I have been pondering the new Time magazing cover that goes with the attachment parenting article over the past few days since I first saw it (admittedly on Facebook). First, no, I did not read the article. I tried to read it (in my defense) online at Time.com, but you must subscribe to READ the article.
What I have read are a few of Dr. Sears books. And I have my own experiences with attachment parenting including baby wearing, co-sleeping, and extended nursing. I know what it is like to seem to be the only one you know of who believes these to be good parenting strategies or techniques.
For me, the picture of the young mother nursing her 3 year-old son doesn’t make me uncomfortable because she is nursing a child who is no longer an infant. No, the picture makes me uncomfortable because her breast is partially exposed. She is exposing a good portion of her breast in an unnatural nursing position with no sense of modesty. The picture is immodest and inappropriate in that regard, and not because a young and pretty mother is nursing a seemingly tall 3-year-old boy. (I do wonder what would have been said if it had been a little girl.)
That Time.com link of the picture did allow web visitors to the site to read another article regarding the very photo shoot that produced the picture that has so many people talking. That article was very enlightening. It talked about how the photographer had many baby and mother combinations, but this particular photo was “the one” because of the very fact that it showed something we aren’t used to seeing. The photographer said they chose that position and the older boy because they knew it would be shocking. It painted, for me, an ugly picture of an attention seeking photographer who was all about getting the picture that would cause a stir, and not about portraying attachment parenting through a picture of a loving nursing mother. And it makes me feel the mother might have shown up for a photography session all about nursing and attachment parenting, but she is left with permanent documentation of her decision to exploit herself and her son for what purpose?
So now we have all this stir. Already bubbling controversies come to a boil, just as the photographer and the editors of the magazine had hoped. They sell lots of magazines and the new media around the world gains another ratings-raising topic to throw around and turn inside out until there is nothing left for any one to uncover, judge, or criticize.
All the while, there are people around the world missing the point of a loving and nursing attachment parenting mother. People all over are dismissing attachment parenting as extreme, crazy, and now even damaging. What a bummer. Because these are not what baby wearing, extended nursing, and co-sleeping have been for me.
For me, wearing my baby in a sling wasn’t about being with the baby 24/7. Carrying my baby in a sling allowed me to have baby right where my babies and I both LOVED having them. At my chest. On my hip. They were easily managed. It took less effort to keep an eye on them. Moving in a crowd with baby but minus a stroller was so much easier.
My motivation for trying the sling came out of necessity. I had a new baby and a toddler. There were regular times every day that the toddler would need me. And invariably those times would land on times when the baby would want me to hold him. So it was a God-send to have a sling that would allow me to keep baby close while serving the toddler at the same time. And before long I realized the sling also allowed me to put in a load of laundry, or start dinner prep with my free hands while the baby stayed close and happy. Heck, I even used the sling to help lull my toddler to nap time when we first transitioned to a single bed instead of the crib. He was resisting staying in bed long enough to fall asleep, so one day I slipped my fussy little guy into the sling and kept on moving. Before I knew it he was asleep, and I could lay him in his bed for a nice nap!
And as far as the extended nursing goes, I am no stranger to breaking new ground where none of my friends or family members have ever gone on the breastfeeding frontier. I have 5 children who all nursed to 24 months, 3 who nursed longer, and 1 who is still nursing at 29 months now. Like some kind of cable company contract, I nursed all of my children with a fully devoted commitment to nursing for the first year, and then from there I would go month-to-month. And when it began to be a power struggle or an obstacle to sleeping soundly at night, I would gently wean them by delaying the nursing time with nursing-free cuddle time. I wouldn’t trade the sweet nursing journeys with any of them for anything.
But this brings me to my point in the first place. Darn you Time Magazine for choosing shock value over serious journalism. Way to fan the fire of early weaning and the continued strain between people who are allergic to knowing a woman is nursing her child in public. When my children reached an age where nursing became a full contact sport (can you say wiggle-mania?) the incidences of public weaning were dramatically reduced. The older my toddlers were, the more private our nursing sessions became. And if a toddler refused to allow me to remain modest and covered while they nursed, then they were popped off faster than they could say, “But Mama!”
So I just have to say, I’m very disappointed. Time got what they wanted – attention. And it’s score 1 for the cry-it-out, early-weaning team. But then, and this is just my humble opinion and experience: modesty and dignity are WAY under-rated today.
Oh, and I can’t believe I actually heard a woman “expert” on the Today Show say that mothers who baby-wear, co-sleep, and extend nursing into toddlerhood are destroying the child’s sense of autonomy. Seriously? Even the boy in the Time picture is just 3. The mother isn’t coming in to his Kindergarten class and nursing him at snack time!
When I was an 8th grade teacher, the helicopter parent who called me to try and talk me into giving her son a break when he hadn’t turned in his project after having repeated chances to work on it and turn it in to me, she may have been doing actual damage — to her son’s sense of responsibility and confidence. And I found out when our niece when to college that they now have added a special orientation class for parents at freshman orientation. They keep the parents in 1 room while the students are taken into another room. Then, they carefully tell the parents that the students are now registering for their classes. Then, they have to immediately stop the parents from storming out to find their child, and they have to remind the parents that the college student is the one who is going to have to show up for and study for the classes, so they need to sign up for the classes themselves. Seriously. What’s next? Attending job interviews with them? I see that as a control issue. But not an attachment parenting issue, my friends.