Is TIME’s Breastfeeding Cover Provocative or Problematic?

55 Comments
May 10, 2012 ‐ By

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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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MFIDIQTSIIHI66IAVJUNTBNG3Q a reasonable person

    Disgusting. A four year old breastfeeding is downright inappropriate. Ms. Grumet had the nerve to admit that the child only does it “once a month”? So…once a month, this child just “feels like” sucking her breasts (if he only “feels like” breastfeeding once a month then he shouldn’t be doing it at all) and she wants people to believe this isn’t sexual? Pa-lease!

  • Guest

    If your child can talk to you, or request feeding, it’s time to give it up. Breastfeeding to stay close to your child is wrong, and damaging. A public article with pictures of your child doing this is also a great way to make them hate you as an adult. Though natural, breastfeeding should be private. There is a reason I can’t stop and pee in the street. It is natural, but a personal, private act.

  • Sophie

    i dont mind breast feeding… just as long as your not all bladoww with it… its a private not public thing.

  • Admin

    “Both want it to last”?

    That right there is  symptomatic of how some parents nowadays neglect to take a leading role in guiding their children along the steps they should take.

    I guess that if a child only “wants” to eat candy, then the parent should allow such an occurrence to take place. Is that how it should be?

    Mothers should take the lead in beginning to wean their child once that child is able to begin to eat solid foods.

    The obvious benefits of breastfeeding are clear. However the sociological and psychological effects of prolonging such contact between mother and child are not so.

    Perhaps extending the breastfeeding cycle is just a way for some mothers to feel closer to their children. There is nothing wrong with that, but let’s simply call it for what it is instead of trying to tout some additional benefit to validate the behavior. 

    It’s merely showcasing what amounts to that mother’s personal decision. T’is all.

  • Mtletang

    There’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding a child as long as you both want it to last.  Because in public you don’t normally see an exposed breast on a mother while breastfeeding, I was a little taken aback, but Jamie Lynne Grumet (the mother photographed) is right:  “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.”  I breastfed my last two sons the longest while working full time.  It lasted to about 3-1/2 years of age.  I will never regret this, and encourage more women to breastfeed.  La Leche League is a wonderful resource for techniques, education, and support.  From my experience, 99.99% of women who say they “couldn’t” breastfeed for various reasons, just didn’t want to ‘bad enough’ in the first place.  Men, support your women.  You will be rewarded by them and your children in ways you cannot even fathom.

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  • Admin

    Scientifically isn’t there an age when the human body begins to become less efficient at processing milk?

    Doesn’t this occur around the time that a full set of teeth is formed in a human child’s mouth? Isn’t that occurrence a sign to wean the child and graduate them to eating solid foods?

    While there might be some small degree of merit in regards to the bonding factor, there are many parents who bond just as well with their children without having to baby them (literally and figuratively).

    In my opinion, I can agree that the mother in question has the right to do whatever she wants, as long as there is not warped intention at the root of her act, but this is setting those children up for a cycle of interdependence.

    • Share

      Why, then, do we switch to cow’s milk? That is what disgusts me more than anything.

  • http://kimster-thatswhatshesaid.blogspot.com/ Kimster

    For decades TIME Magazine has had covers that go down in history with cover photos of presidents, national enemies, actors, social and political figures, scientists, etc. This cover, too, will go into history because it’s such a widespread topic for debate. Breastfeeding is a personal, family choice. If this woman’s view on breastfeeding timespan wasn’t the majority opinon, so be it. But a negative, harsh world is the reality of the world we live in, and while that shouldn’t keep people from being who they are, I wonder if this mother thought about the ramifications of this photo for her son in his future when she moved from just verbally arguing for attachment parenting.

  • FromUR2UB

    Yuuuuck!!  So when will the mom wean herself?

  • RedButterfly81

    I’m all for breastfeeding, but I’m not attaching my almost-4-year-old daughter to my boobs. If I wanna give her my breast milk, I’ll pump it out and serve to her in her fave cup. Plus she haven’t breastfed her since she was 8 months old.

