Breastfeeding Medicine

Physicians blogging about breastfeeding

Time cover sells out moms to sell magazines

with 66 comments

Time Magazine’s “Are you MOM enough?” cover is brilliant marketing. It’s also a terrible disservice to women’s health.

In case you missed it, the magazine cover features a mother with her three-year-old son, standing on a chair, latched on to her breast. The photo had sparked disgust from readers who have expressed outrage at the “sick” and “deviant” behavior of breastfeeding a three-year-old.

In traditional human societies, Katherine Dettwyler has demonstrated that children wean between 2 and 5 years of age. Using data from non-human primates, evidence suggests that the biological age to stop breastfeeding is between 2.5 and 7. From an anthropological standpoint, therefore, nursing a three-year-old is not “sick,” “strange” or “deviant.”  It is normal human physiology.

Age at weaning

In traditional societies, weaning occurs between 2 and 5 years. (Used with permission from Lawrence and Lawrence, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, 7th edition, Modified from Dettwyler KA: A time to wean. In Stuart-MacAdam P, Dettwyler KA, editors: Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives, New York, 1995, Aldine de Gruyter.)

Furthermore, extended breastfeeding is endorsed by major medical organizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reaffirmed their position recommending “exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.” The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to two years or age or beyond. It’s also important for women’s health. Studies show that, compared with women who breastfeed for at least 1 year for each child, women who wean prematurely face increased risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks.

In Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives, Dettwyler makes a plea for thoughtful, considerate debate regarding the right time for weaning for each mother-child dyad. She writes:

The information that 3 or 4 years of breastfeeding, or even longer, is both normal and appropriate for human infants, should be disseminated to health care professionals and parents alike. It is to be hoped that people will stop criticizing mothers and suggesting that they need to wean because the child is “too old.” Above all, it is hoped that people will stop questioning the motives of mothers who nurse their children for several years. It is to be hoped that mothers who follow their own instincts to meet their children’s needs – not only their physiological needs for nutrition and immunological protection, but their cognitive and emotional needs for warmth, touching, social contact, and interaction through breastfeeding as long as the child expresses those needs – will be encouraged and supported, both by health care professionals and by their family and friends.

But rather than supporting mothers to follow their own instincts to meet their children’s needs, Time magazine put an enormous 3-year-old, dressed in very “big kid” clothes, on the cover with his mom dressed in a tank top and skinny jeans. Every aspect of the photo is engineered to evoke sexual undertones, and Time’s tabloid approach has (predictably) brought out a mob of people saying breastfeeding is “sick” and “perverted.”

The cover not only castigates mothers and children who practice extended nursing, but it also lends legitimacy to strangers who assail moms for nursing any infant in public as “nasty” and “indecent.” Recent stories of nursing mothers ejected from big box stores, courtrooms and churches demonstrate that it is not easy to be a breastfeeding mother in America. When you follow medical recommendations, you face public humiliation.

Time’s cover throws fuel on that fire, and it’s a slap in the face for the moms who are trying to do right for their own health and the health of their children. And that’s a very unhappy Mother’s Day present.

Alison Stuebe, MD, MSc, is a maternal-fetal medicine physician, breastfeeding researcher, and assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. She is a member of the board of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.

Posts on this blog reflect the opinions of individual ABM members, not the organization as a whole.

Written by astuebe

May 11, 2012 at 4:52 pm

66 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Thank you so much. I will share this on Twitter and Facebook. I saw this hitting Twitter yesterday and was speechless.

    Ann Friedmann

    May 11, 2012 at 5:02 pm

  2. Thank you. I have been too mad to even address this issue.

  3. Thank you for the thoughtful and accurate comments on this manipulative story.

    Rachel Wahl

    May 11, 2012 at 5:09 pm

  4. Perfectly stated!

    Amy

    May 11, 2012 at 6:20 pm

  5. I wish no one made any comment about this cover. The mom is nursing a toddler. So what? All of our comments are merely fomenting more buzz.

    This mom looks like all the other women her age that are in my yoga class.

    Nikki Lee

    May 11, 2012 at 6:36 pm

  6. Thank you Alison Stuebe for another right-to-the-point-thank-you-very-much post for ABM.

    ECBrooks

    May 11, 2012 at 8:16 pm

  7. What are these “traditional societies”? Can we get a list, please?

    mock26

    May 11, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    • Donna Waltman

      May 12, 2012 at 11:36 am

    • Yeah, I agree. There’s some key information left out here.

      liz

      May 12, 2012 at 11:56 am

    • NOTE: Anthropologists no longer refer to any society or group of people as being “primitive” or “savage” or “barbaric” – people who have very simple technological resources may nonetheless be quite sophisticated in terms of religion, philosophy, kinship systems, art, music, etc. Therefore, please excuse the following authors for using the terminology of their day.

      Examples of societies where children nurse for many years.
      First source:
      Ford; Clellan Stearns 1945
      A Comparative Study of Human Reproduction. Yale University Publications in Anthropology; Number 32. Yale University Press.

      Page 78: “The length of the nursing period varies markedly from society to society.11 The average age of weaning in our tribes is between three and four years. In a few societies complete renunciation of the breast is deferred until the age of six or even longer. The Andamanese and Copper Eskimos children, for example, are permitted to suckle as long as nurses are available. Cases are reported in the literature, of children occasionally nursing up to the age of twelve. . . . Quite regardless of the availability and use of other suitable foods, weaning seems to be delayed as long as it is at all possible in the great majority of our primitive societies.”

