Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who's "still" nursing?

Well, here it is.  The cover of Time Magazine for May 2012.   I'd say its a pretty great cover considering the point of a magazine cover is to draw attention, and boy, has it.  A thin model-like woman breast feeding a nearly four year old boy.  Of course they chose a pretty young woman and of course they chose a pretty young woman with a child that looks more man than child.  And of course they are in a position that one would never use to breast feed a child so we can all see exactly how big the boy is.  I do appreciate TIME magazine covering extended breast feeding and am glad that it is getting publicity, but they could have done a better job if they really wanted to.  But they didn't really want to, they wanted to shock.  

I absolutely believe that extended breast feeding (breast feeding beyond the age of one year) should be seen as normal and should be talked about but I really think TIME missed the mark on this one.  I believe this is a step back.  This is not going to make anyone see that breast feeding a nearly four year old is normal or natural.  There is not much natural about the picture to begin with.  Here are some pictures that I think better deserve a cover of a magazine and an article on parenting.

this child is also three

The only way we Americans are going to see "awkward" things as normal, natural, and beautiful is to be exposed to them in positive, reassuring ways.  If you talk to a mom who breast fed her children into toddlerhood or beyond and talks positively about it, you are likely going to think good thoughts about that situation.  Myself for example, I always knew I wanted to breast feed my child beyond infancy because I was breast fed until I was two and a half.  My mom always talked about it in a joyful way, telling me that she enjoyed it and I know how healthy I am and how healthy she is partially because of breast feeding, so I knew I wanted to do it too.  We need to encourage one another in our abilities and choices.  Not make it into a competition or laughing stock (thank you, Saturday Night Live).

Which leads me to the subtitle.  Why is it that here in America we have to make everything out to be a competition?  The subtitle says "Are you mom enough?"  I never knew I could be more of a mom than someone else.  Either you are a mom or you are not, there are not degrees of motherhood.  And just because the skinny blonde can breast feed till almost four years old does not mean that everyone can or will.  If you breast feed till four, that is great!  Good for you!  If you breast feed till two, that is great!  Good for you!  If you breast feed for one year, that is great!  Good for you!  And if you bottle feed because you or your child needs it, that is great!  Good for you!  Making someone feel inadequate or making it into a competition where you measure yourself up to what everyone else is doing is a big step backward.

The cover also says "Why Attachment Parenting drives some mothers to extremes.."  Which is a condemnation of extended breast feeding in my opinion.  It is saying that anyone who breast feeds till three or four years old is "extreme".  Maybe it is here, but it really isn't that extreme in other parts of the world.  Why also do we have to follow some method of parenting to "extremes" anyway?  Can we not think for ourselves?  We have to have Dr. Sears or the Ezzos or Ferber telling us what to do with our child every moment of the day?  Why can't we do what is natural to us and what makes sense for our family?  Why do we so often do things just because our friend told us to, or not to, or because Grandma told us to, or not to, or because some author who doesn't know me told me to, or not to?  I think if we take a step back and start looking at parenting truly as family centered (what is best for MY family, regardless of what my neighbor does) then we would have a lot more happy parents and children, and we would have a whole lot more peace about our personal decisions.

Lots of moms all over the world are still nursing, or nursing for the first time, or nursing for the last time. More people than we know are still nursing because they only nurse at home and don't talk about it for fear their friends and strangers will think they are weird.  But it isn't weird, its just weird to our culture.  I was recently called a "third world country mama" teasingly by a friend who found out I am "still" nursing.  Yet there are many other cultures, not just third-world cultures that nurse way longer than Americans do.  Most Europeans wouldn't bat an eye at a two year old nursing.  Maybe we will catch up some day, then we will start having some more positive experiences to share of people who are "still" nursing.

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