  • Caroneisha

    Okay I have no problem with her breastfeeding her kids, but come on people when did this trend on still sticking your breast into your childs mouth after 13 months come about? Back in the day they did not do that so that’s where I get confused at. Yea black nannies(slaves) would breastfeed white people’s children and her own (if allowed to or if she had time), but I’m sure before they turned 1 at the least they stopped. I’m willing to bet that more then majority of you who agree with breastfeeding a child past 4 year old, wasn’t hanging onto your mother’s breast at that age. They cut you off at what 1 or 2, and it seems the older generation came out jus fine. And what people fail to realize is that if your not taking care of yourself then you serve no purpose in breastfeeding. You can be hurting more then your helping, cause your jus pumping what’s in your body into theirs. Say you have a headache and your breastfeeding you have to consult with a doctor on if you can take that advil or what have you. Because it can harm the child your breastfeeding. I’m not knocking breastfeeding at all, if your doing it in public or at home I could care less where you feed your baby. But after 13 months you should not have a child still sucking on your breast, get a pump or something. I’m jus saying

  • http://www.facebook.com/gdub520 Greg Williams

    shes just doing it because she knows when those runts stop feeding her breast are gonna turn to flapjacks

  • http://www.verizonwireless.com Mortiel

    This is the truth most debates ignore: While the rest of the world may wean a child at 4 years old on average, the rest of the children of the world also nature faster mentally. Children in the USA have little to no world experience before college, hence why many trend to go so wild with that freedom. Many do not even understand the concepts of personal responsibility and accountability until they are past the adult stage. Weaning at age 4 for other countries is fine for their culture because the children mature faster.

    Regarding the photos: Who bloody cares! It’s a woman’s breast. Grow up and get over it or don’t look. The USA has such a backwards approach to a human body… Genitalia is not always viewed sexually. A naked man or woman does not have to be lewd or sexual. This is not the bloody middle ages anymore. We all know what a makes body looks like, and the more controversy things like this bring regarding sex, the more repressed the USA remains.

  • Ladybug94

    I’m amazed that so many who have no problem watch perversions on tv and in your favorite movies have an issue with a mother nursing her children.  Seems a little backwards.

  • dw717888@gmail.com

    Isnt this how NORMAN BATES started …..

  • Dw717888@gmail.com

    Isnt this how NORMAN BATES started……. Whats next be your sons first Piece of behind…

  • annie

    I have read these very odd comments all day. As a breastfeeding mom. It looks very normal to me. This country really needs to get there brains around breastfeeding. Its normal people. And the child is 3 not five. He will eventually give up nursing. I think she is really taking a bold step to end ignorance.  

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MFIDIQTSIIHI66IAVJUNTBNG3Q a reasonable person

      He’s four. Going on 34.

  • Traci

    I believe that mothers should breatfed, but when a child has teeth and can walk and talk..it should be over.  NEW STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT! In one photo the newborn has to compete with big brother for food and that’s not fair to the REAL baby.

  • RebeccaJ-AtheLC

    Too sensitive. As a Lactation Specialist who works within Black and Brown communities to promote, support and educate women and men on the imperative need to breastfeed we have too many taught hang ups about the natural way to feed our infants and supplement our toddlers. I breastfed my first until he was almost 3 y.o. and I’m still breastfeeding my 2 year old. The world breastfeeding cessation age is 4 y.o. Only in America are we so ignorant to natural infant nutrition. Our culture needs to return to what it once was because our babies are getting ill and dying. The longer a mother breastfeeds the better.  Most children self-wean by 4. No big deal and if you feel it’s a big deal work out your sexual perception issues. It’s NOT sexual. The drug companies that make formula have done a great job screwing up our minds.

    • Your_sweet_baby_luv

      Most of the nay-sayers I bet are bottle feeeders…..