      Footnote #11, also p. 78:
      “Number of years child is nursed: Ainu (3-4); Andamanese (3-4); Arunta (3-4); Azande (3-6); Baiga (2-3); Bena (1.5-2); Carib (1.5-2; occ. 2-3); Copper Eskimo (3-4); Crow (1.5-2); Dobuans (occ. 1.5-2); Hope (1.5-3); Jivaro (2-3); Kababish (1.5-3); Kurtatchi (2-4); Kwakiutl (2-3); Kwoma (2-3); Lakher (2-3; occ. 3-4); Lango (2-3); Lepcha (3-4; occ. 6); Lesu (2-3); Macusi (3-4); Malekulans (1/2-1); Maori (1.5-2; 3-4); Maricopa (3-4; occ. 1.5-2; 6); Masai (1.5-3); Mbundu (3-4); Murngin (3-4); Nama (3-4); Omaha (2-4); Sanpoil (1.5-3); Sema (2-3); Tanala (2-3); Tarahumara (1.5-3); Taulipang (1.5-2); Thonga (2-3); Tiv (2-3); Toda (2-3); Tongans (2-3); Trobrianders (1.5-3); Tubatulabal (2-3); Tupinamba (1.5-2; 3-6); Venda (3-4); Witoto (3-4); Yakut (3-4); Yukaghir (3-4).”

      Second source:

      Wickes, Ian G.
      “A History of Infant Feeding, Part I. Primitives Peoples: Ancient Works: Renaissance Writers.” Archives of Diseases in Childhood, 1953 April; 28(138): 151–158.

      “Hottentots seldom feed longer than about four months, Samoans less than one year, Armenians for one to two years, Australian Aborigines for two to three years, Greenlanders for three to four years, Hawaiians five years and Eskimos for about seven years reaching a maximum in King William Land of up to 15 years. In these circumstances, a mother may be suckling two or more children of different ages at the same time. “ p. 151

      “. . . H. Mercurialis, the misogynist, wrote “De Mortis Puerorum” in 1583 in which he recorded that lactation may last for two or three years but most women (whom he described as stupid and always making mistakes) gave pap by the third month and stopped breast feeding by the thirteenth in contrast with the old days when, for example, Plotinus at the age of eight used to run from his tutor to his nurse and clamor for the breast.” P. 158

      Third source:

      Shelton, Herbert M. 1934 The Hygienic Care of Children. Tampa, Florida: The American Natural Hygiene Society.

      Shelton speaks of the initial stage where the child gets only breast milk, then a transitional stage where he gets both breast milk and other foods. So the end of the transitional stage would be what I call “weaning.”

      “How long this transition lasts among various people is determined largely by the character of foods upon which they subsist. I think it clear that the end of the third year should be the minimum duration of this period. Five years may be regarded as its necessary maximum, although it is often seen to exceed this age by one to four or five years.” p. 129

      To clarify, Shelton is saying that the age of weaning is often seen to be 6-10 years, which I find a little overstated.

      NOTE: Anthropologists no longer refer to any society or group of people as being “primitive” or “savage” or “barbaric” – people who have very simple technological resources may nonetheless be quite sophisticated in terms of religion, philosophy, kinship systems, art, music, etc. Therefore, please excuse the following authors for using the terminology of their day.

      Examples of societies where children nurse for many years.
      First source:
      Ford; Clellan Stearns 1945
      A Comparative Study of Human Reproduction. Yale University Publications in Anthropology; Number 32. Yale University Press.

      Page 78: “The length of the nursing period varies markedly from society to society.11 The average age of weaning in our tribes is between three and four years. In a few societies complete renunciation of the breast is deferred until the age of six or even longer. The Andamanese and Copper Eskimos children, for example, are permitted to suckle as long as nurses are available. Cases are reported in the literature, of children occasionally nursing up to the age of twelve. . . . Quite regardless of the availability and use of other suitable foods, weaning seems to be delayed as long as it is at all possible in the great majority of our primitive societies.”

      Footnote #11, also p. 78:
      “Number of years child is nursed: Ainu (3-4); Andamanese (3-4); Arunta (3-4); Azande (3-6); Baiga (2-3); Bena (1.5-2); Carib (1.5-2; occ. 2-3); Copper Eskimo (3-4); Crow (1.5-2); Dobuans (occ. 1.5-2); Hope (1.5-3); Jivaro (2-3); Kababish (1.5-3); Kurtatchi (2-4); Kwakiutl (2-3); Kwoma (2-3); Lakher (2-3; occ. 3-4); Lango (2-3); Lepcha (3-4; occ. 6); Lesu (2-3); Macusi (3-4); Malekulans (1/2-1); Maori (1.5-2; 3-4); Maricopa (3-4; occ. 1.5-2; 6); Masai (1.5-3); Mbundu (3-4); Murngin (3-4); Nama (3-4); Omaha (2-4); Sanpoil (1.5-3); Sema (2-3); Tanala (2-3); Tarahumara (1.5-3); Taulipang (1.5-2); Thonga (2-3); Tiv (2-3); Toda (2-3); Tongans (2-3); Trobrianders (1.5-3); Tubatulabal (2-3); Tupinamba (1.5-2; 3-6); Venda (3-4); Witoto (3-4); Yakut (3-4); Yukaghir (3-4).”

