I woke up this morning to the above-pictured Time magazine cover and accompanying media storm. On the one hand, I love it. Breastfeeding is a normal thing, healthy both biologically and emotionally for mother and child. And the World Health Organization recommends that women nurse their children at least until age two for optimum health and development.
That’s why on the surface it’s confusing why such a photograph would be labeled by the Media as “controversial,” “shocking,” or “provocative.” Until I remember that it’s par for the course in our culture to sexualize every possible thing we can. Let’s face it, the fact that breastfeeding #1 involves breasts, and #2 in our society is typically relegated to bedrooms, out-of-the-way corners, and even bathrooms, causes certain people to view it as a subset of sex. Sad, but true.
It’s not clear that the photographer even intended the images to carry sexual overtones. An interview with photographer Martin Schoeller on Time’s website said he modeled them after “religious images of the Madonna and Child.” If you take a look at this beautiful collection of religious art depicting Mary and Jesus, I think you’ll agree with me that Schoeller’s images are tame by comparison.
However, the photo’s caption makes the magazine’s position clear, accusing attachment parenting of “driv[ing] some women to extremes.” The reason for the negative portrayal of breastfeeding past infanthood is obvious from the associated article title: “Are You Mom Enough?” Earlier this year, a similar interview with a Hollywood star who practices attachment parenting opened with the telling line, “Mayim Bialik parents in a way that makes the rest of us look like slackers.”
Why are we threatened by people who parent differently from how we do? Why do we feel this need to put down other people to make ourselves feel better? We’re all different people, part of different families, and in different circumstances. We all make choices about how to raise our children, and I like to think most of us make those choices carefully, with our children’s welfare and happiness in mind.
Yes, I breastfed my daughter until she was at least as old as the boy in the picture. But no, I don’t think you’re not “mom enough” if you didn’t. Let’s stop judging one another and start celebrating together the many different and beautiful ways we love and nurture our children.