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The Good & Bad of TIME Magazine's Breastfeeding Cover

The Good & Bad of TIME Magazine’s Breastfeeding Cover

TIME Magazine’s new breastfeeding cover has people up in arms and it’s easy to see why.  Not only is she nursing a toddler, a known taboo in much of American culture, but she’s also sexed up in tight pants and a killer confident pose that almost says, “I’m anything but a mom”.

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So what are we to make of this mom, known only as the “creepy breastfeeding lady on TIME”?

Well, here’s what we know.  Her name is Jamie Lynne Grumet and she’s the blogger behind I am Not the Babysitter.

Want to know more about her?  Follow Jamie on Facebook and Twitter.  Read her interview in TIME.

She is also the mom to two boys, one by birth and the second by transracial adoption from Ethiopia.  Jaime is an advocate for extended and adoptive breastfeeding and practices many of the principles of attachment parenting that are mentioned in books by author Dr. Bill Sears.

Now, that said.  While I think Jaime is probably a great mom and I respect her as another mom who appreciates attachment parenting.  I have to admit…this campaign is messed up.

Here’s why…

TIME Magazine’s Breastfeeding Cover Shot Dissected

To start, this image creeps me out…for exactly the reasons mentioned on Babble.  Babble nailed it.  TIME is sexualizing breastfeeding (especially extended breastfeeding) and twisting it to seem like something “extreme” and “unnatural”.  This kind of media messaging is exactly why breastfeeding is so taboo in our society.  It’s shown in the media as something sexual and perverse, which is not at all the reality.

For me, a mom who has nursed a near four year old, I don’t think this situation is extreme at all.  The matter of fact is that the way in which the scene was shot is a matter of perverting reality for magazine sales.  The second image of Jamie cradling her son rang more true for nursing moms, but that wasn’t the shot they chose.  TIME magazine chose this shot…one that was obviously set up to show the “extremes” of attachment parenting.

Here we have a very petite mom with a rather large three year old positioned on a chair to dramatize his height and make him look even larger than he actually is.  I’m sure it’s also no accident that this little guy is wearing camo and grey versus a Thomas & Friends T-shirt.  A nice media trick on the part of the TIME staff.  They also sexed up this “hot mom” quite a bit to make her “feminism” and her son’s supposed “masculinity” even more opposite and alarming.  The impression is that this woman, appearing as “un-momly” (read: young, single and date-worthy) as possible, is nursing a full-on “man child”.

Thanks TIME, this image definitely furthers the perception of extended breastfeeding as being “natural” in the eyes of mainstream America. *SARCASM*

I have to say, this image really didn’t do much for creating a positive perception of breastfeeding for new nursing moms.  In fact, it’s probably something that will bring more moms under harsh judgement by family and friends when they decide to nurse.

I’m an Extended Breastfeeding Mom

I feel I can speak to this with a certain level of conviction, since I am an extended breastfeeding mom.  I breastfed my daughter until she was 3 1/2, which I have blogged about here a few times.  In fact, many are not aware, but the World Health Organization and UNICEF actually recommend breastfeeding until age two or longer for nutritional benefits, among a host of other benefits for mother and child.  The absolute minimum in most experts’ opinion is 6 months, yet that seems to be the time when the majority of Americans believe we should absolutely STOP NURSING.  Really?

Read what the U.S. Surgeon General has to say about breastfeeding »

Rather than seeing breasts as purely sexual (which is ridiculous by the way), shouldn’t we be using them for their intended purpose?  Just saying.

As you can probably tell, I’m not fond of the image that TIME chose, but I think this woman did something great that will resonate with some nursing moms despite of the media-skewed message.  She put her breastfeeding choices out there for all to see on the cover of TIME. Very brave…especially in our hyper-sexual, anti-breastfeeding society.  This message could still resonate with a lot of breastfeeding mothers who have trouble making it beyond the shame that’s attached to breastfeeding.  I hope that the conversation that this image has created could at least do that and allow more women to be so open and confident about their experiences and personal choices.  I know it’s motivated me to write this post…and that part of it is good.

