Saturday, May 12, 2012

Time's Cover

recent time magazine cover
I want to preface this post with a comment: I have no issue what so ever with any family that chooses to practice extended breastfeeding. I have done it myself. Rowan was well over 3 1/2 when he weaned.
Ok with that out of the way...Having not actually read the magazine yet, I am just going to comment on the cover. I have to say I find the cover photograph to be, hmmmm, how to put this, I guess it is suppose to be shocking. I feel like the whole thing with mama standing, toddler on chair dressed in "big kid" clothing and not even touching his mom to sort of make breastfeeding a toddler look "freakish". I don't think it would have had nearly the controversial reaction had the mom been sitting with toddler in footy PJs, both of them touching each other, even if they both were still looking at the camera. Part of me is like "RIGHT ON" she looks bad-ass, with a sort of "go ahead say something to me" sort of look. But than, well it looks so UNLIKE what nursing a toddler is. Of course, my guess is this is what Time Magazine wanted. They wanted to smack people upside the head with this picture, as well as the inflammatory head-line "Are you MOM ENOUGH?" What does that even mean? What it is, is a divisive statement meant to make people feel crappy and get nasty with each other. And by gosh are they! Any place you go to read anything about this cover/issue you find people spreading the hate.
The thing is, nursing a toddler is really an amazing thing. Those little guys are so so busy and these few precious moments when they come to nurse; whether it is because they got hurt, want to nap, or just want to reconnect with you, really help bring you both back to center. It helps you, as the mom focus again on them and if you work outside the home it helps with the coming back together.
When the media makes something so beautiful into some messed up contest of who is the better mother, well we all lose. They keep us fighting with each other instead of coming together to fight for what really is the issue. We have horrible breastfeeding rates in this country. Only 44% of babies get breastfeed for 6 months, and only about 15% of those get exclusively breastfed for six months. The AAP recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and breastfeeding and food for at least one year. The WHO recommends at least two years. The benefits of breastmilk do not suddenly disappear on the 366 day of a child's life. The milk, which is forever changing to meet your child's needs, continues to do that. It continues to give your child your antibodies to help fight illness. It is still the prefect food, especially during times of illness, because it is so easily digested. It is a true living food.
The real issue isn't the "extreme" mothers who nurse 3 year old's, it is the fact that so many women are not nursing at all. That they do not have the information to make a truly informed choice, that they are not give good support and that they are surrounded by crappy media images of what breastfeeding is. They see fighting, the nasty comments of articles posted about breastfeeding, and media images like the one above with head lines that make you think... AM I? AM I MOM ENOUGH??
My husband had to go to a team building exercise today. He brought home an A&P book that was being given out to everyone. One used in nursing schools. He thought the kids might like it. I check out what they had to say on breastmilk/mammary glands. 4 paragraphs. In a book with well over 500 pages they had 4 paragraphs on how the breast works (which was placed in the smallest chapter: reproduction). This is part of the problem.
Attachment parenting is not the enemy. Breastfeeding a three year old is not the enemy. The enemy is not the mom standing there nursing her 3 year old, it is the idea that that is disgusting that is the problem. The idea that we have been so brainwashed into thinking that nurturing our young is best done at a distance. That some how it is twisted/perverted/strange/gross to even consider nursing a toddler let alone actually doing it. It is ridiculous that we are all happy as clams to see boobs selling cars, beer, food, but feeding a child... well just eeeew.  Breasts serve a duel purpose, they are nice to look at, they make men happy and want to make babies, and than they FEED THE BABIES. Instead of us looking at breasts as the most amazing thing on the earth (I mean really how amazing is it that you can make food from your body. It is a miracle!) we look at them in such a twisted way that the very idea that they can do this miracle is lost on most people in our culture. And that is  the enemy.
What can we do to help promote breastfeeding, offer good education, good support, good help if it is needed to families? How do we combat the idea that nursing is "extreme" parenting? How do we normalize breastfeeding in a culture that still asks women to "cover up" "be modest" "use the bathroom" or even just "leave the area"?
I think the next issue of Time will be the truly telling one, the one where they post the letters to the editor. How ugly will they let those letters be? How nasty will those people get? How much hate, fear, misinformation, and ugliness will come spewing from those pages? I don't even want to venture to guess.
Anyone out there nursing their walking, talking, mouth filled with teeth toddler... god bless you. Fight the good fight, keep doing what you are doing. Maybe one day it won't be "weird" or "extreme" to nurse your toddler in this country.

Edited to add links:

Here are some great links to other well said pieces

The Soapbox: Lazy Parenting
BlogHer: We are all mom enough
Mama Birth: Sexy Breastfeeding
Y! News: Time cover masks problem (only issue with this one is very last sentence. Makes it seem like nursing for comfort is wrong, when that is a major part of breastfeeding all along.)


  1. I agree I found the picture too aggressive and the mom looks sexy while feeding her toddler who is a very big toddler. I never felt sexy while nursing my kids and I never nursed then like that.

  2. you know i don't have a problem with her looking sexy, what i have a problem with is how it is made to look. they seem to look like there is no connection between them. he isn't even holding her in anyway. it is set up to cause a stir and i personally feel, to make it seem "weird" or "messed up" to nurse an older toddler. when in fact it is a very natural thing. the little boy is only like 3, but he looks like he is 7. which i think most people get weirded out by a 3 year old nursing, let alone the very idea of someone older than 5 nursing.