Friday, May 11, 2012

Mom Nursing 4-year-old on "Time" Cover Belittles Motherhood

People are shocked at the Time Magazine cover showing a beautiful, lithe, tank-top-clad blond with a child standing on a stool latched onto her barely-there breast. It's meant to sell magazines, and is a pretty clever lure.

But meant as a Mother's Day paean, it's a flop, unlike the breasts of Jamie Lynne Grumet, 26, whose stare-me-down expression matches exactly what photo viewers are doing. The cover is really the tease to a story about baby doc William Sears, MD, who championed breast feeding as part of his "attachment parenting" method.

I nursed three children for a total of nine years straight. Yes, I nursed our son until he was four, at which time I had a frank conversation with him to explain that he was now a "big boy" and would be drinking exclusively from a cup. He took it like a (little) man.

So I know from whence I speak, and while I wholeheartedly support breast-feeding, I don't understand why it's now so tony to violate standards of modesty and privacy to do it. For goodness' sake, and I mean that, women ought to throw a blankie over their chests if they're going to whip out their equipment in public. Feed the baby--and I did, in parks, even restaurants-- discreetly. On airplanes, I'd unhook my bra rather than make seatmates suffer with wails. I considered my milk the salve of life, and holding and cuddling my children one of my greatest privileges ever.  There was absolutely no reason or excuse why I had to reveal my apparatus to anyone but my child, though, no matter where or when I went into action.

Stop this ridiculous claim that breast feeding is somehow impeded or even affected by the presence of a light cloth to cover it. No potential breast-feeding mom is discouraged from the effort because one of her role models shields her exposure from view.  I simply don't believe that women are often told to leave an environment when nursing if they are decent and subtle while doing it. If they're going to be juggling a protest placard, screaming injustice and holding their kid at the same time, well, then there might be a problem.

Don't put your breasts in my face, lady. I respect you and want you to keep nursing, but please respect my desire not to confront (or have my teen son confront) your boob in a public place. I don't want my19-year old boy to get the idea that breasts are available 24/7 when a woman is nursing, but they're off limits when dating, and otherwise taboo for ogling.  I can't teach him not to be a sexist voyeur when women are clamoring to show beyond their cleavage just because their baby's there, too.

I want both my male and female children to approach parenthood with joy but with reverence too, understanding that God made our miraculous bodies with amazing capabilities, some of which should be used in a context of humility and modesty.  Yes, breast feed! No, don't create laws that insist the term "indecent exposure" is obsolete.  Everyone wants Baby to have his dinner; not everyone wants to be party to a slurp-fest on Mom's chest in a nice restaurant, public lecture or on a bus.

The Time cover does a disservice to moms by suggesting that unshielded breast feeding is somehow symbolic of motherhood. Mothers deserve honor because they choose every day to get their child's breakfast instead of taking their own showers; because their greatest joys come from the accomplishments and milestones of their children; because they consider the moments when their youngsters say "I love you" to be the fuel of their souls. Motherhood is attachment, Dr. Sears, yes, but it's also a whole lot more.

As a mom whose children have now left home, I miss all that "attachment." I'd love to return, just for awhile, to those cuddly moments when my young ones were on my breast. But frankly, a much more difficult task of motherhood is letting them go; allowing them to separate and become individuals. The toughest part is when they unlatch, because you miss being with the people they have become.  And I hope they have enough confidence to realize they don't have to bare all--in any context--to make a difference.


  1. Lovely tribute to motherhood and breastfeeding. I too breastfed my 5 kiddos, 2 yrs, the last 3 yrs. It is hard to let go.

  2. Well said! Thank you for this.

  3. Thank you for your wisdom on the topic, Mrs. Medved! And, Happy Mother's Day! I agree with you wholeheartedly. I nursed our three children for 15, 16, and 18 months exclusively and hope to nurse our fourth for at least 18 months or more. I also did so discreetly wherever we went. I completely agree that modesty is extremely important and the cover turns off more people to breastfeeding than creating supporters. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this topic.

  4. I'm finding myself double-minded here. I, too, nursed four children from 6 months to three years -- funny how we're compelled to give our stats. I nursed discreetly but wherever and whenever my babe felt the need.

    I had one little one that would not latch on when there was something over her face; in fact, what seemed to be a panic attack ensued and I was much more exposed than I would have been by discreetly lifting my shirt.

    It's interesting to me that there are mostly bare breasts plastered everywhere but they cause the outcry when a baby is latched on.
    I suspect that the issue isn't the breast at all but the fact the nursing is a bodily function.

    1. perhaps its because

      1) when a woman breasts feeds there is now this 20 degrees of my vision that is now banned and I am not allowed to look at or be considered a pervert. I am not saying i want to look, but because of YOUR selfishness I am imposed upon?

      2) it's rude and snotty to do things without the consideration of others, ESPECIALLY when you do have an option; I get that sometimes you have to breastfeed out of the home. but why not pick a less visible place to do it, and use a cover over the baby. I see way too many women who have no problem whipping it out in the most crowded places.

      People hate the comparisons but they hold rue- urination is a natural act too, would you have a problem if i pulled my dick out? Hell I will do one better, let's say I just had an itch and pulled out my balls to scatch them. Is that okay?

  5. Very well put. I will be sharing this one.