Friday, May 11, 2012

The Time Magazine Cover: Everyone else is talking about it so here we go!

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have by now caught a glimpse of the controversial cover of the latest Time Magazine (seen at right) where a woman is pictured breastfeeding her three year old. I figured everyone else is talking about it, so why don't I chime in and give my two cents (or $1.25.) Let me first start by saying that I have not read the article, as I don't subscribe to Time, I am simply commenting on the cover images, the idea of attachment parenting and my feelings when I saw this yesterday.

Let me give you a little background on my "parenting style" before I delve into my opinion on the cover and topic at hand...

As for breastfeeding...M was born 4 weeks early, and was just a tiny 5 pound little peanut. I had full intention of breastfeeding her for an unplanned amount of time, but had major difficulty due to her early birth, her size, the size of my gigantic melons, etc.. After four weeks of trying my hardest, and visiting with Lactation Consultants, I gave up and just exclusively pumped until she was 16 weeks of age. At that point I was exhausted and felt like a cow and just wanted my body back, so we went to formula after my massive frozen supply ran out. I felt like I had done my part as well as I could have, and didn't feel guilty for a second switching her to formula.

As for co-sleeping...there were times when M was first born that she slept between us, propped up on a Boppy (yes I know you aren't supposed to do that, but Mama needed her sleep), but other than that she has always slept on her own, whether it be in the carseat next to our bed for the first couple months (she had terrible reflux) or in her crib next-door to us at 12 weeks. To this day she does not crawl into bed with us in the middle of the night - she is happy where she is, and I am happy that she is happy, as the two times she did sleep with us (due to sickness) I didn't sleep a wink. Plus she tends to end up sideways and forcing us to the edge of the bed with her extra long legs. My husband and I like our bed to ourselves.

As for baby wearing...I was and am all for it. M spent a good deal of the first 6 months of her life attached to me in the Moby. I love having my hands free and she loved being all wrapped up in a baby cocoon against my skin. I did use the Ergo a few times after she outgrew the Moby, but was never a huge fan of it, so soon after I went to a stroller. I cannot imagine M, now 2.5 years old, being worn by either my husband or I though. She is probably about 40 inches tall and weighs 30 pounds and would rather walk on her own for sure.

Ok with that all said, let me get to the subject at hand - the Time cover and other images of women breastfeeding their older children. My first reaction - GASP! My second reaction - I am totally uncomfortable looking at these photos! My third reaction - I cannot look away!

Let me say this, breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural thing. I am totally comfortable with women breastfeeding in front of me. I have seen many a friends boobs go into their babies mouths, and I am fine with it. If I could have done it I would have, and plan to give it the old college try again with baby number two. But there comes a point in time where it gets a little uncomfortable for me personally (and I know people will have problems with this, but again, this is JUST ME)...when your child can walk and talk in full sentences, and has a full set of teeth, then it becomes (dare I say it) a little weird to me. The thought of breastfeeding M right now, who is very tall for her age, seriously gives me the heeby jeebies. And I don't know if that is because I never actually breastfed her to being with? Or the fact that she speaks in complete sentences and is the size of a 4 year old.

Isn't there a time in a child's life where it isn't nutritionally beneficial anymore? And I am asking that in all seriousness, because I do not know. When a child is 5 years old and still breastfeeding is it not just a comfort thing for both the mom and the child? And as I am writing this I think "even if that is the case, what is wrong with comforting your child like this?"

Why does the thought of this make me so uncomfortable? Why do I think it is weird when someone breastfeeds for an extended period time, when it is the way it has been for millions of years with mankind?

My other thought is that I look at my boobs as a sexual part of my body, and to have them exposed to a child that could possibly understand that makes me uncomfortable. How do you have a sexual relationship with your husband if you have your young kids pawing at your chest all day to have a snack? Doesn't that de-sexualize your breasts? Again, I am asking for some clarity on this all, as this is just the way I feel about it.

The co-sleeping, or family bed, thing I understand even less. I love my child more than I can explain, and love giving her hugs and kisses, and holding her in my arms, and sitting with her on the couch, or having her on my lap, but do I need to have her next to me at every waking (or sleeping) hour of the day? No I don't. And what does the co-sleeping thing do for your relationship with your husband or partner?? You have another human being in between you every time you go to sleep - how do you get it on? Or do you not? And what does that do to your relationship?

I am not saying this is all wrong, it is just not right for me, and I would love for someone to explain why it is right for them. I promise not to judge, as I am sure you feel it is as right for you as it isn't right for me.

My problem with these photos is that I feel like they are posed the way they are for shock value - and let me tell you I was a shocked. (Not as much as I was when Prince Robert Aryn (the boy prince from Game of Thrones - son of Lysa) was still at his mom's breast at the age of 9, and they clearly depicted that on the tv show!) I feel like these moms are just depicted as food sources, with the kid on the chair or the little girl staring at the camera. I feel like it should have shown a more nurturing side of the act of breastfeeding - but is there that side when the kid can tie his own shoe and whip out your boob on his own? I feel like the cover image should have a bubble above the kids head saying "yeah that's right, these are my boobs! You gotta problem?"

And I have an even bigger problem with the subject line "Are You Mom Enough?"WTF Time Mag? Am I not a good enough Mom, or "Mom Enough" because I don't still breastfeed my giant child and don't have her create a wedge in between my husband and I in bed? Are mother's that formula feed their babies not good enough moms? If I feel uncomfortable with this whole thing, does that make me a bad Mom?

