As a breastfeeding advocate, I have a bone to pick with TIME magazine. Their most recent cover featuring a mother breastfeeding her 3-year-old son under the heading “Are you mom enough?” is sensational, inflammatory and divisive.
The article, which was about attachment parenting — a method of child-rearing hallmarked by extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby wearing, was accompanied by a photo of a mother clad in slim jeans and a tank top with a serious, almost defiant, look on her face. The three-year-old son looks much older, as he is standing on a chair and looking into the camera.
I don’t have any problems with extended breastfeeding, or attachment parenting, for that matter. I encourage women to breastfeed on a daily basis, because I believe that it is the best choice for baby and mom, but I often encounter skeptical women, who aren’t sure what to expect or if breastfeeding will work for them.
Although I try to spend a portion of every prenatal visit discussing breastfeeding and answering any questions expectant mothers may have, if a woman decides not to breastfeed, I respect her very personal decision.
The TIME cover does the opposite. It fans the flame on an old fight between women. Mothers are often at odds over which is superior — breast- or bottle-feeding, staying at home or working, co-sleeping or letting children cry it out. The list goes on and on. Instead of supporting each other, women tend to attack those who make different parenting choices. TIME’s cover reinforces this negative behavior.
Furthermore, on a very basic level, it does nothing to convey the warm maternal feeling that nursing a child is about. I grew up with parents who were very close to being anti-breastfeeding. When I saw the TIME cover, I could imagine my dad taking one look and saying, “Yup, there’s those freaky, breastfeeding hippies again.”
My parents had negative connotations of breastfeeding, in part because of its associations with the hippie movement, but mostly because they felt that it cut the father out of the picture. When both my sister and I chose to breastfeed our children, I believe we were able to make them see the practice in a more favorable light.
Other photos accompanying the TIME article were less sensational and offered gentler, more accurate photos depicting breastfeeding, but these were buried inside the magazine’s pages.
Instead of applauding various parenting styles in honor of Mother’s Day, TIME chose an incendiary message designed to sell magazines. Let’s offer our patients a different rhetoric by continuing to detail the benefits of breastfeeding in our prenatal encounters.
Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.