Cover Your Eyes!

time magazine breastfeeding toddlers

On Thursday morning, Time Magazine released its latest weekly issue, which “bares” a 26-year-old woman breastfeeding her 3-year-old son, with the cover line, “Are You Mom Enough?”

She was photographed, along with three other women, for the magazine’s cover story on “attachment parenting,” which discusses The Baby Book, by Dr. Bill Sears, and “extended breast-feeding, co-sleeping and ‘baby wearing.’”

As could be expected, the initial judgments’ have been cast. According to this article, people are shocked, “slack-jawed,” and warning us, saying, “Heads up parents! If you’re planning to take your kids grocery shopping, you will have to explain this Time mag cover.”

The managing editor for Time has defended his decision, saying, “We used an image that represents the attachment of a mother and child … I think it’s provocative. I think it’s a little whimsical. I think she represents an outlier of women who are breastfeeding beyond one year. The cover is meant to get your attention. It gets your attention. I think this is a legitimate debate. It’s a debate lots and lots of women are having.”

But MSNBC, “The View,” and various display stands are covering up or blurring out this cover – because if we see a mother breastfeeding her child, especially an older child, our eyes may shrivel up into tiny seeds and explode. It’s true – I read about that happening in a blog somewhere.

The managing editor for Time is right; there is an attachment between a child and mother due to breastfeeding, and there is a debate among women over the appropriate length of time a mother should maintain a nursing relationship.

What are the nutritional benefits of nursing beyond one year? How will maintaining an “attachment” relationship affect your baby as he or she matures into a young child? For those women who breastfeed well beyond one year, how does that affect your relationship with your partner?  How does it affect your day-to-day life?  For those women who can’t nurse their children, or for those women who stop breastfeeding after a few short months, how do you ensure proper nutrition for your children? How do you cultivate that “attachment” relationship?

We may not agree on the appropriate length of time, but that is okay. We don’t have to agree. We just have to keep doing whatever it is that we think is best for our children, and for ourselves. That is where our energies and focus should rest.

What do you think? Are you shocked at Time magazine’s cover photo? Do you get involved in debates over this topic; and if so, why?

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What do you think?

Cover Your Eyes!

Kimberly Shannon is a wife, a mother, an editor, a writer ... She is always working to find the perfect balance¹! After Kimberly received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism, she worked on two master’s degree programs (Creative Writing, and Marriage and Family Therapy). At various times in her life she has signed up to study Naturopathy, only to back out at the last minute, and humored the idea of returning full-time to the world of dance. Kimberly has also started 10 different children ... More

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31 comments

  1. nydia rivera says:

    I nursed my daughter until 2 1/2 because I could and she wanted comfort sometimes at night, she just kept going until one day, when I had to work really late for a few weeks I told her that it was time to stop and I loved her and we could hug to sleep. She looked at me cried a few tears then said she was a big girl now. My son is 14 months, he nurses still, and will for another few months, so he can also drink more milk and other things. I think, it depends on him!

  2. Jillian says:

    I nursed my son for 18 months. My daughter is still nursing at 14 months and I plan to continue. As for the mother and child in the photo, maybe she should pump. It’s totally inappropriate for a child that age and size in our culture. My son is almost 3 and I just can’t even imagine BFing him now. Yes, in many other societies and cultures, this may be the norm. But here, in our society, it’s just unexceptable. My opinion, take it or leave it.

  3. Why not, if it benefits the child breastfeeding him/her at 3, 4, 5 its the parents choice and there is no shame.

  4. You said it better than I could have!

  5. Megan says:

    This is absurd… Breast feeding your child at 3 years of age it outrageous. Definitely don’t think it’s right…

  6. Shavonne says:

    Although I do advocate breastfeeding and plan on hopefully being able to do so with my second child I feel this magazine cover was a bit too much and taking matters to the extreme. Yes we all want to be attached to our children, but at some point we have to be realistic and healthy with this desire. Personally (my OWN personal belief/opinion) breastfeeding to the age of three is not healthy for anyone involved. I feel that though this image is not exactly repulsive it is perverted, perhaps a different method of advertising this article should have been considered especially considering the number of crimes committed against children each day. Breastfeeding is a beautiful and wonderful method of bonding and providing nutritional health to your child, but some things should remain private and respected within the bonds of the home.