      Second source:

      Wickes, Ian G.
      “A History of Infant Feeding, Part I. Primitives Peoples: Ancient Works: Renaissance Writers.” Archives of Diseases in Childhood, 1953 April; 28(138): 151–158.

      “Hottentots seldom feed longer than about four months, Samoans less than one year, Armenians for one to two years, Australian Aborigines for two to three years, Greenlanders for three to four years, Hawaiians five years and Eskimos for about seven years reaching a maximum in King William Land of up to 15 years. In these circumstances, a mother may be suckling two or more children of different ages at the same time. “ p. 151

      “. . . H. Mercurialis, the misogynist, wrote “De Mortis Puerorum” in 1583 in which he recorded that lactation may last for two or three years but most women (whom he described as stupid and always making mistakes) gave pap by the third month and stopped breast feeding by the thirteenth in contrast with the old days when, for example, Plotinus at the age of eight used to run from his tutor to his nurse and clamor for the breast.” P. 158

      Third source:

      Shelton, Herbert M. 1934 The Hygienic Care of Children. Tampa, Florida: The American Natural Hygiene Society.

      Shelton speaks of the initial stage where the child gets only breast milk, then a transitional stage where he gets both breast milk and other foods. So the end of the transitional stage would be what I call “weaning.”

      “How long this transition lasts among various people is determined largely by the character of foods upon which they subsist. I think it clear that the end of the third year should be the minimum duration of this period. Five years may be regarded as its necessary maximum, although it is often seen to exceed this age by one to four or five years.” p. 129

      To clarify, Shelton is saying that the age of weaning is often seen to be 6-10 years, which I find a little overstated.

      • I read this somewhere else in the past few days, but it bears repeating: Katherine Dettwyler Rocks.

        ECBrooks

        May 13, 2012 at 5:43 am

      • Thank you for sharing.

        Rnrsteff

        May 15, 2012 at 4:18 am

    • Seems to me that these “traditional societies” are ones that are less developed, where they have less access to nutrient-rich foods for babies. In that case then extended breast feeding is necessary. In a society with plenty of nutrient-rich foods for babies then there is no need for extended breast feeding.

      mock26

      May 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      • Define need.

        Perhaps there is not a life or death need, but there is a need, nonetheless. Brain development is one of those needs. See the comment below by Kathy Dettwyler.

        And for the record, it’s not really entirely about access to adequate nutrition, since the moms have to have adequate nutrition in order to sustain milk production and their own health. What it IS about is access to clean water. Most ‘traditional’ societies don’t have the refrigeration capabilities necessary to use pre-prepared formula, so those who use formula have to use the powder. But powder requires water and clean water is often hard to come by. This is one reason why doctors in Africa have told mothers with AIDS that they should nurse their babies in spite of their positive HIV status – the potential damage from feeding with formula prepared with tainted water is greater than that of breastfeeding.

        As an aside, I’d be interested to see the rates of breast cancer in ‘traditional’ societies where mothers wean their children at a later age vs. the rates in the US, as it’s known that the longer one nurses, the greater one’s protection from breast cancer.

        Jen Robinson

        May 13, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      • Describe “nutrient-rich foods” please. Many of our foods are poisoned by pesticides, gmo’s, water fluoridated. I wish I could drink breastmilk. It’s proven that man can thrive, not just survive on a diet of only breastmilk. It really makes one wonder :)

        zensays

        May 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm

      • Breastfeeding has only one part nutrition in it. Breastfeeding is a misleading word that does not accurately describe the process of nursing an infant.

        As far as nutrient rich, the prevalence of malnutrition in the US is staggering. Perhaps, we are devolving to a less developed society.

        breastnobottle

        May 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      • Because we in the “developed world” can go to the store and buy a jar of baby food…
        This way we don’t have to do this shameful deed of showing our breasts and nursing our babies.

        Something is wrong with this society!

        Falconi

        May 17, 2012 at 9:03 pm

  8. straight to the point!!

  9. Thank You Dr. Stuebe for addressing this. I have several thoughts on this issue:
    I have to say that I have been very angry with Time magazine over this irresponsible and distorted depiction of breastfeeding.. Breastfeeding professionals have been struggling to get our society to accept the idea of mom’s breastfeeding for the first 12 months of a baby’s life. Time magazine did a great disservice to women and their babies by using such a photo, and I personally will not be purchasing any of their magazines anymore. While I am a BIG supporter of mom’s breastfeeding for as long as they can…we do have to be careful about trying to push this topic beyond the 1st year…simply because our society is slow to catch on to the necessity and importance of breastfeeding in that 1st year, and the many health benefits for both mom and baby.I have said for a long time that breastfeeding is PREVENTIVE Medicine. This photo will have a negative impact on breastfeeding in general, and just as Breastfeeding Professionals were beginning to make progress on encouraging and gaining family support for moms who want to breastfeed…this photo has obviously left a very negative picture of breastfeeding, again, because unfortunately our society is barely tolerable of it in the 1st year. Therefore, Breastfeeding professionals will again have to go back to the beginning of our initial struggle of trying to create a more positive image of breastfeeding, and re-educating people on the benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby during that first year. Most importantly, I think this photo will discourage the family from being a strong support system for those mom’s willing to make the necessary sacrifices needed to breastfeed for the health of their baby and themselves.