    • Tami

      Nothing is wrong with breastfeeding your child, but plastering a picture of a 4 yr old on the cover of a magazine, standing with a tit in his mouth unfortunately is not an image that I want to see. Hell, mothers who just whip it out in public with minimal to no cover is kind of disturbing, even when they’re nursing a baby. I think her point could have been made, without these pictures. Yes breastfeeding creates a bond between mother and child, but I don’t think the whole world needs to be privy to witnessing the act.

    • Share

      I’m with you. If there were statistics, written in plain English, more people would understand the necessity that breastfeeding is. Well said, RJALC.

  • Pivyque

    Waaa Waaa Waaaa…..if the mom doesnt want to breastfeed, she shouldn’t feel pressured to. Are you mom enough shouldn’t be a question. Are you loving, attentive, nurturing and firm enough is more appropriate. 

  • Red

    You wanna breast feed your kid until he’s 40, fine.  That’s your business.  Psycho, but it’s your business.  So keep it your business.   Strutting it out in these pictures with that smug look of defiance is what really pisses me off.  Close your door or do it under your straightjacket, but don’t put yourself out in pictures like these and expect people to hold thier opinions in. 
    Oh, and your kid is going to grow up psycho, too.

  • november rain

    These covers are problematic.  Don’t nobody want to see these grown azz kids latched on to a t*tty.  If you choose to breastfeed until your child until they start college, that’s your business but I don’t need to see that on a cover a magazine.

  • IllyPhilly

    Why does she look annoyed? That picture is terrible because its really weird. The chair, both their expressions. ew. 

  • Rmdavis45

    According too the Bible Issac was weened at age five how ever I do beleive that a child should not go pass 2 years of breast feeding maybe these Moms that do this have emotional problems prolonged breast feeding cause a break down to the breast tissue which most doctors will not tell a woman inturn this causes sagging breast I choose not to breast feed and my breast are still firm at 63 yrs old but to each it’s own 

  • Rmdavis45

    According too the Bible Issac was weened at age five how ever I do beleive that a child should not go pass 2 years of breast feeding maybe these Moms that do this have emotional problems prolonged breast feeding cause a break down to the breast tissue which most doctors will not tell a woman inturn this causes sagging breast I choose not to breast feed and my breast are still firm at 63 yrs old but to each it’s own 

    • Am Andree

      Breastfeeding does not cause sagging breast ! Mine are not sagging (I’m 57) and I breastfed my three children, letting them ween by themselves. The longest was 19 months.

  • Trisha_B

    If you want breast feed your kid until whatever age, ok. But why put yourself & the kid on a magazine cover? The picture that got me was of the mom standing up & the little big standing up in a chair to suck from her breast smh. Thats like a kid standing on a chair to reach the kitchen counter to get his sippy cup. Breast milk provides great nutrients, but why can’t they pump the milk for the kid? Do the nutrients go away once in a cup? I just think it’ll mess up a kid in the long run to be breast fed after 18 months. Theres a lady who breast fed her 8 yr old smh

  • Trisha_B

    If you want breast feed your kid until whatever age, ok. But why put yourself & the kid on a magazine cover? The picture that got me was of the mom standing up & the little big standing up in a chair to suck from her breast smh. Thats like a kid standing on a chair to reach the kitchen counter to get his sippy cup. Breast milk provides great nutrients, but why can’t they pump the milk for the kid? Do the nutrients go away once in a cup? I just think it’ll mess up a kid in the long run to be breast fed after 18 months. Theres a lady who breast fed her 8 yr old smh

  • Jimmy Swaggert

    Ooooh!!!!  Pick me next Mrs. Grumet!!!!  I’m only 3 years old… and I’m reeeaally thirsty!!

  • Jimmy Swaggert

    Ooooh!!!!  Pick me next Mrs. Grumet!!!!  I’m only 3 years old… and I’m reeeaally thirsty!!

