Inquiring minds want to know . . . does that woman on the cover of Time Magazine REALLY nurse her kid in that position? And did she REALLY think she was furthering the cause of extended breastfeeding by posing for that controversial cover shot? And did it ever occur to her that she was exploiting her kid and her relationship with him for personal gain?
I hate to give this any more attention than it has garnered already. (Good job, Time; your tactic worked!) I haven’t even read the article and don’t intend to. But if anyone ever doubted that the sources we once counted on to inform us of the news are now in the business of CREATING the news, look no further than this stunt. Time doesn’t care to inform us about the truth of extended breastfeeding and the benefits of attachment; they wish to inflame us and create a controversy where there doesn’t need to be one.
The reason I’m responding instead of ignoring is because I’m an expert on extended breastfeeding. And in the interest of my passion for the truth, I want to share my experiences so that the cover of Time won’t be all that rises to your brain when the subject comes up.
Just like anyone my age, I grew up seeing babies fed mostly with bottles. For a variety of reasons having to do with the culture of the times and poor advice, four months was the longest my mother nursed a baby. My impression of breastfeeding, even when I was first pregnant, was that it was something you did for a few months and then you switched to bottles. I saved the formula coupons I received in the mail while I was pregnant.
But, as you know, I love to read. It was inevitable that I would do a lot of reading while I was pregnant and a few books I read at that time changed my life. Emily never had a bottle of formula and I nursed her for 26 months. I nursed Jake for 38 months (and yes, that means I nursed him throughout my pregnancy with Teddy, and nursed the two of them together until they weaned when Teddy was 26 months old). William nursed at least until Lorelei was born (which is 42 months) and I don’t remember exactly but I know Lorelei was past four when she stopped. (Yes, I nursed babies for 13 years. Give me a medal.)
When Emily was born, the above would have sounded just as weird to me as it may sound to you. But it’s different when it’s your own kid, your own baby. Sure, you look at a four-year-old next to a newborn and the contrast seems extreme, But when you are in the middle of mothering, there’s little difference between nursing your four-month-old or your six-month-old, your one-year-old or your eighteen-month-old, and so on. It’s a seamless transition. Do you think anything about letting your ten-year-old sit in your lap? Would you think it was odd if he wanted to climb into bed with you if he had a nightmare? Is it strange that my eighteen-year-old son likes to hug me and say, “I love my Mommy?” I don’t know, maybe you will think it’s strange, but whatever. You probably have your own sort of strangeness in your house.
I didn’t stand around in the kitchen with my kid on a step stool. I didn’t pose for any cameras. I lay down with my preschoolers and bedtime and naptime. We cuddled on the couch. They wanted to nurse for comfort when they were hurt or upset.
There are many benefits to extended breastfeeding. The nutritional and health benefits don’t go away as the child ages. I have the healthiest children I know, bar none. Emily has not visited a doctor for illness since she was TWO YEARS OLD. We’ve had one earache per kid. No strep throat. One or two antibiotic prescriptions apiece throughout childhood. My two younger kids slept with me from birth. There were no sleep issues or problems. I never had any difficulty getting anyone down for a nap or to sleep at night or back to sleep if they woke up (once I stopped stressing about solving sleep problems, which I may post about another time). If someone was hurt or sad, I could comfort them easily. And my kids are not clingy at all. Having their needs fully met as infants, toddlers, and preschoolers helps them feel good about themselves, helps them feel secure and safe. We live in a society that pushes independence on little kids and denies it to big kids. We stick babies in their own rooms and expect them to sleep through the night and then we monitor our teenagers’ homework and grades and go with them to college orientation and tell them what classes to take. That’s BACKWARDS, people.
And you know what? Extended breastfeeding is NORMAL. It’s NATURAL. Around the world, 50% of babies are still being nursed at the age of 20-23 months. In many countries the figure is much higher. The WHO recommends children be nursed until the age of two or beyond. If you don’t want to, that’s fine. But biologically it is not strange, not weird, not abnormal. It’s what women’s breasts are FOR, and even though Time meant to be provocative, it’s pretty damn pathetic that people can be whipped into a fury over a woman using her breast for its intended purpose on one magazine cover while not saying a WORD about all the synthetic almost-bare breasts adorning the covers of all the other magazines.