Words cannot possibly describe how much I hate the headline on the cover of the May 2012 issue of Time magazine.
You know, the cover everyone’s talking about – with the oh-so-controversial preschooler breastfeeding photo.
When I first heard there was a mom nursing a toddler or preschooler on the cover of Time, I was so happy tears literally came to my eyes. Mainstream media coverage of attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding? Hallelujah!
But then I saw the cover, and I was horrified. Not by Jamie and her son – far, far from it – but by how they were directed and photographed to manufacture the most sensational, shocking photo possible.
There was another image of this mother and her son nursing that did a much better job of depicting the beauty of a nursing relationship – but that photo was not used for the cover. Oh no. It wouldn’t have caused as much controversy and uproar. It wouldn’t have sold as many magazines.
Why do I dislike this image choice for the cover? Because the “cause” of breastfeeding is all about normalcy: making breastfeeding normal again. But cover photos like Time’s, where the boy looks way older than he is, and where he’s posed on a chair to look especially big/tall/mature, and where words like “extreme breastfeeding” are used, do not help the cause.
It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with extended nursing, or that I wish to hide it. On the contrary, I am a huge proponent of child-led weaning and a big believer in the natural age of weaning (for humans, it averages between age two and seven, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ breastfeeding position paper).
I just hate to see such a sensational cover because it makes me worry that pregnant or new moms could be turned off to the idea of breastfeeding their newborns based on their reaction to such “extreme” views, or based on seeing and hearing others’ negative reactions.
And breastfeeding isn’t extreme. It IS natural and normal – for mountain gorillas, for bottle-nose dolphins and for human mamas. Nursing a newborn is natural and normal, and continuing to nurse that same baby for a year or two or even more is JUST as natural and normal.
On the bright side, there was a full complement of attachment parenting articles accompanying the cover story about Dr. Sears, and many of them were wonderful. I loved this piece on extended breastfeeding, and this post about breastfeeding being a “gateway drug” to cosleeping is hilarious and so true (we stumbled into our own family bed much the same way).
As for the lead headline, “Are you mom enough?” – I hate that because it positions attachment parenting in a way that sets moms up for failure. Being a mom is tough enough without societal and media pressures to follow a particular philosophy, fit a certain image of a perfect uber-mommy, or live up to extreme ideals. We all do the best we can.
As long as we are giving our kids every bit of love and understanding we can and learning and getting better every single day, the rest is just noise. And trust me, there’s a lot of noise.
The only person who can answer the question “Are you mom enough?” is your baby or child. And I can pretty much guarantee that little person would give you a big, enthusiastic “YES!” with all of their heart if he or she were asked.
So what do you think – have you seen the Time magazine cover or read the accompanying articles (one of which I was even quoted in)? Did you have a different take on it? I’d love to hear in the comments.