Extended breastfeeding, or breastfeeding beyond infancy, has become a big topic of interest among new parents, and it has endorsements from quite a few celebrities.
Extended breastfeeding is generally considered any breastfeeding past a child's first birthday. According to a report by Baby Center, it is "normal, healthy and common," and has been accepted in many other countries for some time. In the U.S., it is generally not practiced, but the experts at Baby Center say that has more to do with "cultural reasons" than anything else.
Proponents of extended breastfeeding say that it ensures a child gets certain invaluable growth hormones, vitamins and enzymes which are available in breast milk. It also passes along immunities, and data suggests that toddlers who continue to breastfeed get sick less often than those that don't.
Doctors say that breastfeeding is healthy for mothers, too. It may help reduce blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Women who continue breastfeeding may also be able to delay the return of menstruation, which can be appealing.
Of course, the negative aspects of extended breastfeeding are plentiful as well. It will almost definitely draw some odd looks and negative comments from friends, family and anyone else who witnesses it. It may also get harder and harder to wean a child as they get older, as the act of breastfeeding becomes habitual to them. An toddler who can speak and plan may use breastfeeding as a tool to manipulate or hold their mother's attention.
As many mothers -- celebrity or otherwise -- point out, the real benefit of extended breastfeeding is that it ensures a prolonged intimate experience with a child, and can build a foundation of emotional support to last a lifetime.
Celebrity moms who have come out in support of the practice have done so knowing full-well that it will bring down harsh criticism upon them. They do it anyway because they believe in the profound effect it can have on a family. Here's a look at some of the most outspoken celebrity moms who endorse extended breastfeeding.
The eldest Kardashian sister told E! News that she breast-fed both of her children well past the age of one, despite her family's objections.
"I mean, everyone would say, 'It's time, it's time, it's time, come on.' I started to stop a little bit, weaning and all that, and I'm like, 'Why am I doing this if I'm happy and he's happy?'"
Kardashian wrote about breastfeeding when she was doing celebrity blog posts for PEOPLE.
"I still want to continue breastfeeding for maybe another six months or as long as Mason still wants it," she wrote. "I’ve heard that some babies just get over it and stop nursing. But personally, I’m still loving it. I love the bonding time, love that it’s natural and what your body is made to do, love the benefits for his body and mine. I find it to be such an amazing womanly thing."
Mayim Bialik was as surprised by extended breastfeeding as anyone else was when she first started. In 2011, she wrote about how she was still breastfeeding her son, who was then over the age of three, in a post on Kveller.
"I never, ever believed that I would be nursing a child over the age of 3," wrote the Big Bang Theory star. "But now that I am, I believe when he is done, he will be done. I believe that he will not need to nurse before he walks down the aisle to greet his bride...and I believe that nursing is natural and beautiful and wonderful." Bialik nursed both of her sons, Miles Roosevelt and Frederick Heschel, until they were toddlers.
Actress Alicia Silverstone wrote about nursing extensively in her book Kind Mama. She was so dedicated to the process that she started a "milk share" program, so that mothers with a surpluss of breast milk could donate to those who were having trouble keeping up with the demand.
This isn't the only trend Silverstone has been criticized for. Several years ago, a video went viral showing Silverstone chewing up a mouthful of food and dropping it into her child's mouth, the way birds do for their children.
Salma Hayek reportedly nursed her daughter, Valentina, well past the age of one year old. At the time, she spoke to Style Magazine about the irreplaceable bonding time that comes from breastfeeding.
"I'm like an alcoholic," she said. "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."
Last month, Coco Austin opened up about how she was still nursing her 2 and a half-year-old daughter in a post on Instagram.
“It’s more for comfort now,” she said in responding her her followers' comments.
Shortly after the birth of her daughter, Kelly Rutherford revealed that she had never stopped nursing her son, who was two years old at the time.
“I think it’s really helped the transition with the new baby that my son still gets that comfort and that cuddling,” the Gossip Girl actress said in an interview with Best for Babes. “I know it’s not for everyone, but … it’s not all the time. It’s more of a comfort thing.”
Alanis Morissette, too, subscribes to the idea that a child will decide when they no longer want to breastfeed. She spoke about it in a 2012 interview with ABC News.
“[Ever’s] particular style is that — wherever we are, if he sits down and looks at me, it’s time to snuggle, you know? It’s peppered throughout the day, more and less, depending upon what he needs,” she said. “I know some children who have weaned naturally at two years, some kids wean naturally a couple of years later. I mean, it’s up to every child.”
Rehab Addict star Nicole Curtis continued to breastfeed her toddler son until he was almost three. She did so throughout a vicious custody battle with her ex, Shane Maguire, who accused Curtis of doing so only to prevent him from spending time with his son. Curtis opened up about the process in an interview with PEOPLE in November.
“[Harper] had never had a bottle before, and then all of a sudden that was his only option while he was with his dad. I had no idea that a judge could say, ‘You’re court ordered to not feed your exclusively breastfed child,’" she said. “It’s important that children have both of their parents. But [preventing] me from breastfeeding my child just so he can see the dad is not right.”