Coco Austin is Still Breastfeeding Her 5-Year-Old—Here's Why That's OK
Being shamed for how you feed your child is practically a rite of passage for parents. You're criticized if you breastfeed in public, you don't breastfeed "long enough," or if you breastfeed for "too long." See: Coco Austin, who is defending her decision to continue breastfeeding her 5-year-old—which, for the record, is something she shouldn't have to do.
The mom shared a photo of herself snuggling up with her daughter in a recent Instagram post, which she captioned: "Who's kids also hang on the boob like Chanel? I feel forever bonded with this child."
While Austin received several positive comments from fellow extended breastfeeding parents, she also got some flack (are we surprised? Nope.). "Time to let go.... That's just gross at this point... She must be 96 months old too," one commenter wrote. But here's the thing: A random stranger on the internet is neither qualified nor entitled to weigh in on a mother's feeding choice.
Austin opened up about her decision to continue nursing. "Chanel still likes my boobs," she told Us Weekly. "It's a big bonding moment for a mother and your child."
And she's right: While breastfeeding is certainly not the only way a parent can bond with their child, it is a pretty great way to sneak in some quiet moments (particularly with a wiggly toddler, who may only settle in for some mama snuggles on rare occasions!). Again, it's not to say that parents who don't breastfeed have any less of a bond with their kids, but for some parents? That snuggly exchange of nursing is priceless, and it's something we don't necessarily want (or have) to give up when our babies turn into toddlers.
Like Austin, I'm one of those moms. During those excruciatingly difficult early days of breastfeeding twins, I told myself I'd try to keep nursing for a few months. A few months turned into a year, which turned into "well, we've made it this far, let's just go for a few bonus months." And then the pandemic hit: Milk wasn't always available at the grocery store, so I kept going, and it kept working. Then I got vaccinated against COVID, and the peace of mind being able to hopefully pass some antibodies on to my toddlers provided was amazing.
Like many parents right now, I've found myself unintentionally practicing extended breastfeeding. It works for my family. My pediatrician has never expressed any downsides to this. My kids are great little eaters who still get plenty of nutrition from solid food. In short, extended breastfeeding via our bedtime nursing sessions is working for us—and if there's one thing I've learned from my breastfeeding experience, it's that how you feed your children is an intensely personal thing. What works for one family won't work for another, and there's nothing wrong with that.
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for up to 2 years or beyond. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests nursing for a year or longer as mutually desired by parent and child. There's no official age when breastfeeding is discouraged by expert groups —and so there's no reason not to keep breastfeeding if it's working for a specific family.
The "right" age to wean is different for each child and mom, though if you're concerned that it may be harder to wean an older kid (fair!) or have questions about the impact of nursing beyond a certain point, a conversation with your pediatrician might be in order. Because there's no real guidance where this magical stopping point is concerned, it's really all about figuring out what is best for your individual situation.
To that effect, plenty of fellow extended breastfeeders weighed in to support Austin on her Instagram post. "My son [does this] all the time. He was breast feed until 3.5," one commenter wrote. Another added: "Mine did for the longest time! I breast fed my daughter too! It's a wonderful bond."
And yet another commenter weighed in about the criticism Austin received. "I'm reading so much hate in one post why?" they wrote. "Her child their life."