An Open Letter to TIME Magazine

My version of TIME’s cover: breastfeeding my son at 2-years-old.

 

Really, TIME Magazine?  Really??  Here are some of the sentiments you’ve inspired:

“Cut the cord!”

“Disgusting!”

“Perverted!”

“Self-righteous!”

“Pedophiles!”

“that kid isnt being raised in the jungle and im sure theres a mcdonalds close by..save the boobs for infants and men not toddlers!” (<— Actual quote.)

 

I woke up to these descriptions of myself & many of my friends yesterday morning, when your “controversial” new cover exploded all over the Internet.  The backlash has been predictably strong, & it is inherently aimed not just at the stunning woman nursing her child on the cover, but all women who practice Attachment Parentingfull-term breastfeeding.  Thank you, TIME, for doing a seemingly sensationalist piece, generously setting AP parents up to be gawked at like freaks.  Thank you, because no matter how negatively you attempt to spin it, our culture needs to see breastfeeding, & someone is bound to gain some wisdom from it.

 

Granted, I haven’t read the full article because it’s not out yet; I’ve just seen the cover & read some blurbs, but I can only imagine the shock & awe responses it has garnished were your intent.  It’s laughable yet heartbreaking to see the horrified reaction of the public to something as healthy as breastfeeding a 3-year-old.  All female mammals breastfeed until their young are ready to wean— but when a human female does it, she is berated & harassed.

 

By Holly Hall

 

I’m going to use the word ignorant— it means “lacking knowledge.”  People are ignorant about normal, healthy breastfeeding.  People really don’t like to hear that or admit it, but they are ignorant.  They say things like, “That’s not healthy!” when, actually, breastfeeding a 3-year-old is healthy— epically healthier than giving a child cow breast milk (from a cow full of growth hormones & antibiotics).  Breast milk also kills cancer, so there’s that.  Breastfeeding promotes attachment & bonding, which makes it mentally healthy too.  In the second year of breastfeeding, breast milk provides:

-29% of energy requirements

-43% protein requirements

-36% of calcium requirements

-75% of vitamin A requirements

-76% folate requirements

-94% vitamin B12 requirements

-60% vitamin C requirements.

 

Yet mothers who choose to provide their child with this healthy lifestyle are hassled about it regularly.  We hear accusations like, “Mom needs to let go!” when, actually, I would be fine with my son weaning presently.  But I continue to breastfeed because he asks, & because I have been researching this topic for over four years & I am aware of the plethora of facts that support full-term breastfeeding.  It is an educated, empowered choice that I am proud of.   Also, why in the world should I be in a hurry to kick my not-even-4-year-old child out of the nest?  I love having him near me.  I understand the importance of the first 3 years of a child’s life to their overall development, so my intention has been to keep my son close & securely bonded for at least as long.  It doesn’t make me a hysterical clingy mother.  It makes me informed & doing what I think is best.  No attempts at shaming with taunts of “cut the cord” will change my decisions.

 

My son will be 4 at the end of May.  That is around the natural weaning age; it’s normal throughout the world.  He asks to nurse once or twice a week these days, & only for a minute.  I learned from the many horrible comments online that some people believe an older child who is still breastfeeding is not eating any solid food…  Oh dear goodness.  My child eats food.  I gave him solid food after 6 months as recommended, but he wasn’t really interested until about 10 months.  He eats a lot.  You know how some children drink glasses of cow milk in addition to eating solid food?  Breastfeeding a toddler is kind of like that, except there’s an emotional aspect beyond hydration.

 

Women should be breastfeeding for at least two years, according to the World Health Organization & UNICEFNot breastfeeding for at least two years increases your child’s risk of various diseases.  The natural weaning age  is anywhere from 2.5 to 7 years, so what the woman on the cover was doing was perfectly normal, natural, & healthy.

 

Except for the glaringly baiting, manipulative way it was set up.  You made the entire thing tabloid-esque, TIME.  Jamie Lynn Grumet is a beautiful woman who is a great representative to educate people about AP.  She was breastfed until she was 6, & she breastfed both her biological & adopted child.  She’s a champ!  But the other photos from the same shoot are more accurate representations of what full-term nursing looks like.  Although I think Grumet is awesome for putting herself out there & working to inform people, I am disappointed with your choice to use the typical sexualized, thin white woman, especially since it’s an issue we desperately need normalized.  One of the major reasons women in the US don’t breastfeed (aside from our terrible maternity leave) is the over-sexualization of breasts.  With your choice you made it easy for people to sexualize breastfeeding, which they did, & which I can only guess was the intent.  There are many other, more realistic examples of breastfeeding women out there.  Also, we usually do not nurse our children while they are standing on a chair, nor do our kids’ faces generally display a look of “Do I really have to?”  I don’t find the cover image shocking personally, because I think breastfeeding ROCKS & I am happy when it’s done fearlessly.  But your intentions were clear.

