The headline reads, "Are You Mom enough?" But if that wasn't enough to fan the flames of the Mommy Wars, there's the photo that goes with it: A pretty young woman wearing skinny jeans and a tank top, nursing her nearly 4-year-old son. It's meant to illustrate a story about Dr. William Sears and attachment parenting but, given that there's more to that movement than extended breastfeeding, it seems as if Time magazine was going for sensationalism and shock value.Um, okay, Ms. Grumet. But don't you think a pose that didn't make people think: I am woman! Hear me lactate! might have been a bit better in facilitating the discussion you say you want to have?
It's working. [...]
The mom on the provocative May 21st cover is 26-year-old Jamie Lynne Grumet of Los Angeles, a lactation consultant, breastfeeding advocate, and mother of two who blogs at I Am Not the Babysitter. The child at her breast is her son, Aram, who turns 4 in June. "I don't consider breast feeding immodest at all," she told Time magazine. "I'm not shy about doing it in public."
"There are people who tell me there's going to call social services on me or that it's child molestation," Grumet tells Time, adding that her mother breast-fed her until she was 6. "But people have to realize this is biologically normal. It's not socially normal. The more people see it, the more it'll become normal in our culture. That's what I'm hoping. I want people to see it."
I mean, I've written about attachment parenting before. I find it to be a bit of a mixed bag. The bottom line for me is: if it works for your family, great! But if it becomes a club with which to beat all the other parents out there who, unlike you, aren't doing things perfectly with regards to their children, then it may be time to step back a bit. Like any parenting method, it has its share of adherents and of critics, and it has fanatics as well as those who practice it more sanely.
But for Time to put this pose on their cover shows that they're not really interested in some balanced discussion of attachment parenting. They're interested in attracting attention and selling magazines. And, unfortunately, they've found a woman willing to exploit herself and her son to help them do exactly that.
Why do I say exploit? Because if you are still nursing an almost four-year-old, we're talking about a nursing experience that has no real reason not to be private most (if not all) of the time. A one or two-month-old may need to nurse on demand, and I've been a supporter of leaving nursing moms of infants alone when they nurse in public--yes, even if they have to nurse in church. Any child younger than one year of age should simply be accommodated when mom needs to nurse in public.
But somewhere between age one and age two, it becomes perfectly possible to delay or even schedule nursing sessions. By age two most ordinary children can wait to breastfeed in most circumstances (I think the exceptions would be children who have developmental delays or special medical needs, or situations involving extreme conditions like war, poverty, and so on). The push to nurse older children in public involves exactly what Grumet says it does: the drive to make people learn to be comfortable with this sight. But that turns the child into an object to facilitate a social discussion, not a person in his own right who just needs to be fed or comforted. (I mean, was her son even hungry when that photo session took place--and would it have mattered if he emphatically was not?)
Grumet should have said no to this photo shoot. But Time Magazine wins the booby prize here--because at least Grumet can have the excuse that she meant well. Raising public awareness of attachment parenting, including extended breastfeeding, can at least seem like a noble cause, worth letting one be photographed nursing one's three-year-old son. But putting this picture on their cover just shows that the boobs at Time don't care about anything but the bottom line.