  7. NicoleHall says:

    Breastfeeding is natural and that is how it was done before they ever thought up formula. I was told by a pediatrician involved with a study in regards to breastfeeding, that they had found a 90 year old person was still benefiting from the effects of being breastfed. Imagine that. Your child, at 90 years old, and your still able to help keep them well just because you breastfed them. That helps me to sleep better. As for the cover, it is provacative, breastfeeding in public should not be so taboo. What the heck do people think women were doing before they invented baby formula? Feeding the kids through our toes just so others would not be offended? It is all a matter of maturity.

  8. Erin says:

    I am a huge breast feeding advocate and breast feed my children until they are are two ( for personal reasons). BUT in response to some previous posts stating that individuals are not educated I believe you have it wrong. I have a huge problem with this mother exploIting her child for her 15 minutes of fame. This not an appropriate way to go about being a breastfeeding advocate!! Have some class and respect for your children!

  9. gsimeone says:

    I really am so impressed at the mass of positive response to this cover. It shocks me how many individuals are not educated as to the benefits of breastfeeding and how much just an image like this repulses them. It is just another one of those things people react badly to because they are uncomfortable with things they don’t know very much about. My daughter pretty much finished her nursing around 14 mos, and I would have gone longer had she chose to. I’m sick of other individuals trying to make women feel like they are doing something wrong when they make choices for themselves and their children that are beneficial.

  10. nat8912 says:

    I agree with you that some women can not breastfeed their child, no matter how strong of a desire you have to do that! I was only able to give my son breast milk, that I pumped for the first 3-4 weeks. He could not latch on to me…and it became a point where all I did was cry when I tried and got upset…maybe my own fault…but I truely struggled with it. One of my very close friends just could not understand why/how I couldn’t breastfeed him. My son and I have an incredible bond, despite that fact! I found the "are you mom enough" very offending…but I don’t disagree with the benefits of longer term breastfeeding. But I did read some of the article and found it disturbing that her child needed to have the breast to soothe himself. I may have took the context wrong, but that’s the way it sounded to me!

  11. Seity says:

    It’s beautiful. Anyone who’s done the research knows that the natural self weaning age for a human is 3-7 years and it provides many benefits to continue breastfeeding past 2 years old. (WHO recommends breastfeeding until 2). Some women chose to wean early for many reasons, but society needs to realize that there is nothing wrong, gross, abnormal, or psychologically harmful in allowing a child to wean when they are ready and yes, that might be as old as 7!

  12. sheila says:

    This is a shame

  13. Kim Shannon says:

    Thanks Sara, and everyone else, for your comments! I love seeing the conversations – makes me happy to be a part of it all! Keep the comments flowing!

  14. patty says:

    I have to applaud Time Magizine for their use of this picture! Not only does it draw attention to an area of moms’ everyday life, but due to recent events, this cover makes the statement that its perfectly natural, and by not blurring it out they said don’t be ashamed. There is no right or wrong time frame to breast feed you child and way to go Momma for giving your kiddo a HUGE head start in development!!

  15. yudel says:

    I cant believe they r makin a big deal on a personal choice of a mother i think its a momthers desition when to stop breastfeedin her child its a bond tht should be sacred not looked down upon

  16. Emily says:

    I have been breastfeeding for the last 19 months. I believe I am very fortunate to have been able to do this. It has been a blessing, and yes, even a curse at the same time. Granted, I have missed having a drink or two and not being concerned about it going into my breastmilk. It has enriched mine and my child’s life in many aspects. I was a mom who exclusively breastfed, and i never pumped. I tried to, but I could never get out more than an ounce, so I just decided that it was a waste of my time, since I was here with her all day. Sure, it does take away from couple time, but I think it has helped me grow up and realize what was more important, as for me, I believe it is my duty to be a mother, and not someone elses. The only aspect for me that took away from couple time was that I decided not to pump, but other mothers will also have that choice. America is the only country that has a choice to breastfeed, or not to. Other countries, it’s a mandatory source of nutrition, and their only source of nutrition. Two years ago, I would have too said that it’s vulgar and wrong to do this, extending after one year, but in my opinion, there’s nothing more beautiful. The only way it would ever become vulgar is if it harmed the child physically or emotionally. I think for the benefit side of it, your child can have more natural milk vs. hormone filled milk. We spend much less on regular milk, although we do give her no more than 16 oz. of cow’s milk. When the time comes to wean her, simply replacing a special moment together can be just as rewarding emotionally. For me, a stay at home mom, I have been nothing but blessed with this opportunity and I hope that others do find a way to take pride in getting this opportunity as well. America is so closed minded. It’s not nudity, and it certainly isn’t child abuse. Once people can get over the fact that we are just simply feeding our children, there will be less to gawk at, or be embarrased about. Breastfeeding is very natural, and probably the most natural thing a mother will get to do with her children. No one, and i mean no one should have a say on this. God created this river of life for our children, let us share it abundantly. The one thing I wished I would have done is donated my breastmilk for those babies in need of milk. Since I cannot pump, I cannot do this. This is the one thing that breaks my heart, because every baby deserves the best of nutrition. As a mother, I just would not be able to trust some company to feed my baby for the first 12 months of her life. Not knowing exactly how they make it or what they put in it. Who knows how many formulas have been recalled in the past year alone. Please consider at least breastfeeding for at least 12 months of your baby’s life, and further if you and baby shall choose to do so. I am also a major supporter of those mothers who want to stay at home, and work online making an income. http://www.lifesabundance.com/elefever. post your resume online.