 

The photo really is not my issue though.  Use whoever you want & pose them however you want.  It’s the loaded words that are greatly disappointing.  ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH— mom enough for what??  “Mom enough” to breastfeed as is recommended by major health organizations?  It has nothing to do with being “mom enough;” that is your imprudent fabrication, clearly aimed at alienating.  People, in the US especially, often do not know that child-led weaning is normal & healthy, so really it’s an issue of being informed & able enough.  If they knew it was recommended & healthy, maybe they wouldn’t have such a disgusted & horrified reaction to the idea.  Transparently attempting to pit mothers against each other with inflammatory language is such a low blow, I can’t help but picture snickering editors wickedly rubbing their hands together, imagining the debate & upset caused by their deliberate wording.  Trying to inspire “mommy wars” is pathetic, & shows your true regard to your readers.

 

The subtitle under the headline is inflammatory ignorance at its finest: “Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes.”  What is extreme about breastfeeding my child in the NORMAL & RECOMMENDED way?  What is extreme about employing a parenting style that has been thoroughly researched, fosters healthy attachment, prevents child abuse, produces independent, well-adjusted kids & a healthier society?

 

By Jennifer Tite. She writes: “My kitties’ mother being ‘extreme.’ They’re the equivalent of a ~4 year old here, and practically as big as her.”

 

 

You may think it’s extreme because our culture is absurdly obsessed with forcing independence on children, rather than nurturing them in a healthy way.  It is not “extreme” by the definition of the word— not according to how most cultures around the world have practiced child rearing since the beginning of their existence.  The majority of people in the US (or at least those taking polls & expressing their opinions freely) seem to have a viciously strong reaction against the idea of “over” nurturing kids.  “My parents whooped me & I’ll whoop my kids” is a much more popular sentiment than responding peacefully & gently to children, understanding that their behavior, though sometimes frustrating, is developmentally appropriate.  The US also has the highest rate of child abuse & child murder in the developed world.

 

The ignorance of normal breastfeeding & Attachment Parenting is itself extreme.  AP isn’t about spoiling a child or refusing to “cut the cord.”  Dr. Sears says, “Attachment parenting is not a new style of parenting.  Attachment parenting is one of the oldest ways of caring for babies.  In fact, it’s the way that parents for centuries have taken care of babies, until childcare advisors came on the scene and led parents to follow books instead of their babies.  Attachment parenting is not indulgent parenting.  You may hear or worry that being nurturing and responsive to your baby’s needs might spoil your baby and set you up for being manipulated manipulated by your baby.  This is why we stress that attachment parenting is responding appropriately to your baby’s needs, which means knowing when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no.’”

 

AP is a philosophy based on attachment theory, which shows that children who have their needs met consistently & gently are less likely to have attachment disorders, anxiety, depression, addiction, & criminal behavior.  Keep them near, breastfeed, & have deep connection, communication, & compassion.  It is a sad sign of our culture that a mother being devoted & making evidence-based choices for her child is considered “extreme.”  I can say personally that AP works very well for me as a single parent; it gives me the tools to respond compassionately to my son, which makes my life easy.  We have a strong bond, which means no tantrums & lots of cooperation.  It’s awesome.

 

 

Attachment Parenting makes my life easier!

 

Your cover could have portrayed the beauty behind AP in an encouraging way, but instead the language is pretty disgusting.  It’s divisive, petty, & rude.  Since yesterday I’ve read (but not verified) that the cover model has received death threats & phone-calls to CPS because she appeared in your magazine.  I wonder— did you know it would blow up like this?  Was the level of disdain implied really necessary?  Was it worth it to sell out moms just to sell magazines?

 

You have an opportunity to support & empower mothers— the workers who make all other work possible— or betray & berate them.  I am hoping the article within is full of factual information & empirical data that makes the case to normalize what you’ve set up to appear extreme.    Studies show that almost 1,000 babies’ lives could be saved every year in the US if more women would breastfeed as recommended.  UNICEF says normal breastfeeding could save millions of babies’ lives around the world every year.  TIME, your cover was a massive letdown, but your article has the potential to be life-savingly influential, & I genuinely hope you chose that path instead of continuing on the sensationalizing one.

 

But either way, while the route you chose for the cover bothers me & many other mothers, I am glad that you approached the topic, even in such a patronizing way.  You see, not everyone responds to things foreign to them with such rage & horror as the American public has reacted to this concept.  The first time I saw a woman breastfeeding a toddler I was surprised because it was new to me, but instead of stereotyping & attacking, I read a little about the topic, became informed, & decided it was a choice I wanted to make for my family.  Somewhere out there some people are wise enough to not be swayed by your silly form of “journalism.”  Instead of being afraid of things that are different, & immediately condemning them, your article will inspire them to further seek the truth.  So, at least, thank you for that.

 

 

Breastfeeding my son at over 3-years-old.

Kristen Tea

About Kristen Tea

I am a 27-year-old single, attached, informed, lactivist, intactivist, peaceful Minnesotan mother of almost 4-year-old Sun Ronin a.k.a Sunny Boy. I am an artist & lover of expression. I’m also a student with many things to learn, including nutritional therapy, lactation consulting, doulahood, yoga instructing, & more. I believe that unplanned pregnancies do not have to equal uninformed motherhood, & women have the power to restore humanity to everything we touch.

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