  • Gabric

    I breastfeed my oldest until he was nearly 4. He is a well adjusted older elementary aged child. Major health organizations, including the WHO, recommend nursing a child until the pair(mother and child) deem it time. Uninformed opinions about when children “should” and “should not” do this and that based upon appeals to tradition(often piled knee high in ignorance) and/or personal repulsion due to one’s own biases, are unhelpful to us as a people. Too many of us manage to be grossly overweight and paradoxically undernourished.

    In any case, nursing is not simply about physical nurturing. It is also about setting the foundation for a healthy psychological attachment between mother and child. A nursing mother is no “better” than any other mother, and yet, we all can find our own way to appeal to the health and vibrancy of our children. Nursing, and its extended or child weaned form, is a legitimate piece of that puzzle.

    There is no magical age for which one “ought to” stop nursing. For information’s sake though, most children who are allowed naturally ween, do so by age 4. If you believe in a god, or an natural order to the world, perhaps you’d do best taking this element of the human attachment process up with him/her. It is ignorance that finds a mother nursing her young child arbitrarily absurd(“because he/she has teeth”, “can walk”, “can babble”, etc..) but sees no issue dribbling the tainted secretions of a cow’s teet into a child’s food as a supplement for that which has already been provided. Education is necessary.

    On the other hand, this provocative photo will do little for breastfeeding. Indeed, it seems sexualized and voyeuristic. It’s upsetting to me that it was published in a country already so backward that most young nursing mothers must excuse themselves while in a public place, so that they may feed their infant child in piss fumed filthy bathrooms, as to not rouse the unconsciously perverted loins of the neighbors for fear of what they may be thinking.

  • Gabric

    I breastfeed my oldest until he was nearly 4. He is a well adjusted older elementary aged child. Major health organizations, including the WHO, recommend nursing a child until the pair(mother and child) deem it time. Uninformed opinions about when children “should” and “should not” do this and that based upon appeals to tradition(often piled knee high in ignorance) and/or personal repulsion due to one’s own biases, are unhelpful to us as a people. Too many of us manage to be grossly overweight and paradoxically undernourished.

    In any case, nursing is not simply about physical nurturing. It is also about setting the foundation for a healthy psychological attachment between mother and child. A nursing mother is no “better” than any other mother, and yet, we all can find our own way to appeal to the health and vibrancy of our children. Nursing, and its extended or child weaned form, is a legitimate piece of that puzzle.

    There is no magical age for which one “ought to” stop nursing. For information’s sake though, most children who are allowed naturally ween, do so by age 4. If you believe in a god, or an natural order to the world, perhaps you’d do best taking this element of the human attachment process up with him/her. It is ignorance that finds a mother nursing her young child arbitrarily absurd(“because he/she has teeth”, “can walk”, “can babble”, etc..) but sees no issue dribbling the tainted secretions of a cow’s teet into a child’s food as a supplement for that which has already been provided. Education is necessary.

    On the other hand, this provocative photo will do little for breastfeeding. Indeed, it seems sexualized and voyeuristic. It’s upsetting to me that it was published in a country already so backward that most young nursing mothers must excuse themselves while in a public place, so that they may feed their infant child in piss fumed filthy bathrooms, as to not rouse the unconsciously perverted loins of the neighbors for fear of what they may be thinking.

  • just_kellz

    As a young mother who breastfed my daughter until 1 1/2, I feel like if moms want to extend breastfeeding past the average age fine, but don’t have your kid sucking from ur boob still jeez…..there are breast pumps out there so there isn’t an excuse. From my experience after 1 ur child just gets too big and its more uncomfortable than intimate….plus the sucking reflex is stronger and my child had most of her teeth so……yeah lol. This is inappropriate to me.

  • just_kellz

    As a young mother who breastfed my daughter until 1 1/2, I feel like if moms want to extend breastfeeding past the average age fine, but don’t have your kid sucking from ur boob still jeez…..there are breast pumps out there so there isn’t an excuse. From my experience after 1 ur child just gets too big and its more uncomfortable than intimate….plus the sucking reflex is stronger and my child had most of her teeth so……yeah lol. This is inappropriate to me.

