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Can a 60 year old woman breastfeed?

Many women in their 50s and 60s consider becoming first-time mothers through adoption or surrogacy. For those who go through with having a baby later in life, a common question is whether they can breastfeed their newborn. While women experience declining fertility with age, it is still possible for some women to lactate and breastfeed even into their late 50s and 60s. There are several factors to consider when determining if an older woman can produce enough milk to nourish her baby.

Physical Capability

A woman’s body goes through many changes with age that can impact milk production. Here are some key points on the physical capability to breastfeed at 60 years old:

  • Mammary glands: The mammary glands responsible for producing breast milk do not disappear with age. However, there are fewer milk-producing epithelial cells.
  • Hormones: Lower estrogen levels and higher prolactin levels are needed to initiate lactation. Older women produce less estrogen but generally can produce adequate prolactin.
  • Breast changes: Breasts lose fat and collagen with age and the nipples may flatten. This does not prevent breastfeeding but can make it harder for the baby to latch.
  • Milk production: Some studies show peak milk production may be lower in older women. But others indicate maternal age has little effect on milk volume.
  • Milk composition: The nutrient content of breastmilk is not impacted significantly by the mother’s age.

Overall, while there are anatomical and hormonal changes with age, most researchers agree that a 60 year old woman still retains the physical capability to lactate and breastfeed.

Steps to Induce Lactation

Since older women do not go through the hormonal changes of pregnancy and childbirth that prepare the body for milk production, specific steps must be taken to induce lactation. This process is called relactation.

Here are the typical steps involved:

  • Take estrogen blocking medication to elevate prolactin levels.
  • Use a breast pump to stimulate nipple and areolar tissue.
  • Begin taking herbal supplements like fenugreek, blessed thistle, and fennel seed to support milk production.
  • Massage and warm compresses on the breasts to increase blood flow.
  • Once milk comes in, begin breastfeeding on demand or pumping 8-12 times per day.

The process takes time and commitment but many women 60 and older successfully induce lactation this way. Most aim to start the relactation process 2-3 months before the baby’s due date.

Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mother and Baby

Here are some of the main benefits associated with breastfeeding for both mother and baby:

For the Mother

  • Promotes bonding and maternal-child attachment
  • Burns extra calories to help lose pregnancy weight
  • Releases oxytocin to decrease stress and postpartum depression
  • May reduce risks of some cancers like ovarian and breast

For the Infant

  • Provides optimal nutrition for growth and development
  • Supports healthy immunity with antibodies against illness
  • Lowers risk of diseases later in life including diabetes and obesity
  • Contains probiotics to support healthy gut and digestion

Breastfeeding offers lifelong health advantages for both mother and child. That is true no matter the age of the mother.

Challenges of Breastfeeding at 60 Years Old

Despite the benefits, there are some unique challenges faces by older first time mothers when it comes to breastfeeding. These include:

  • Hormone changes leading to lower milk supply
  • The effort required for relactation and maintaining milk supply
  • Physical discomfort from engorgement, plugged ducts, and sore nipples
  • Less energy to keep up with infant demands around the clock
  • More difficulty getting a proper latch due to stiff nipples or nipple confusion
  • Judgment from others not used to seeing older breastfeeding mothers

With determination, patience, help from lactation consultants, and support from loved ones, these challenges can often be overcome. But it is important to have realistic expectations about breastfeeding at 60 years old.

How Long Can a 60 Year Old Breastfeed?

There is no medical reason a woman cannot breastfeed into her late 50s, 60s, and beyond as long as she is producing enough milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and continuing complementary breastfeeding until 1 year old and beyond.

Most women can make enough milk to fully nourish a baby for at least the first 6 months. After that, solids are introduced to supplement breastmilk. Some women have successfully breastfed into toddler years with milk supply supported by pumping, proper nutrition, and lactation herbs.

A woman should breastfeed her child for as long as she and her doctor feel it is working well for both of them. There is no maximum age at which a woman must stop breastfeeding.

Supplementing with Formula

For older breastfeeding mothers, supplementing with some formula feeding may become necessary if:

  • Milk supply is low despite efforts to increase production
  • Mom’s health issues or medications prevent adequate milk supply
  • More calories are needed to help an infant gain weight
  • Mom needs more rest and support in meeting baby’s high demand for milk

Combination feeding with formula and breastmilk can take pressure off an older mother. No matter what, breastmilk provides optimal nutrition and antibodies that benefit development. Even a partial amount of mother’s milk is better than none at all.

Speaking with a Lactation Consultant

A lactation consultant can provide specialized guidance to women 60 and older attempting to breastfeed. They can offer help with:

  • Assessing hormone levels and milk production capability
  • Creating a relactation plan before the baby arrives
  • Getting the timing right for inducing lactation
  • Establishing proper technique to latch baby and maximize milk transfer
  • Increasing milk supply through various methods
  • Deciding optimal breastfeeding frequency and duration based on health status
  • Troubleshooting challenges like nipple pain, engorgement, and blocked ducts

An IBCLC can create a customized breastfeeding plan for a 60 year old woman’s unique situation. Ongoing support improves the chances of successfully nursing.


While mothers over 50 were once a rarity, advances in fertility treatments are allowing more women to become first-time moms later in life. For a woman in reasonably good health, it is often possible to breastfeed into the 60s. However, lowered milk production is common with age-related hormone changes. Older moms need specialized support to prepare their bodies for lactation and help them meet an infant’s high nutritional needs. With dedication, adequate milk supply is achievable for many. But supplementation may be necessary at times based on mom’s health status. Working with a lactation consultant and keeping an open mind are keys to making breastfeeding work for both mom and baby.