    Time magazine should be ashamed of themselves for the image they were trying to suggest and should use their journalism skills(if they have any) to inform the public on the positive aspects of breastfeeding!

    Pamela Mckimie, D(AAIM), CBE, CHE, CMBSS

    May 12, 2012 at 2:03 am

    • I am a young person and am so grateful to my mother for breastfeeding me and providing me with the best start in life. I am amazed and appalled by the number of my contemporaries, educated, enlightened, “Liberal”, who find breastfeeding disgusting. I put it down to prudishness and an obsession with the breast as exclusively a sexual tool. If I have children, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I will breastfeed them, Considering what I know, I feel it would be selfish not to.

      Kate Ferguson Writes

      May 12, 2012 at 4:38 am

    • Why will this mean starting over? I’m not following the logic. We AP, full term nurse and all that, and this cover coming out actually made me feel more confident nursing my 20 month old today out in public–with her standing on the ground and me leaning forward for her to reach as I watched her brother’s martial arts class. Prior to this big media frenzy about the cover, I would always try to get her in a cradle position. And somehow THIS cover being out there as an image empowered me to do that today. I am not saying “yay Time, this is wonderful”, but I would think this more shocking image to the general public makes nursing an 18 month old cuddled on a lap (for example) seem like no big deal. Tell me about someone running an ultramarathon, it makes it easier to motivate for my (by comparison) easy 3-mile jog!

      Annie Wendt

      May 13, 2012 at 12:21 am

      • Annie, I was a busy single mother of three, when I would go to Walmart or Target my daughter who was 8 months at the time would want to breastfeed, she was at my breast level while she was sitting in the cart. If I stopped to cradle her, I would be late picking up the other kids, so I just pulled my breast out, leaned forward a bit and kept shopping.. I didnt care what other people thought, they were not offering any help. If I let her cry they would be staring and judging, so my baby was happy and full and they could judge to all end..

        Mrs. Nelson

        May 14, 2012 at 10:34 am

  10. As a husband to an attachment mother, I’m not offended, as it really does show how “mom” one is. I see the cover as showing that an attachment mom doesn’t have to look like a hippie.

    Ryan Merrifield

    May 12, 2012 at 2:42 am

  11. Brilliant article. VIVA!!!!!!!

    Maggie

    May 12, 2012 at 6:28 am

  12. Boycott Time magazine

    Lisa Bretches

    May 12, 2012 at 8:38 am

  13. [...] I came across this excellent analysis, I thought it might be interesting to analyse the composition of the controversial Time [...]

  14. Thanks for bringing to the forefront research and research-based recommendations!

    Mara

    May 12, 2012 at 9:22 am

  15. I agree with the fact that the picture is obviously not what a normal breastfeeding relationship looks like. Could any American or person from a developed country step outside right now and tell me if they see a normal breastfeeding relationship out in public? I don’t. I see a bunch of moms with weird cover ups or blankets thrown over their babies hiding in corners or bathrooms to breastfeed. I realize that the picture is racy, but that was the point. The editor wanted to get the public’s attention, and he did. Everyone should realize that this is not the way a three almost four year old actually breastfeeds just like any other magazine photo is fixed to look like the photographer wanted it to look. It’s not real. The fact is that if a normal breastfeeding relationship was on the cover of this magazine people would probably walk right past it and not be interested at all unless the person looking at the rows of magazines was a breastfeeding mom or interested in lactation like me. I think the breastfeeding and attachment parenting community need to see that the publicity is not exactly what they wanted, but it is publicity. Now people are getting information about breastfeeding and attachment parenting “right in their faces”. I haven’t read the actual article that was put in the magazine, so I am not sure of the actual facts given. But as a registered nurse and a breastfeeding advocate, I am excited to see Time magazine putting such a bold photo on their cover. When I first saw it I thought this is going to get people’s attention. It’s going to have people picking up the magazine to figure out why this woman is standing her child on a chair to breastfeed him. It’s going to raise questions and questions means that information is going to be shared. The important focus now should be on making sure the correct research based evidence is presented to the public. Whats done is done whether you like the cover or not. Use the publicity to get accurate evidence based research out there. I, for one, am ready and armed with the evidence based research to talk to moms about how breastfeeding an older child is really beneficial and normal. It’s healthy and if the child hasn’t self weened, that it is OK to keep breastfeeding. Look at this publicity as a positive thing.. it is what you make it! I hope to see more people making an effort to educate and inform the public about breastfeeding along with attachment parenting and co-sleeping/bed-sharing. I am looking forward to shedding light on these topics and integrating them into our close-minded society.

    nicoleannreid

    May 12, 2012 at 11:14 am

  16. There is no nutritional need for a child to nurse beyond 12 months if they are living in a developed first world country. The WHO recommendations are meant to include women from third world countries who do not have access to the rich food supplies of women in the first world. The AAP does not recommend extended breastfeeding beyond a year for nutritional reasons. The recommendation reflects the organizations support of women who do choose extended breastfeeding for personal reasons. That said, I am not opposed to extended breastfeeding myself even though I opted to give my son formula due to a contraindication between nursing and a medication I must take). But presenting as a nutritional need rather than a parenting choice is a disservice.

