Thursday, May 17, 2012

Are You Mom Enough?

Some of you may have seen or at least heard about the latest cover of TIME magazine.  The issue is titled "Are you Mom Enough?  Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes and how Dr Bill Sears became their guru" and it features an image of a mother breastfeeding her three year old son. 

The magazine came to my attention because one of the four mothers photographed for it is Dionna of Code Name: Mama, one of the few parenting blogs that I make time to regularly follow.  (You may remember I posted an article there as a guest blogger on The Big Lessons I've learned on my parenting journey.)  Not surprisingly, the cover has sparked a flurry of debate with many applauding the photos for normalizing something so well, normal, and others are calling it gross, weird and freaky.

Now I certainly don't love the cover photo because it does nothing to capture the essence of a breastfeeding relationship and most of us just wouldn't find ourselves in poses like this one. However, much of the advertising in our culture is far more risque than this cover and I get more than a little irritated that people are so uncomfortable with breasts doing what it is that breasts were meant to do. 

The title, "Are you mom enough?" suggests that there is a competition between mothers for who can be the best, make the most sacrifices, etc.  It feeds the notion of guilt that plagues so many mothers for not being able to breastfeed as long as they'd like, for having to return to work or for the myriad of other ways we can't live up to our ideals every day.

The article associated with the cover is actually entitled "The Man Who Remade Motherhood" and has surprisingly little to do with the "Mom Enough" tag-line or its provocative photo.  In a poorly written piece filled with irrelevant details, the author attempts to profile Dr William Sears, a long time advocate for attachment parenting.  While neglecting to explore any details of attachment parenting, she seems to conclude (with some pretty unscientific reasoning and no demonstrated research) that the practice is arduous and the science misunderstood.

Its not the article that people are talking about though.  It's the headline and the photo and what they suggest about attachment parenting and extended nursing that seem to have the nation in a tither.  

Attachment parenting is about breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing and gentle discipline techniques, among other things.  It is motivated by a desire to raise well adjusted children by meeting their emotional needs from infancy and by not forcing independence at a young age.  There is nothing new or modern about these ideas. I've always been drawn to the concepts of attachment parenting but choosing a particular method of parenting doesn't make anyone"more mom" than anyone else.

There is nothing extreme about nursing a toddler.  The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding beyond infancy.  Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding and appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age and beyond. Anthropological research suggests that three years or older may be a reasonable and appropriate age of weaning for humans.  

I breastfeed two children - a seven month and a two and a half year old.  I do it because it meets the needs of my children and because Riker chooses to continue nursing.  It diffuses negative feelings toward a new baby, offers me a tool to calm a rowdy toddler, gives me some extra quiet time in the day, provides nutrition to both of my children and gives Riker comforting mama time.  There's nothing gross, weird or freaky about that.  

These articles have simply fueled a debate that's been raging for decades.  The media is abuzz trying to establish how long it's socially acceptable to breastfeed a child, but the duration of the breastfeeding relationship should be decided by the people in each individual breastfeeding relationship.  Every mother is "mom enough" - we just need all of the support and information we can get without the media fueling our insecurities.

There is nothing extreme about attachment parenting.  There is nothing extreme about extended breastfeeding.  The lengths TIME will go to to sell magazines however, are nothing short of extreme.  

Read more:
Principles of Attachment Parenting
What Attachment Parenting is Not
Why TIME Magazine Shows Attachment Parenting is Going Mainstream, Not Extreme


  1. Every woman has the right to choose! Mothers who choose to breastfeed toddlers are just as good of Moms as the ones who never breastfeed at all. Although I was disturbed when I was a waitress and witnessed a Mother breastfeeding her 3 - 4 year old. I wasn't disturbed that she choose to breastfeed her toddler in public it was the fact that he ordered hotdog and carrots and while eating he would lift his Moms top for a drink of milk. I thought that was extremely inappropriate. Am I wrong in thinking that way? I've always wondered what other people think about that.

    1. Boyden,
      Well I can certainly see how it's confronting to see a four year old lifting up his mom's top to nurse while in a restaurant because it's just not something we see every day. I don't think it's necessarily inappropriate but I would certainly be trying other things to avoid that situation with a nursing toddler. If he's just been hurt or needs comfort it's one thing but I know I'd prefer to have my toddler drinking from a cup so that I can enjoy my meal!

  2. Wonderful article Jenn. Oz misses you!

    1. Thanks for reading Deb...miss you too!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading. This whole saga has been bugging me for days so I just had to put fingers to keys! Hope you guys are well!

  4. millie2:42 AM

    great piece jenn :)