As far as the negative press on breastfeeding, I’m more than tired of the shaming and attempts to make extended breastfeeding into something perverse and strange.  It’s not at all what it seems to be in the image above and it certainly isn’t a decision that we need people making for us or shaming us for.

When I first decided that I wanted to nurse my daughter, I set out with the goal of nursing for one whole year.  To me, that would have marked a success.  But after just one month of nursing, the questions already started coming…”When are you going to stop?”

One person told me that “after three months, it just starts to get creepy.”  Another told me that I should stop when my daughter started crawling, another when she starts walking/talking, or how about when she started eating solid foods, or when she start potty training?  It seemed like everyone has their own ideas, but overall, the general message to me was “this isn’t normal”.  From the first week, people pushed me to “break her in to a bottle”, but I held fast…because this mattered to me.

All I can say is that if I went by social norms and standards based on comments like this (which I got a lot of), I would have stopped nursing her at 3 months, since that’s about the time that MOST people seem to agree that nursing turns “perverse” or “unnecessary”.

My point is, the issue isn’t just that extended breastfeeding comes into question, but the fact that breastfeeding as a whole is seen as something strange…something that only a certain kind of mother does.  And that’s just not true.

I don’t know anything about Dr. Sears.  I’m not up on all the latest attachment parenting jazz.  I don’t even know what the so-called basic principles are, but I know this…I do what feels right for me.  And if that means co-sleeping, babywearing and extended breastfeeding, then so be it.  And that’s what every mom should do…what is right for her and her child.  PERIOD.

We shouldn’t have to worry about being “mom enough” and we shouldn’t pressure other moms to mimic our choices.  We shouldn’t have to cave in to suggestions from experts or the pressure of questions from squeamish family members.  Instead, we need to focus in on what is right for us and our child.

DO WHAT FEELS RIGHT FOR YOU.

 

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  • biculturalmama
    May 13, 2012 at 11:15 am

    A very well written post. You bring up good points about how the cover does make it look extreme. The cradling the child is more realistic. I'm sure if the cover showed a dowdy exhausted looking mom  in sweatpants nursing a 3 year old girl while sitting on a couch cradling her, it wouldn't look as extreme – or sell as many magazines. It's true they "sexed" her up, because most of the moms I know don't look or dress like this!

    • biculturalmom
      May 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm

       @biculturalmama Haha!  Yes, they should show what we really look like while breastfeeding…LOL!  This definitely was exaggerated to make a point…and it didn't seem very pro-breastfeeding.

  • BellaVidaLetty
    May 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I lost all respect for Time after this cover.  It's an open invitation to attack a woman for the choices she has made.  My personal opinion is: no woman needs to justify her choices to anyone.  Each woman should do what is right for her and her family.  I'm really sick of seeing women being attacked for their decisions, especially by other women. 
     
    In this instance it is Time magazine who has failed big time.  What kind of question is 'Are you Mom enough?'  as if there is only one right way to parent.  It's an obvious call for attention and all around #FAIL to me. 
     

  • FranciaHenriquezBens
    May 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I actually like this cover. I see myself in it. I do dress like her and I am very skinny. My 11-month- baby boy does actually latch standing up! Hes does in any weird position you could think of, on his knees, laying down etc. I actually don't think she is being sexed up, I think that they are trying to show that you can look sexy and youthful and breastfeed. As I say, I see my baby and I in the cover. What I don't like tough, is the question, "Are you woman enough?"
    I love breastfeeding and in my culture is totally normal, not a taboo at all. (Now I live in USA)

    • biculturalmom
      May 19, 2012 at 3:18 pm

       @FranciaHenriquezBenson Thanks for the alternate perspective Francia.  :)  I definitely agree that moms can be sexy and be moms at the same time.  I also experience my daughter standing, upsidedown, etc. during nursing…so I totally get what you mean.  ;)From TIME’s cover though, I think they were trying to show it as something “perverse” and “extreme” and that’s why it bothers me.  I wish they would have been out to show just how beautiful and special extended breastfeeding is.  ♥  It’s sad that not everyone gets it, but I would love to have more moms embrace it and stop seeing it as something weird and uncomfortable.

  • FranciaHenriquezBens
    May 19, 2012 at 9:39 am

    I meant to say "Are you mom enough?"