    Sara

    May 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    • Errrm I think you may need to check your facts, can you tell me how you know this to be the case?

      Louise

      May 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    • But it is still perfect nutrition! Free and readily available and conforms to the needs of the child. When a child is sick the milk will produce antibodies to fight the illness. It is pure liquid antibiotic. If a child is vomiting or has diahrea the breastmilk is still a perfect food… no special diet is needed, no “pedialyte” is necessary. Breastmilk is known to cure pink- eye and rashes as well.

      Susan T

      May 12, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    • Sara, you are incorrect about the nutritional need to nurse beyond 12 months. Human children’s brains and immune systems continue to develop at a very rapid rate until they have reached about 95% of their adult size by age 6-7 years. Human breast milk is the only ready source of the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (like the two added to formula, DHA and ARA, although breast milk has many more) that are needed for normal brain development in humans. Breastfeeding is primarily about preventing illness and helping recover from illness; the nutritional value of milk is a secondary function. Also, contary to your statement, the World Health Organization recommendations are indeed for all children everywhere, in all countries of the world, not just those in Third World countries. And the AAP guidelines recommend a MINIMUM of 12 months of breastfeeding for all US children. That’s the MINIMUM. With no maximum. By your logic, since women in the First World have access to sophisticated NICUs, we should all insist that mothers be induced at 28 weeks and the babies raised in hospital incubators and be fed by IVs.

      Kathy Dettwyler

      May 12, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      • Thank you, Kathy Dettwyler. Now, could you please address the ABM’s comment that this is a disservice to women’s health? The very organization that should support this, has reacted just like the rest of American society. It’s time to stop coddling all those who feel that formula is normal and acceptable and state that extended breastfeeding IS normal and serves to meet a basic human need.

        anonymous IBCLC

        May 12, 2012 at 8:30 pm

      • I do think the ABM is being supportive. I am sure the editors at TIME chose that particular photo for its shock value — to sell magazines. They are not in business to educate or inform people, they are in business to sell magazines and ad space in magazines. In the long run, I think this discussion will be beneficial, even if they could have, and should have, used the other photo of the mom and her son.

        Kathy Dettwyler

        May 13, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    • You are misinformed if you believe that there is no benefit to either the child or the mother after the child is one year old. I would encourage you to do some real research.

      Serenity

      May 12, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    • How arrogant you are to believe that your “1st world country” will provide the best nutrition for your child. Do you even know what other countries diets are like? Given the obesity rate in this “superior” country, you must see that we can’t figure out what good nutrition is!

      zensays

      May 13, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    • I would also like to point out that children over 12 months do not stop putting things in their mouth… it is natural for them to do so as they explore their world. It is also natural for them to touch things and in time, socialize. Thus, the probiotics and antibodies in breast milk are actually still very necessary for toddlers and preschoolers because they allow for exploration while also providing protection.

      Plus, breastfeeding is not just about benefitting a child. It also benefits mothers in the short (lactation amenorrhea helps space kids out and) and long-term (decreased cancer, heart attack and osteoporosis risks). So, even if both mother and child are living in the richest country there is, with the means to purchase and process the most nutritious foods there are… it would still be wiser to breastfeed.

      Mec Camitan Arevalo

      May 16, 2012 at 3:33 am

  17. While I do agree that this photo is designed to provoke, and I haven’t read the article, has anyone who thinks this is not what a normal breastfeeding relationship looks like, ever breastfed a 3-year-old? I have and I have also breastfed a 4-year-old and yes, this is what it often looks like, minus the chair and the “how much longer is this photo-shoot going to last,” expression on the child’s face. Toddler nursing often looks just like this. Moms and babies don’t always cuddle up and nurse in a cradle position. At a typical LLL meeting, including toddlers, you would see a lot of this. :-) Toddler and preschool children who nurse, often run up to mom and stand there for a quick snack.

    What I like about this photo was that it shows that you don’t have to be some madonna-earth-mom-hippie, stereotype in order to attachment parent, and extended nursing does not mean giving up yourself to be there for your child. You can still be a beautiful woman who doesn’t look like she is “just” a mom. Extended nursing is healthy for moms and babies and is it so wrong that people might just associate it with looking as fabulous and dare I say, “cool” as this mom does?

    Laura Spitzfaden, LLLL, IBCLC

    Laura Spitzfaden

    May 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm

  18. Good grief! Calm down! I don’t find anything offensive about the photo – I think they look great.

    It is just a picture of a mom breastfeeding. He really is her son. He really is breastfed. If they chose to pose like that, then why shouldn’t they? I haven’t read the article, but I heard the mother speak on a chat show, and she seemed fully aware of her actions. She didn’t seem the sort who would force her son to bf in a way that he wasn’t ok with. OK – so the picture is posed – but then so are most of the shots taken in a glossy mag. If it was a lifestyle mag with shots of someone’s house, you wouldn’t be spewing teeth because there were no dishes in the sink and the sofa cushions were plumped.

