Ideally, your baby will nurse until he outgrows the need. This is called natural, or baby-led weaning. Every baby has different “needs” in different areas. For example, some babies need to be held almost constantly, while others squirm and wiggle if you try to hold them too long, and are perfectly content to sit in their playpen for an hour or so while they entertain themselves. Some babies need lots of sleep – they take regular three hour naps, and are sleeping through the night by the time they’re a few weeks old, while others cat nap infrequently and are still waking up at night when they’re two years old. Just as you would not set an arbitrary limit on other areas of your baby’s development, such as deciding exactly when he will sit up, roll over, move into a bed instead of a crib, etc. (instead, you watch for signs that he is ready to move on to the next developmental stage), it just makes sense not to set an arbitrary time limit on how long you will nurse your baby.
Through the over two years and counting that I have nursed two different babies, there have been many times that my children were like the sweet, sleeping babies in the breastfeeding pamphlets they send you home from the hospital with. But there have also been many occasions when they were not at all like the peaceful babies pictured there. In fact, some of these moments are so absurd, I was not at all prepared for what they would be like, because I had never seen them depicted in a breastfeeding book or brochure. I soon realized there are 15 kinds of nursing babies that aren't so well publicized:
Your child’s desire to nurse to sleep is very normal and not a bad habit you’ve fostered. Don’t be afraid to nurse your baby to sleep or fear that you are perpetuating a bad habit. Baby often will seek the breast when sleepy or over-stimulated because it’s a comforting and familiar place to him. To associate the breast with wanting to relax enough to go to sleep makes perfect sense. As adults, we also do things to relax ourselves so we can go to sleep: we read, watch TV, get something warm to drink or a snack, deep breathe, get all snug under the covers, etc. Breastfeeding does the same thing for your baby.