Oh how long do you think people breastfeed for?' And she was like, 'I don't know.' We both said, 'maybe six months?'" she continues. "We both pulled that figure out of the air, just thinking we think that sounds like a good amount of time."    

    But as Amy would learn, her journey with breastfeeding would take different twists and turns. In fact, she says that at four weeks she almost quit because it was too painful for her to latch. "Then I just happened to have someone come speak to me and give me the right advice," she says. "And then once you've cracked it with breastfeeding, it's just about how long you want to continue."
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  • Little did Amy know that she would continue to breastfeed her son for five years, "I thought, 'I'll just go until Max wants to stop.'"

    Amy Hardcastle
    Amy Hardcastle
    "After that I just kept going," Amy says. The 27-year-old mom also became involved in a breastfeeding festival in Manchester, where she says they have speakers and her interest in the practice only increased. At the festival, Amy "learned that you can continue past six months -- past a year if you want. So I knew that I was going to continue," she says. 

    "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 says. Being surrounded by mothers who were considered to be breastfeeding "older" babies taught Amy about "natural weaning," or allowing the child to decide when to stop nursing. "That can happen at lots of different ages," she says. "And so I thought, 'OK, I'm alright with that.'"

    Amy says she has friends who also practice natural weaning, but they didn't have to nurse for as long as she has. "It just depends on the child, really. My son is just like me, [he] is very sensitive and emotional. He's a very soft little boy, you know, he's not very boisterous. I think it just makes sense with his disposition that he would just happen to be a child who fed for longer than other children who were also left to wean when they want," she says.

    And Amy adds that if her son were to ask her to stop breastfeeding today, she'd be all for it. "I'd be like, 'Thank you!'" she says, laughing. She clarifies that what breastfeeding looks like for her and Max now is vastly different than the way they nursed when he was little. 

    She says that now nursing is about comforting her little guy, not necessarily for food. "It could be like twice a week -- if that," she says. "He's basically weaned." Instead, Amy uses nursing as a practice to comfort her son. "From being a tiny baby, that's what he's done. When he's hungry, when he's sick, when he's upset. It can help him calm down after a tantrum," she explains. 

    "You know when he was really young and he couldn't talk, and [when] he was having a whole meltdown, I'd be like, 'come here do you want some milk?' And then we take a second, he can chill out, and we're hugging at the same time. It is more of a comfort thing now," she adds. 
    Amy says that recently, Max will get nursed at night because during the day he is too busy to stop and sit with mom.    

    And while she is not against nursing in public, she says she knows that people tend to judge breastfeeding moms. "I'm well aware that people are not used to seeing that," she tells CafeMom. "I'm not trying to antagonize anybody, or irritate anybody," she adds.
  • Amy is truly fearless when it comes to sharing her life. She recently posted this photo of her and Max sharing a moment in the tub 

    The mom explains that the picture was the result of a struggle that every parent faces: Trying to get your kid to take a bath. "Sometimes if he was upset and didn't want to get in the bath, I would say, 'Oh I'll get in with him,'" she tells us. "But that happened a handful of times."

    On this night, Amy says a then 2-year-old Max was just not having it, so she decided to get into the bath with him. Max quickly started nursing. "I said to my husband, 'Oh, will you take a picture?' because I'd seen on Facebook, where these types of things would get shared," she says.

    "So he took that [photo], and I said, 'Oh, this is so gorgeous,' but I never did share it [publicly] because people kicked up a fuss even in just the little selfies feed," she adds. "I decided to not care what people thought anymore," Amy tells us. "And I wanted to just post about what I think is important." She says that she finally took the plunge and posted the bath photo to her Instagram feed on Max's fifth birthday.  

    "I thought 'this is probably going to be his last birthday breastfeeding and if I really don't care, why don't I just post the picture now?'" she explains. "That was more of me freeing myself from what people thought and I'd had this picture for years that I loved. And I wanted to say, finally, actually I'm going to share it," she adds.

  • The mom hopes that by sharing her story, other women will know that it's totally normal to breastfeed for as little or as long as they'd like!

    Amy Hardcastle
    Amy Hardcastle
    "It happens and that it's OK," Amy says. "If you are someone who is already breastfeeding or are considering it -- like me when I was pregnant -- but don't know how long people do it for you can say, 'Oh, look at that you can do it until the child doesn't want to anymore.'"