  17. respect your opinion. but I disagree.

  18. You are right that is why we need to respect mother who want to breastfeed for 1,2, even 3 years and also those who do not at all.

  19. Kim – I’m totally impressed by your handling of this topic!

    I am completely in favor of breastfeeding – for as long as mutually desired by mother and child. There are many benefits to extended nursing, and the World Health Organization’s suggestion to nurse for "up to two years of age or beyond" is based on scientific evidence which supports nursing as a healthy option for both mother and child. However, I think that this photo does less to promote nursing and more to shock and to stir controversy. The child (who is only 3, but looks much older!) is dressed and posed to look older than his age, adding to the shock value. The cherry on top? The headline, which once again attempts to pit women against one another based on arbitrary definitions of "good" parenting.

    I’m also impressed by the responses here, which show that many women have reached the limit with being baited and manipulated by this sort of press. We are ALL doing our best to be mom enough – and we don’t need a magazine to determine what that means for our family! Once again glad to be part of the EverydayFamily community!

  20. DPerkins says:

    I don’t like anything about it. When I first saw the photo, I thought it was a gag photo. I personally breastfed all of my children,and yes, I am woman eenough to know when it is time to let a child grow up. If a child is able to feed him/her self, and hold a cup you no longer need to breastfeed. If you are feeding them a proper diet, they don’t need breastmilk. Is she going to go to his preschool every few hours to feed him as well?
    The picture to me is borderline pedophilia. This child is clearly too old to be having to go drink from Mom. If I saw this in public, I would say something.

  21. ResnikFam says:

    I think it’s wrong to breastfeed too long. Over a year might be a little much. My fiance has a sister-in-law who has been breastfeeding her son for over 3 years & he is such a momma’s boy. He NEVER leaves her side. If it keeps going on, how will he react when he has to go to school? There really should be a cut off point, but I understand some moms think it’s right they still breastfeed. But honestly, if your kid can eat a full meal that DOESN’T come from a bottle, it should stop!

  22. Lauren says:

    I can’t help get involved with debates like this. This sensationalized and sexualized representation of Attachment Parenting and "extended" breastfeeding boils my blood! I hate to comment on your blog with a link to my blog, but I literally can’t stop myself! Here’s my opinion! http://www.llamamama.net/blog.php

  23. JennyRogers says:

    I don’t care for the cover photo, or for the "Are you mom enough?" stated on the cover for a few reasons. I have no problem with women who choose to breastfeed their child(ren) for past the one year mark. That is up to them. However, this photo doesn’t look like a child breastfeeding, it LOOKS like a child sucking on a woman’s breast. The appearance is inappropriate. The question beneath the photo begs to suggest that a woman who doesn’t breastfeed (or can’t for medical reasons) isn’t "mom enough". I find the whole thing degrading and inappropriate. To suggest that a woman can’t properly bond with her child without breastfeeding is wrong. I had to bond with my son without breastfeeding because he couldn’t latch on for medical reasons. I’ve found that mother’s who can, and choose to breastfeed long term look at a mother who mixes formula in front of her with disgust as if to say "how dare you!" I have personal experience with this in a mommy group. I am a good mom and I detest the suggestion otherwise based on my decisions and/or ability to breastfeed for any length of time. But those of us in my situation face that negative judgement from mothers who do breast feed on a regular basis. Am I "mom enough"? ABSOLUTELY! And it has NOTHING to do with breastfeeding!

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