    I bf my elder daughter openly till she was coming up to 2 years old – and then, like lots of other mums, (after comments and looks) we went underground. I didn’t want to feed a 3 year old in public. I personally find the sassy cover refreshing. This Mum is out and proud about her breastfeeding – which is basically what I would have liked to have been in an ideal world. I’m now feeding my younger daughter – she’s under 1 at the moment,but I’m honestly not sure how open I’ll be able to face being as she gets older. Anything that tells the world there are bf-ing mums feeding to term out there is helpful as far as I’m concerned!

    Susan

    May 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    • Susan, I think the commenters and the author are quite calm and thoughtful here and hardly understand why your admonishment is needed. No one says the photo itself is offensive. The author of this article merely pointed out that the three-year-old looks older (I would say he’s five, personally) and the mom in clothing that really shows off her body, so the photo is vaguely sexual in undertone, compared to the way most nursing situations look. The photo was designed to be provocative and it was, and some people think that is at the expense of children who might nurse longer than do now and therefore see a health improvement. Maybe if more commonplace images of moms nursing toddlers are routinely shown to the public, you would not have gotten stares from other moms that forced you to hide your BFing relationship.

      JulieAnn

      May 13, 2012 at 6:08 am

  19. What did the article in Time say though? Was it supportive? Are they possibly just misled?

    Amanda

    May 12, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    • The article is not supportive of attachment parenting at all. I have not read it but saw the interview to the writter. It almost suggests that Dr. Sears’ AP theory has no scientific evidence backing it up and it was his own way to deal with a difficult up bringing.

      Manuela

      May 12, 2012 at 8:53 pm

  20. I love the photo! It didn’t feel sexual at all to me. I am currently breastfeeding my 3&1/2 year old and 3 month old. I’ve often felt a bit lonely with no one physically around me breastfeeding a child this old. Seeing this image for me reaffirmed that I am doing the right thing to listen to my childs needs and to continue nursing. It motivating for myself and my husband to keep it up as at times I have felt a bit discouraged! And yes, my son at times does stand up while he nurses. This isn’t that unrealistic.

    paulineosborne

    May 12, 2012 at 5:20 pm

  21. [...] Time Cover Sells Out Mothers To Sell Magazines [...]

  22. Dang, color me crazy, but I didn’t even notice the kid was in big kid clothes or enormous. I did notice that the mom had a great figure, but that didn’t bother me a bit. I am ELATED that extended breastfeeding is on the cover of TIME! Freaking awesome!!! My kids weaned at 5 and 3. I feel validated. I knew it would bring out pervert comments and I am not happy about that, but such is life. Time to put on the defend the boobies hat.

    fatgirltalks

    May 12, 2012 at 11:11 pm

  23. I’m not sure I agree that this photo was bad. Definitely provocative, and intended to push all the usual buttons. EG, that mom is sexy. Yikes! That boy looks like a five-year-old! His mouth is on a breast! (and would it be as “offensive” if it were a girl rather than a boy?) Etc. But still, those elements are pushable buttons because people have prejudices, and I’m inclined to think that any time people’s prejudices are mirrored back in their faces, it’s a good thing. Let’s get it all out in the open so we can talk about it. Now, did Time actually talk about it, in a real way? From what I’ve read of Time in the past, probably not.
    What pushed my own button was the headline: “Are you mom enough?” Nobody I’ve known who nursed past a year did it to prove anything to anyone, but I’m sure some early weaners think they did. This looks like fanning flames on the fire of antagonism between those who practice differing parenting styles, and I don’t see any benefit to anyone for it. Except the magazine publisher. Though it didn’t manage to convince me to subscribe so I could read the article. I wonder if anyone did.

  24. Like some others, I, too, saw the photo in a different way. What I saw was a young, hip mom with her nursing 3 year-old. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything sexual about it. What I DO think is that the pose (admittedly chosen by a male photographer) was chosen as one of empowerment. Take a look at her body language: she’s in an open posture – she has nothing to hide. She is casual and relaxed. And her gaze is direct, almost as if daring someone to comment to her. To me it says “this is normal, this is good and nothing you say can make me change what I do”. If you read the article about the photos, you’ll find that the photographer researched many iconic images of motherhood and women nursing, including an image of Mary and Jesus. The rest of the photos he took for the article don’t have the power that this cover image has, even though there is another photo of the same woman holding her son in her lap and nursing him. So while the image may have been chosen to shock people, it’s not a bad image. And honestly, any exposure that helps normalize breastfeeding in general is good.

    Now, what IS bad, is the negative phrasing superimposed on the photo. “Are You Mom Enough?” Seriously? Do we have to start the mommy wars again? We all know it’s hard enough to be a parent with all of the information we have thrown at us. The problem with TIME magazine is that they took a subject that needs a serious discussion and public support and made it into an unnecessary challenge to mothers everywhere. A better article would be ‘Why Breastfeeding Should Be the Only Choice You Make For Your Child” and there needs to be an emphasis on the benefits for moms – like lowered breast cancer risk and other health benefits. And while we’re at it, how about introducing the idea that breasts have a function in nature and that to rely on something else is unnatural?

