Time Magazine’s Extended Breastfeeding Cover: Did They Go Too Far?

Posted May 11, 2012 by

Photo of elisabeth

The cover of Time Magazine has been lighting up the web since it debuted the other day. If you haven't seen it yet, it shows a mom breastfeeding her 3-year-old son as he stands on a chair. The title of the article is Are You Mom Enough? (Please. This is not a cage match. It's parenting.) The photographer on this shoot said he purposely positioned the mother and child this way to accentuate the child's age. Call me crazy, but I just think it was a deliberate and crass attempt to sell magazines.

I wanted to write today not about whether or not extended breastfeeding is a good idea — to each her own, I think, and frankly I'm tired of all the judgment heaped on mothers — but about the nature of this photo and the article title. It bothers me that Time chose to fan the flames of comparison and insecurity by choosing to pit moms against each other, as if to suggest that only the moms who are “mom enough” can engage in extended breastfeeding. It's also designed to elicit a visceral reaction in viewers who might find it unusual.

It also bothers me that the article pigeonholes us so rigidly, suggesting that you're either an Attachment Parenting mom or a “conventional mom.”  The truth is, those of us who are mothers know that very few of us are only one thing and never the other. This is not an either/or kind of thing, where you have to rigidly ascribe to one point of view or another. We do what works.

I breastfed until my son was older (2 years) — but I supplemented with formula when necessary. We did co-sleeping at first, but then transitioned him to a crib later on. I used a sling and I used a stroller. The beautiful thing about moms is that we do what works, and we know best what is best for our kids. Pitting us against each other is not helpful.

Final thought: Parenting is hard enough. This Mother's Day, instead of picking sides, let's just give each other a break.

What do you think? Did Time go too far?


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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