Time magazine's breast-feeding cover causes a stir

The Baltimore Sun

I’m not anti-attachment parenting by any means. I’m what-works-for-my-family-works-for-us-and-what-works-for-you-works-for-you, a philosophy that is flexible but has way too many hyphens.

It happens that attachment parenting wasn’t something that worked for my family. I was interested in the idea of babywearing, but I had back issues even before I got pregnant, and parenthood hasn’t made them any better. Co-sleeping wasn’t something I was particularly interested in for a number of reasons. And since I wasn’t able to sustain breastfeeding beyond a few months for either of my children, extended breastfeeding (usually defined as beyond 1 year) was a nonissue.

Time magazine takes on the attachment parenting topic in its most recent cover story, with a very provocative cover image: a lovely young mother breastfeeding her 3-year-old son, who is standing on a chair in front of her. To be clear, I don’t mean sexually provocative (though, based on many comments I’ve read about the cover, other people consider it that way, which is a shame and a topic for a whole other post). But provoking of interest and conversation? Most definitely.

For me, there are a couple of issues with the cover. There is such a bizarre sentiment toward breastfeeding in this country, with so many people finding nursing even a new baby in public distasteful. This image, by focusing on an extreme that makes some people uncomfortable, seems to be multiplying that discomfort. What I mean is that, in an ideal world, I want people to see the image and consider and realize that breastfeeding needs to be much more accepted here, whether it’s newborns or 1-year-olds or beyond, whatever works for each family. What I’m afraid that it will do is cause some people to go, “Ew, gross,” and turn their heads away from the idea of all breastfeeding. And that’s truly unfortunate.

The other issue is the headline: “Are you mom enough?” Yes, this is supposed to be as provocative as possible, too. And obviously it’s working, since I’m writing about it. But within parenting, within motherhood, there is so much that causes you to question whether you have done enough and whether you are enough that this headline just frustrates me. And there are few issues that bring that issue of “enough” to the forefront than breastfeeding.

So for me -- and a number of my other friends, who despite lactation consultants, fenugreek supplements, bowls of oatmeal, pumping after feeding, and so on and so on into infinity, could not make breastfeeding work -- “Are you mom enough?” is just another twist of the knife, another reminder of the guilt about the whole issue. I couldn't make it work for a few months, but supermom here has been at it for a few years! Just when I think I've come to accept our feeding situation, here's something else to make me feel, well, not enough.

The bottom line is, rather than conversation, I’m afraid this cover is going to foster judgment. And there’s enough of that in parenthood.

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