A friend of mine recently wrote an eye opening article for Isis that you should all read on this subject. Nancy talks about how this type of parenting has been going on for millions of years, so why do we feel the need to dissect and discuss at length all of the sudden? Why do we feel the need to defend our styles of parenting to each other?

When I started writing this post I was totally in defense mode (and I know I seem somewhat defensive still - thanks TIME!) and Nancy made me realize that we all raise our kids as we see fit, whether it is sleeping with them until they are 5, or putting them in a crib at 3 months. It was like a slap in the face when she said "What if we talk more about helping parents to support one another through the challenges of raising children, and less about criticizing those who have different ideas about how to nurture their children? Why is our society so concerned and fascinated with parents who (in society’s opinion) “over” parent (the “helicopter” mom, “hockey-dads”, over-scheduled kids, extended-breastfeeding) , rather than focusing more on those who “under” parent?"


I am totally guilty for judging other parents for the way they nurture and raise their children, and I need to open my eyes and shut my mouth. 


So with that said, please discuss in the comment section...I look forward to hearing what you have to say about all of this!

8 comments:

  1. I agree with you 100%. Actually, I could've written what you wrote above! When it comes to my thoughts on extended breastfeeding (by the way, this child on the cover is actually closer to 4!) and bed sharing, I think it can definitely be taken a little too far. I mean, there is no way that having a baby in your bed EVERY NIGHT until THEY think it's not necessary isn't going to affect your marriage. I agree about the sexual feeling that people have towards boobs, too. I mean, when I undress in front of Parker, and he asks about them, I tell him, but would in NO way feel comfortable with him touching them. That just creeps me out a bit. I think there are just too many Mamas out there trying to say that co-sleeping, bed sharing, and extended breastfeeding is for everyone, and you're a terrible Mom if you believe otherwise (and don't get me started on the anti- circumcision and those who dare to not own a crib or stroller). It's just ridiculous. and with all that said, I still consider myself a bit of a crunchy Mama since I cloth diaper, and enjoyed BF my boys and eating healthy and organic, environmentally responsible, etc. However, I'd never push my views on other Moms and make them feel less than for not doing so. If a Mama wants to nurse her almost four year old, and co-sleep until they're teenagers, then that's great if that works for them, but saying that I'm a "less than" Mom if I don't is just insane.

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  2. So much to say :)
    1. Seriously? There is a famine in Africa, where babies, toddlers (and adults) are dying of starvation everyday- and we are arguing about the best way to feed our babies? Let's just be thankful that we can feed them (and ourselves).
    2. We are co-sleeping. We never planned on it, we have a crib that is dusty, but our baby is high needs and a terrible sleeper. The only way we get any sleep is to have her with us. And you find other ways to keep the intimacy in your marriage.
    3. Extended breastfeeding- I am not comfortable with it, because I have never been around it. I am part of the American culture and see breasts as sexual. I can't imagine breastfeeding a toddler. However, I am not setting an end date to wean, so we might be "one of them" in a couple of years (though I doubt it).
    4. As long as your love your baby and do the best you can for them, then you are "mom enough".

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  3. I liked reading your post and absolutely respect your point of view!
    Two quick thoughts (I always start with some initial number like that, and then go on for, like, five not-so-quick thoughts, but oh well).
    1. Most moms that breastfeed their two or three year olds don't just walk outside and see some random big three year old kid and figure, yeah, that's a big kid and I'll breastfeed him ;) Just like you've been caring for your daughter for the past 2.5 years, breastfeeding EVOLVES as another part of daily life, love and care for your baby. Many moms figure, "I'll breastfeed for the first six months" or "Until he has teeth" or "for the first year". But, you know, your baby has his birthday, and is still, you know, your baby. Each day, he's just a day older. If the breastfeeding part of your relationship works for both of you, why decide on some random date to pull the plug. At any point, either the mom or the baby/toddler may decide to wean. Anthropologically, human weaning is probably estimated to occur between ages 3-4. (That doesn't mean socially/culturally, any more, but biologically.
    2. Yes, breastmilk absolutely has nutritional value and benefit. That doesn't mean it is *necessary*, but if it is available, it is certainly beneficial. First, it is milk. Second, it is species-specific milk: exactly the right milk designed to nourish small humans. Third, it naturally contains all that fancy-shmancy DHA and ARA and other LC-PUFAs (Long Chain Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids) that we know help grow brain neurons, cognitive development and visual acuity. I don't think many women who extended breastfeed will tell you they're primarily doing it for the nutritional benefits, but it's certainly true that the milk has value as milk, and is a more appropriate milk than cow's milk, or apple juice, which ounce per ounce is the exact nutritional equivalent of Coca Cola. Just sayin'.

    I go into some of this stuff in more detail (if you're interested) in one of my recorded breastfeeding webinars available free-on-demand, this one on the topic of "Nursing Toddlers" - link is at the very bottom of this page:
    http://www.parentingstartshere.com/index.php/breastfeeding-chat-learn/

    Hmmm. I DID keep it to two thoughts (maybe, sort of) but I guess they weren't really quick :)

    Nancy

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  4. For me, the most offensive thing about the TIME cover wasn't the picture (though it was definitely put there to provoke, the photographer admits it himself), but the title, "Are you MOM enough?" What is wrong with this society, that the onus of raising a child is squarely placed on one person: MOM. What happened to the village? And to add insult to injury, everything she does (or doesn't) is scrutinized. Shame on you, TIME magazine!

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