Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Thoughts on the Infamous Time Magazine Breastfeeding Cover

By now everyone's gotten an eyeful of Time Magazine's latest cover featuring a MILF suckling a 3-year old boy standing on chair. (If you haven't follow the link and then come back here so we can continue this discussion on equal footing.) If you're like me, you had a bit of a shocked and confused initial reaction and then you scolded yourself for being shocked and confused about something so natural and then, if you're like me, you wondered WHY you were shocked and confused. That is, again, if you're like me. And so this post is all about WHY I was shocked and confused and maybe a little bit annoyed by that picture.

I've read the comments and I know why other people are shocked and confused. They see this boy dressed in grownup clothes standing in a grownup stance suckling on a grownup woman and it seems somehow sexual to them. This is not my issue. To me, this picture is not sexual at all. This child is nowhere near puberty and the pose isn't the least bit sexual. It's not even intimate except for the mouth to boob contact and that, I think is one of the things that bothers me. Because nursing is intimate.

It took me a minute to realize exactly what was going on in the picture because the pose is so discordant with the idea of nursing a child in my mind. I have nursed three children now, my mother nursed us all and I was well past the age of knowing what was going on as she nursed my younger sisters and I've never seen such a cold, impersonal, nursing stance. That kid could be nursing off of any woman off the street. When you nurse your child (in my mind) they should be in your arms. You should be looking at them and they at you, not at a camera. (Or their eyes should be closed, rolling back in that blissful state approaching the milk drunk.)  I mean seriously, if you're going to nurse like that, you might as well pump.

This picture is provocative in so many ways. This kid in his cammo pants and his mom almost look combative, challenging. And they don't look challenging to all the "cover your boobs" people; no, the message here is not to people who can't stand the sight of a breastfeeding woman. The challenge is for the rest of us: Those who do breast feed our children but under cover and in the privacy of our own homes; those who wean at 6 months, a year, even two years. The message is, "You are inadequate, you are not the mom I am." And of course, I believe that's exactly what Time Magazine is going for. I haven't read the article (I probably only will if the magazine makes its way to the free stack in the pediatrician's office.) but I suspect that's what it's about- The ridiculous contest this generation's mothers seems to be having to adhere to the most extreme parenting style imaginable.

Now I agree with most of the ideas behind attachment parenting. I always have, even before I knew it had a name (and WHY does everything have to have a name these days?), but parenting isn't a competition. Even Dr. Sears says you have to do what works for your family. My teenagers co-slept till they were 3, but only nursed for a year, until my milk dried up from too much formula supplementation - I had to work to support them and they just didn't have very good pumps in those days. I tried co-sleeping with my current little one, but my back was killing me and he just wasn't sleeping at night. I set up a crib next to the bed where we can gaze at each other and we both sleep perfectly. I feel confident that he and I will nurse much longer than a year, since I now have to work only one day a week and my double electric breast pump fills TWO bottles in 20 minutes flat - especially when I'm engorged after spending 5 hours training dogs on Saturday morning and that's all he needs for the week because I'm with him every other minute. Same mom, different infancies, different moms... well, you get the point. We work with what we've got.

But I digress.

The other thought I had viewing the this image was - she's been breastfeeding for three years and her boobs look like that? Damn genetics. Damn airbrushing.

Still not a freaking contest.