My Take on the TIME Magazine Cover: Are you Mom Enough?

TIME magazine’s recent publication displays a mother breastfeeding her 3 year old child. The thought process behind the now very controversial cover was to promote the benefits of “Attachment Parenting”, a philosophy founded by Dr. William Sears. What wasn’t expected was the outcry from both sides of the spectrum, parents and parenting experts alike. It seems as if everyone has an opinion about what this cover truly says.

Dr. Bill Sears defines attachment parenting as follows:

“Attachment is a special bond between parent and child; a feeling that draws you magnet-like to your baby; a relationship that when felt to its deepest degree causes the mother to feel that the baby is a part of her. This feeling is so strong that, at least in the early months, the attached mother feels complete when she is with her baby and incomplete if they are apart. Attachment means that a mother and baby are in harmony with each other.  When the baby gives a cue, such as crying or facial expressions, signifying a need, the mother, because she is open to the baby’s cues, responds.”   –Dr. Sears 

Although I respect the thought process behind attachment parenting, and feel there are many wonderful attributes to the method, I fear the message that attachment parenting sends to parents who are unable to be with their baby 24/7. Dr. Sears states that it is all about balance, finding the method that will work best for your individual family. Does this however bring up issues of feeling inadequate if a mother is not able to attend to her baby’s every need for whatever reason? Does that mean she isn’t “Mom Enough”?

I have asked various colleagues of mine as well as mothers in general, to weigh in on their thoughts about this bold cover. It seems the overall census in the breastfeeding world is that, although we are thrilled it is bringing attention to the health benefits of breastfeeding, it also is bringing a lot of negative attention to breastfeeding, which is NOT going to help encourage mothers who may be on the fence about this very personal choice. Some professionals feel the cover says: ” Don’t Bully Me about Breastfeeding” others feel it sends a provocative message about breastfeeding, where others feel it is showing an unhealthy psychological view of the process. It raises another very interesting topic of when is a baby too old to breastfeed? My main concern is I feel that this publication may have, unfortunately, set us back in the promotion of healthy breastfeeding and positive mother baby bonding. This hasn’t helped the cause, if anything the plan has backfired!

The Today show asked over 122,000 people their thoughts on the cover: 27% felt it was great 73% said they didn’t want to see it. So what message are we sending to the public?

If this article was truly about attachment parenting, I wish they would have chosen a more nurturing pose. Breastfeeding is only one aspect of the philosophy. There is so many other avenues the magazine could have gone such as co-sleeping, baby wearing, etc…yet they choose to show a woman standing in a very dominant pose with a child, not a baby, on a stool glaring at the camera. If their point was to bring attention to the child led, parent bonding method, this picture was a shot in the dark. Their point was very much missed.

So what is my take on the whole thing you may ask? I understand the thought process of why the article and photo was done, the editors wanted to chose a picture that would provide a shock value. Mission accomplished TIME magazine! However why couldn’t the mother be cradling her son? Why couldn’t they have displayed the heart of the matter, creating a nurturing environment that supports meeting your children’s needs? Why did they have to show breastfeeding, which is such an important aspect in both a mother and baby’s life, as something that could cause such controversy making it uncomfortable for women to maybe feel the freedom to breastfeed their children to an age that is comfortable for both of them?

Judy Arnall, president of Attachment Parenting Canada states: “We know that kids become independent by indulging their dependency needs. If kids want extra cuddling, breastfeeding and hugging to feel secure, we say do it. They don’t have to be pushed to independence. They’ll get there on their own timetable.”

Mayim Bialik, best know for her roles as ‘Blossom” and “Amy” in the Big Bang Theory, who holds a PH.D if Neuroscience and is the recent author of “Beyond the Sling”, mentioned that while in graduate school studying the hormones of human attachment as part of her thesis, she started seeing the results of these kinds of parenting choices. What will be interesting to see is what kind of results will form as these children enter school and eventual mature into adulthood. Will attachment parenting prove to be the most beneficial method for preparing kids for the future or is the child-led method inhibiting them to face the trials of the real world?

I am all for supporting the maternal/infant bond. Overwhelming evidence has shown that. I do feel that children need some form of structure and boundaries, all of which can be taught and displayed in a very loving way. Children strive on routine, structure, boundaries, and security. If we are constantly allowing the children to make all the decisions, giving in to every whim, are we doing a disservice to these children by not teaching them about the realness that the world will bring them? Dr. Sears was right when he said it is about balance… we need a balance of structure and love and nurture.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)  has just recently reaffirmed its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for up to 2 years of age or beyond in support of the importance for women’s health. So the biggest issue is not what is best for society and their views, we need to be respectful of what is best for these mothers and their children.


Copyright© 2012 Danielle Gauss,IBCLC,ICCE/ All Rights Reserved

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