Written by Lisa Mandell, IBCLC, Secretary ILCA Board of Directors
By now, many of you have heard about, seen, and talked about Time Magazine’s recent cover featuring a mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son. The cover photo accompanied a story about Attachment Parenting and Dr. Bill Sears. There have been numerous blog posts written on the topic already from major media outlets such as USA Today and the Huffington Post, from breastfeeding mothers and from several of our colleagues serving breastfeeding mothers, including the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, and Best for Babes.
ILCA would like to remind all of us that breastfeeding beyond infancy is normal, and in many parts of the world, children wean typically between 2 and 5 years of age. As members of ILCA, we do not want to be any part of pitting one mother or her choices in parenting against another mother, as the Time cover encourages. We endeavor to provide and disseminate evidence-based information on breastfeeding, including breastfeeding beyond infancy. We encourage greater support for all mothers and families, from governments, employers, and society. And we welcome the discussion this opportunistic cover has started. Let’s continue that discussion with mothers, clients, friends, acquaintances, employers, health care professionals, even the stranger in front of us in the checkout line. We will help all mothers by continuing to explain the normalcy of breastfeeding, the continued benefits of breastfeeding until the child weans, and the need to support all mothers.
As a lactation counselor, I, too, support mothers to breast feed as long as she and her her child desire. My concern with this picture is the child who is shown breastfeeding at age three. What effect will this article have on him as he matures. He will always be known as “that boy”. His name may have been withheld, but not the mothers, so he can be identified. I admire the mother for wanting to advocate for breastfeeding beyond the first year, but did she or the magagzine, consider the boy and his feelings in the future? What will he think when he’s in high school or college, or when kids tease him? Just a thought and concern for him.
Nita, I genuinely appreciate your concern for my son. However, I hope you also respect that my family made this decision and did not take it lightly. It is unfortunately that TIME used a image that does not reflect the poses we actually were attempting to do in the shoot, and a title that goes against what the message of all of the families participating wanted to say. However, it was important for us (as you know and already stated) to be a family that stepped out of the shadows and said this is NORMAL. I am amazed at some of the parents that have taken this opportunity (as sensationalist as it may have started out to be) and really educated people on true “attachment parenting” or breastfeeding past infancy. I am holding on in good faith that education will prevail from all of this.
And my son, please do not worry about him. He will be fine. My children travel with us and are home schooled. We are hoping in the next few years to be spending the majority of our time in communities that do not have mainstream media. My children are definitely not getting a fully westernized childhood, and that is another reason we were glad to be one of the first to step out and say something about this issue. It should not matter if your children go to conventional school or not, this should not be a shameful act.
(also my mother was a “lactivist” with me and people worried about the same bullying for me that they worry about for my son….and I am so proud of my mother for doing what she knew was right for our family and being outspoken)
Thanks you, ILCA and Lisa, for this blog piece. And thank you, Jamie, for another thoughtful and articulate explanation about your family’s decision to participate in an article about attachment parenting.
Many sons of lactation consultants grow up proud of their beginnings and are active in promoting breastfeeding. I can easily imagine that this young man will do the same. Thank you, Lisa and ILCA, for starting this new venture.
I, too, nursed my children into toddllerhood, but never while s/he stood on a chair. What an inflamatory photo. Shame on Time for presenting breastfeeding this way (and to this mother for agreeing to be photographed this way).
Thank Lisa for a wonderful article and for the reminder to support moms in their choices. I also applaud Jamie for stepping out and doing this for our breastfeeding community. As she states above she feels the choice of picture by Time was unfortunate. I openly nursed my youngest until the age of 4.5 yrs anywhere he needed when I felt it was OK – public or not. More moms need to see that nursing at any age is actually normal.
As far as Marian’s comment stating that the mother should be ashamed of herself for agreeing to being photographed that way: While I agree that Time chose poorly and likely for shock value (and sales), and their ‘Are You Mom Enough’ comment was inappropriate, I find it very sad, inappropriate and rude for anyone to shame Jamie for doing the photo shoot or for agreeing to be photographed that way. Clearly Marian must not have read Jamie’s comments above to see her position on the matter. Comments telling any person they should be ashamed of themselves in a public forum like this are how we eat our young – it’s is not right – it is not kind – it is not professional.
Lastly, I honestly like the picture…not the verbage that Time put with it…but I like the picture! I see it as “I’m breastfeeding my kid – deal with it!” And frankly, since so many of my clients deal with the nonsense of others telling them they should be ashamed to nurse at all, in public, past 6 months or whatever, I suggest that they tell people to deal with it: If you don’t like that I am nursing my kid – DON’T LOOK!
yahoo…girl… you are right on