  • Msjanell8106

    Breastfeeding a child past 18 months is beyond ridiculous.

  • Msjanell8106

    Breastfeeding a child past 18 months is beyond ridiculous.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JAI4SRENU2A5WKRTELXXYJPDSI Kayla

    Only problem I have is that, eventually the child is going to get older, and not want to be as “attached” to the parents, esp around pre-teen/teen years. This attachment parenting will only lead to the child not maturing. What happens if the boy gets older and has a gf or wife? I hope he won’t turn out like the type  to treat her like his 2nd mother. instead of a woman.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JAI4SRENU2A5WKRTELXXYJPDSI Kayla

    Only problem I have is that, eventually the child is going to get older, and not want to be as “attached” to the parents, esp around pre-teen/teen years. This attachment parenting will only lead to the child not maturing. What happens if the boy gets older and has a gf or wife? I hope he won’t turn out like the type  to treat her like his 2nd mother. instead of a woman.

    • Mls2698

      There are men who are psychologically attached to the breast of their mother. These men will either never marry, or will have a horrible existence in their marriage because of the non detachment issues. The mother is a constant wedge who sees fit to be the one and only person capable of receiving the love of her son. There is no real love of the daughter-in-law, and even less love of the family structure. And, there is no second mother because mommy is #1.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JAI4SRENU2A5WKRTELXXYJPDSI Kayla

        that’s what im afraid of, it doesn’t prepare the child for a time where mommy won’t always be there. 

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MFIDIQTSIIHI66IAVJUNTBNG3Q a reasonable person

        I agree. These men will turn out like Jim Jones and the Chrissy’s will be wondering why the mothers are so crazy and inappropriately attached to their sons.

      • Share

        This child is 4 – not 24. Most people don’t even have memories before the age of 4, and yet the first 5 years are the most important in one’s life. Why, then, are we stressed out about something that provides nutrition and bonding to our babes and toddlers?

  • sweettea

    Those kids are gonna get teased badly. Especially that 4 year old in about 2 years if she doesn’t stop. Kids are cruel

    • Jimmy Swaggert

      Random Kid at School: “Your mom is soooo hot, man!!!”

      Mrs. Grumet Son: “I know right!!  Dude, you have no idea!!!!”

    • Jimmy Swaggert

      Random Kid at School: “Your mom is soooo hot, man!!!”

      Mrs. Grumet Son: “I know right!!  Dude, you have no idea!!!!”

  • dddooonnnttt

    No one else is going to raise my kids, and I’m not raising anyone elses kids. Do your family to way you see fit, the State will come knocking if something seriously wrong is happening. 

  • Msnaimah1985

    I believe that breastfeeding is one of the best sources of nutrition for our children. With all of the hormones being fed to cows its easy to understand why many parents (including myself) opt for breastfeeding. HOWEVER at some point around the age of 1 year old and definitely by the age of 2 years old almost every pediatrician will encourage you to ween your child off of the bottle. So why keep the child on the breast after 2 years old? Living in America, the land of the free to do whatever we want, we live in a perverse society who thrives off of sexual acts and lewd behaviors. So socially sticking a breast in a 5 years old mouth is sexual and perverse (hey we wanted the freedom to do everything under the sun and we got it). Be this an African tribe, an Asian mountainside village minus the VH1 and BET, this act at this age may be appropriate. But we live in the land of sexual predators and breast feeding at 5 years old is sexually perverse. What about milking and then feeding the toddler out of a sippy cup, come on people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jalesa.bussey Ja’lesa Bussey

      Totally Agree. Pump all you want, but to continue to actually feed from the breast is a bit much

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MFIDIQTSIIHI66IAVJUNTBNG3Q a reasonable person

        It’s a bit perverted. I don’t care what excuses these perverts use.

        • Dinna

          What exactly is perverted about it? Doe sthe mother has any pervert thoughts? Or perhaps the child? Or is it you? Who is the pervert here.