Is TIME’s Breastfeeding Cover Provocative or Problematic?

May 10, 2012  |  

TIME magazine has everybody talking about it’s latest cover—and I do mean everybody. Not only is the idea of prolonged breastfeeding and the umbrella topic of “attached parenting” that the cover story explores a very sensitive issue, the art that goes along with it is simply too striking of an image for many to digest.

What’s depicted is Jamie Lynne Grumet, a 26-year-old stay-at-home mom, breastfeeding her 4-year-old son who is huge for his age. Without even delving into the hot-button issue portrayed, responses to the cover can pretty much be summed up with one resounding question, was this necessary? From charges that the the cover exploits breastfeeding rather than celebrates it, to the claim that it’s launching a mommy war, to concerns about how this child will feel once he’s old enough to comprehend the cover (which is an issue his mother will have to answer to not TIME), most are in the park of believing the magazine is trying to come off as supportive of attached parenting while really poking fun at the mother’s on the newsstand.

The so-called mommy war concern is a legitimate one—not so much because of the picture but because of the headline, “are you mommy enough?” That question makes me think of the never-ending battle between stay-at-home and working mothers and how each side tends to think they’re the stronger parent for the lifestyle they’ve chosen as mothers. Suggesting mothers who breastfeed their kids well beyond the typical nursing years somehow goes above and beyond the call of duty is encouraging to women who do it and offensive to others who don’t feel the need to attach to their kids in this way.

Posing in this way also somewhat adds to the argument many have that nursing a child this old is just downright inappropriate. To see children sucking on their mother’s breast for no reason in the photo shoot conjures up ideas in observer’s heads about this practice being an indecent or lewd act, which some already feels it is, and this cover doesn’t do much to distract from that. Reading the women’s stories though, it’s easy to see why they don’t have a problem being open about their attachment style of parenting. Grumet was actually breastfed until the time she was six and when she was in the process of adopting Aman, the son seen with her in the photo, she became pregnant. By the time the adoption was final, she was also able to begin breastfeeding Aman.

“Being able to give him that [comfort] with the trauma that he faced was really, really important to me,” she told TIME. “But I didn’t realize how much it would help my attachment to him. When his English improved, because the connection was there, he didn’t do it as much. So now he’ll do it maybe once a month.”

As far as naysayers to the practice, many more of which will likely come out after seeing this cover article, Grumet says she’s secure in her parenting style.

“The[re] are people who tell me they’re going to call social services on me or that it’s child molestation. I really don’t think I can reason with those people. But as far as someone who says they’re uncomfortable with this, I don’t think it’s wrong to admit this. But people have to realize this is biologically normal. It’s not socially normal. The more people see it, the more it’ll become normal in our culture. That’s what I’m hoping. I want people to see it.

“There seems to be a war going on between conventional parenting and attachment parenting, and that’s what I want to avoid. I want everyone to be encouraging. We’re not on opposing teams. We all need to be encouraging to each other, and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job at that.”

This cover probably won’t help that effort.

What do you think about the TIME’s cover? Do you think it will further divide people on this issue or help them see it in a new light?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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