    Jen Robinson

    May 13, 2012 at 12:31 am

    • I cannot help but reply to the insensitive comment, “anything but the breast is unnatural”! I am a married mother of two who did not ever lactate. Literally my milk never came in after the birth of either of my two boys. Both babies were healthy, full term babies. According to such an insensitive and rude comment, I was unnatural for feeding my babies anything but the breast. Are you on crack? I would have been jailed for malnutrition if I had utterly refused to do anything but what I did and that was to feed my boys with what I could, formula!!!!! I took medicine and nursed the boys so that they got colostrum. However they never were full from the colostrum and desired milk. When my milk didn’t come in, what else could I do? God gave me a brain, and I used it-I gave them formula. I got stares and even some rude comments from people about not breast feeding, but it could not be helped. Please be careful about how your reckless defending of a topic can be hurtful to some people. While you may feel weird about breast feeding in public or whatever and get some stares, think about the people who couldn’t nurse at all that really wanted to. By the way, my boys are some of the healthiest kids I know.

      Produced no milk

      May 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      • I’m sorry you had such an extreme reaction to my comment. I was referring to people who think that nursing is unnatural, and that a toddler nursing in specific is unnatural, as that is the way I’ve seen it termed by countless people’s comments all over the ether and on the radio, NOT at people who have medical issues – and I’d consider your situation a medical issue. I’m sorry, too, that you weren’t able to nurse either of your children, and since you don’t give the details I can’t know if you were aware of all of the methods for trying to make it work.

        I personally know what it’s like to not be able to nurse your child – my younger daughter had erosive esophagitis, to the point that she stopped latching and nursing long enough for me to produce enough milk to sustain her. She had lost so much weight and all of her body fat that she almost died, despite the fact that I’d been taking her to the doctor to try to figure out what was wrong with her for months. She had lost height and completely fallen off the growth chart by the time they figured it out, and it was only with the help of my husband (then a PA) who happened to be doing CMEs in Iraq that we figured out what was wrong with her at all. The pediatrician didn’t even want to talk to me about helping me re-lactate, and she had to be on a special ultra-rich formula mix. That and they wanted to do observed feedings because they thought I was deliberately not feeding her. So, I’ve been there. And it crushed me. I was able to re-lactate but only sort of, and my daughter ended up only nursing a little at nap time and bed time until she was 18 months, because that was what my supply could give her, at which point she weaned completely on her own.

        My defending of this topic is hardly reckless. My point is that the breast should always be the first choice, wherever possible and that anyone who chooses formula without trying to breastfeed and without a condition which doesn’t allow them to breastfeed, is choosing something that is not natural. My sister-in-law faces this challenge right now. She is bipolar and has been off meds while nursing (her daughter is 10 months old) but is seeing symptoms return and may have to be on meds. One medication didn’t work, as it gave her an adverse reaction, so the medical provider she saw decided that she should take lithium. Except lithium is contraindicated with breastfeeding. So she has to decide to try to find another medication that will allow her to nurse and maybe only reduce her symptoms or take the lithium and stop nursing. My advice to her was to do her best to find a med that would allow her to nurse but that if she couldn’t, it would be okay to wean her daughter and take the lithium.

        Jen Robinson

        May 15, 2012 at 10:17 am

    • touché

      Debbi

      May 15, 2012 at 12:52 am

  25. Thank you for making sense of this utter madness.
    Breastfeeding is obviously the most natural thing a mother can do with her child & whenever her & her child decide to wean is their business no one else’s!
    As for someone suggesting this behaviour is “deviant”, that just makes me shake my head. It’s hardly devious behaviour nurturing your child, she’s not molesting it for gods sake! Get a life people.

    Ros

    May 13, 2012 at 1:04 am

  26. The author makes the strong point that “It is normal human physiology” to breastfeed for anywhere from 2.5-7 years. Why then go on to criticize this mother for wearing a tank top and slim slacks, or the child for looking ‘enourmous’ or wearing clothing of any particular style? Normal is normal, no matter what the mother or the child looks like — right? The mother in the photo looks healthy and fit, and so does her child — bravo to them.

    Monique

    May 13, 2012 at 6:19 am

  27. We can help normalize breastfeeding our children beyond a year when we stop labeling it as “extended breastfeeding”. “Extended” implies that it’s not normal or beneficial or neccisary, which it is all of the above.

    SweetS

    May 13, 2012 at 7:34 am

  28. [...] has changed? Or am I supposed to abandon myself entirely to my children’s needs? Hell, despite the evidence (link via Best for Babes and KellyMom), society can’t even make up its mind about [...]

  29. [...] Time Cover: ‘Are you Mom Enough?’ When I came across this excellent analysis, I thought it might be interesting to analyse the composition of the controversial Time [...]

  30. Many thanks for all the thoughtful comments about the Time cover and the ensuring controversy. I want to clarify a few points from my initial post, particularly with respect to my comments on how Jamie Lynne Grumet and her son were dressed. I have no argument with anyone wearing skinny jeans or a tank top, and she is clearly a beautiful woman. What concerns me is that the photograph seems designed to “push the buttons” of the many, many Americans who are squeamish about breast-feeding and think that it’s vaguely pornographic to nurse even an infant. And the problem is that I don’t think this cover will be the “aha” moment that leads them to reconsider their prejudices — rather, it simply pours fuel on the fire of uninformed, bigoted responses to normal human physiology. My contention is that Time editors knew that they were waving a red flag in front of that particular charging bull, and they did it anyway — emboldening anti-breastfeeding zealots to lash out online and in restaurants, shopping malls, and parks around the country.

    That said, I’ve been heartened by the outpouring of support for attachment parenting and physiologic breastfeeding (thanks SweetS for removing the phrase “extended breastfeeding” from my vocabulary!) that’s emerged out of this controversy. It has been said that “there is no such think as bad publicity.” This conversation has drawn attention to the importance of physiologic breast-feeding for the health and well-being of mothers and children. Such discussions may well move us toward making physiologic breast-feeding the cultural, as well as biological, norm in America.

    astuebe

    May 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    • If you read the article about the photographer that I mentioned in a previous comment, you’ll see that he freely admits that he chose this pose to emphasize the fact that this is an unusual situation. Yes, it’s designed to provoke a reaction but I don’t think it was done to provoke a reaction that would lead people to say that it was pornographic.

      Additionally, there was an entire BBC “World Have Your Say” program about this issue. The comments that I saw on the FB page for that program included many comments from men who hail from ‘traditional’ societies which were supportive of the cover and mentioned that their own mothers breastfed them until the age of 5 or 6 and felt that it was completely normal. One was from what appeared to be a gentleman in his 50′s or 60′s whose comment was something like “I think this is wonderful thing but give the mother a chair to sit in so she won’t be tired holding her son”. If only these men had a wider audience for hearing their thoughts, perhaps they could influence the way other men think.

      Another comment I saw somewhere was that people routinely tell women to ‘cover up’ while nursing and there seems to be an upswing in the sales of nursing covers. The problem with this is that it would look even more ridiculous for the cover mom to be wearing a nursing cover than if she didn’t, and that nursing covers in general only serve to advertise that one is nursing in public. The comment went on to say that encouraging these nursing covers only reinforces the idea that breastfeeding is something that should be hidden and furthers the sexualization of breasts. What is really needed is a campaign to rid our society of its body shame for women in particular and people in general. Perhaps it can be tied in to a campaign to educate people on what is natural and the fact that nursing babies is what human breasts are designed to do, as opposed to the unnatural use of formula.

      Jen Robinson

      May 13, 2012 at 6:02 pm

  31. Mother of 7, nursed for 21 years…you do the math. Now Mom to 7 incredibly bright, young people…who NEVER needed to see a Dr.(guess it might have been good for their health!) All were AP before there was such a word…and all are joyful and productive members of our society. Happy Mother’s Day!!!

    Jane Harrison

    May 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    • I agree that we should discontinue using the term “extended breastfeeding” Very good point! I am guilty of using this term as well…so thank you SweetS for your perspective on this!!

      Pamela Mckimie, D(AAIM)

      May 13, 2012 at 8:24 pm

  32. I have so many issues with the Time cover…one of which is that it pits women against one another. Thank you for sharing this information. We shared this blog on our weekly “Saturday Sampling” at http://www.stonewritten.com/?p=4031

  33. My 12 yr. old niece commented “it looks like he is picking up food at a drive thru window…..that makes me sad for him.”

    "luckyenoughtobemomenough"

    May 14, 2012 at 5:38 pm

  34. As a CLC and a mom nursing a nearly three year old, I couldn’t disagree more with the negative reaction you had to the cover image. Yes, the photographer was male and yes, this image was posed in a way that would attract attention, but I can only see this public display of something we know to so often be closeted as a good thing. Honestly, I thought it was nice to see an attractive, normal looking (I.e., not hippie) woman breastfeeding. As a 27 year old, I am well aware of the fact that most of my peers do or did not breastfeed exclusively and that number decreases with the mother’s age. If we want young women to initiate and stick with breastfeeding, then we need to show young women doing it; women that they can identify with or hope to be like, not women in their 30′s or 40′s who look more like their mom than someone they would want to be friends with.

    As for the comment “an enormous 3-year-old, dressed in very “big kid” clothes”…to me that sounds like you think it’s only okay to show images of toddlers who look to be younger than their age? How could that possibly help to normalize toddler and preschool nursing? People had a negative reaction to this image because they aren’t used to seeing extended nursing. If we want to normalize extended nursing in our culture, we first need to see it everywhere all the time. It only becomes mundane, normal, and not worth commenting upon or photographing when it is mundane and normal. If we want that to change, we need to see every mother of every child breastfeeding everywhere they go, without nursing covers or other contraptions which shout shame or suggest breastfeeding is something that ought to be hidden. Children’s books should depict new mothers nursing, not using bottles, we need to stop using bottles as a symbol for “baby” on cards, wrapping paper, and the like, and we need to women nursing “enormous children in big kid clothes.” I don’t know how you can possibly support breastfeeding for as long as the mother and baby are willing and be against a public photograph of an older child nursing.

    http://www.amber-hinds.com

    Amber @ Au Coeur

    May 15, 2012 at 11:01 pm

  35. [...] and I can only see that as a positive.  Where some might worry that this has only “brought out a mob of people saying breastfeeding is ‘sick’ and ‘perverted,’”  I thought it was nice to see an attractive, normal looking (I.e., not hippie) woman [...]

  36. [...] Time cover sells out moms to sell magazines [...]

  37. [...] mothers and from several of our colleagues serving breastfeeding mothers, including the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, and Best for [...]

  38. […] has changed? Or am I supposed to abandon myself entirely to my children’s needs? Heck, despite the evidence, society can’t even make up its mind about breastfeeding. Is it good or bad? Perhaps the […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 660 other followers

%d bloggers like this: