“Beautiful” or “Extreme”?

The newest issue of Time magazine offers a cover that’s sure to stir up debate in parenting circles.

A lovely, blonde, 26-year-old stay-at-home mom from Los Angeles is portrayed breastfeeding her three-year-old son, who’s standing on a chair to reach mom’s milk.

The mother justifies still nursing her young child with the fact that her own mother didn’t wean her until she was six!

Now, I’m way past the nursing stage. My son is 21 years old, in college, and by all definitions, a man. But I find myself disturbed by “attachment parenting,” something concocted by Dr. Bill Sears 20 years ago.

“Attachment parenting” proponents believe moms should rush to their child, respond to its every cry, form close bonds by hovering physical contact, let the child sleep in its parents’ bed, and carry children in slings rather than pushing them in strollers.

That goes against the grain of what I learned about child care.

I believe children grow and mature when they learn they’re able to do things for themselves. Things like sleeping. And eating.

Domer’s pediatrician told me when my son was just about to turn over his first birthday that the bottle had to go, or I’d have trouble weaning him. He also said rocking and singing to Domer every night before bedtime was nice but unnecessary, suggesting I put my son in the crib, turn out the light, and shut the door.

Doc (bless him!) was right on both counts.

So it concerns me when I read about a three-year-old still nursing. I mean, this child has teeth, for crying out loud! Not only that, but most kids three years old are in day care or preschool. Do they expect mom to show up periodically for feedings there?

And another thing. What psychological effect does breastfeeding have on the development of a young child, if that child is almost old enough to realize what’s happening? Doesn’t it become more than mere “food” when a child is walking, talking, interacting with others, thinking, and reasoning?

Years ago, I came into contact with a woman who admitted breastfeeding her four-year-old child “occasionally. I thought that was odd. Now I learn some breastfeeding proponents are hoping American moms will become comfortable nursing children of any age!

Seriously? Are we supposed to follow them to college, too? Maybe they can nurse on us while their kids nurse on them!

I didn’t buy into this “trend” when Domer was little, and I’m not buying it now. It’s like these moms are finding their sole mission in life being tethered to their kids. Making decisions for them. Refusing to let them grow up. Refusing to welcome their own next stage of life.

Parenting means giving your kids roots and wings. Roots to ground them. Wings to fly.

“Attachment parenting” prolongs the baby stage, which is already long enough, isn’t it?

What do you think? Is breastfeeding beyond babyhood beautiful, or is it extreme?

16 thoughts on ““Beautiful” or “Extreme”?

  1. MMMM. Well. The Waldorf community is big on breastfeeding and attachement parenting to a greater or lesser degree. So I do have friends that breast feed a very long time and their kids seemed fine but it was awkward socially past a certain point. I nursed Cole until he was about two.
    Sleeping was a huge issue for Cole and we tried everything including letting him cry it out to keep him in his own bed–it did not work and so we made a choice to let him sleep with us–he did until he was 7 and then went back to his own bed without ever looking back.
    I am uncomfortable with breastfeeding until a child is 6. I think there is a lot of proof that most babies want to give up the breast between 15-28 months (some earlier and some later) it seems like that choice is the one that should be honored. One has to wonder at a certain point who is attached.

    • Just like puppies little ones can be taught not to use there teeth while nursing. The benefits go beyond nutritional. I do think the magazine cover—which I have now seen will offend people and I while I do believe it is a mother’s right to nurse her child in all kinds of situations I also believe offending people and conflict is not the best way to bring mothers back to nursing when it possible for them. I will admit to being very involved in Laletche but I hope I always honored and supported the mothers choice.
      Alright–enough said….from me.

    • Sleeping wasn’t working out for Domer, either. I’d put on some music, then rock and sing until I was hoarse! His pediatrician asked me if I was going to go to college with him because that’s where we were headed. He advised me to do as I described above — it wasn’t easy, for me! Domer wailed a long time the first night. I periodically checked on him, reminded him that everything was okay and it was bedtime, then left again. This went on for a few hours. The second night, he went right to sleep! His doc said every child needs to learn how to put him (or her) self down to sleep, and no way should parents interfere with that. What can I say? It worked!

      • We did that too but it just did not work for us. It could very well have been because I was ambivalent as was Joe but we really did give it out best effort and then we decided to make a different choice and it worked for our family. The key (for me) is not media sensationalism but doing what works for your child and family and being supported not judged especially by other moms. I know mom’s who nurse almost 4 year olds but never like it is portrayed on the cover of Time. EVER. and the title “are you mom enough” is positively offensive to every mom.” Me things 😀

  2. Can you imagine this child’s humiliation when this cover shows up among his friends when he is in middle school?
    You and I are of the same thoughts on child rearing. While I think breastfeeding is a wonderful thing, I’ve always read that it nutritionally serves no purpose past six months of age (some drs say 1 yr).
    I also feel for the safety of children and privacy of parents, all need their own sleeping space.
    While children need to feel loved and safe, they also need to learn independence.
    Of course, we all have opinions and it doesn’t make any of us right or wrong… Every family has to do what is right for their family. This is what makes the world go round.
    I like the way you put it with roots and wings.

    • Thanks, Suzi. I’d wondered about this boy’s embarrassment, too, because whether we like to admit it or not, his family is in the minority as far as nursing older children, and with things lingering online forever, it’s bound to surface. Sure, it’s a personal choice, but I wonder who’s driving it — mom or child — and I suspect the former. I’m not criticizing breastfeeding — of infants! I just think that older children shouldn’t remain attached to mom this way. You’re right in saying, To each his own!

  3. For me, three is too old. Breast feeding didn’t work out for me, but I’d think once they have a full set of teeth, they should be chewing solids, not my breasts. I watched what my older son did the bottle nipples and I was so thankful it wasn’t me- ouch!

    Regardless of the family’s choice, I’m not real pleased with the magazine cover. I think it goes too far. I’ll make sure I go shopping without the kids this weekend.

    • The cover was disturbing. Breastfeeding should be a more private, personal activity, not something brazenly displayed for the world. As Suzicate mentioned, there’s little nutritional value in mother’s milk for an older child, so it does make people uneasy thinking about older kids attached — for what??

    • It’s sad when a supposedly legitimate media outlet finds itself with nothing more important to do than try to divide people. Breastfeeding should be a personal choice, not something that arbitrary “experts” deem as “right” or “wrong.” Funny how some folks can turn anything into news!

  4. I don’t know. I stopped nursing when my daughter was nearly 18 months, and that was long enough, though some may say too long. More than that, I think it’s up to each individual to decide.

    • I agree that it’s a personal decision, Monica. That’s why I find it insulting and demeaning for Time magazine to run such an “in-your-face” photo on its cover. As if it’s trying for sensationalism. Must be hard times selling magazines these days!

  5. Debbie, what I most took offense at with this article was the title. “Are you mom enough?” Seriously? Like those mothers who don’t choose to breastfeed a child that old aren’t? Give me a break. I am not a supporter of attachment parenting. Like you, I believe children should be encouraged to be self sufficient; survivors. When my children were growing up, I always thought, what if something happens to me? How will they survive and get through my demise if I don’t provide them with the necessary tools? I think many parents practice this parenting style because they think it makes them better parents. Well, I say, to each his/her own, sister. Nevertheless, I’m all for teaching children to be self sufficient so they don’t grow up to be self entitled or lazy. I think breastfeeding is a personal decision. I breastfed the Son exclusively until he was 9 months old. That meant, no formula, water, or baby juice. Yet that doesn’t make me a better mother than one who gives her child formula. I did it because I knew it was the best nourishment for my child and because it gave him a head start in protecting him from many illnesses. Oh, and the bonding, lets not forget the bonding. My sister, on the other hand, refused to risk sagging breasts and refused to breastfeed. Thankfully, she’s close to her kids and none of them hold it against her. ha! Is a three year old child too old to breastfeed? I think if he has teeth, he’s old enough to eat solid food and practice the art of chewing. Enough said. Happy Mother’s Day, lady! 🙂

    • Love your reasoning, Bella! Especially the part when you said you want to teach your kids to be self-sufficient so they don’t wind up with that entitled or lazy mindset. I have the same philosophy, my friend, and so far, it seems to be working. Here’s hoping you had a lovely Mother’s day!

  6. I think the cover was exploitation of that little boy who will always have that embarrassing picture in his life. 4 of my 6 children were very premature and I couldn’t breast feed. I believe my children although they were separated from me for the first months of their life…are well adjusted adults now. I have taught my kids from the time they were little to be independant and I’m there to support them in everything they do. This has taught them to be decission makers and leaders.

    I believe when mothering is smothering it teaches co-dependancy. I feel I didn’t have to hover my kids because I had help…God’s help. He told me when I had to leave my sick babies in the hospital on life support that they were His kids and He is watching over them. One day the life support accidently got disconnected from my son. The hospital called to tell me this and said they will be reconnecting it. But before they did…He started breathing on His own. God proved His point to me that day. I put my children in Gods hands and this keeps me from being overly worrying about them.

    Breast feeding past a reasonable time is of course a mothers choice but I don’t think it adds anything extra to a childs life that will benefit them in their future. Parenting should be balanced and anything that’s too extreme could be a potentially harmful. My humble opinion of course… 🙂

    • Well said, Tanya! I think that’s why I refuse to hover — I trust my Good God to take care of business for me! He knew my child first and loves him better than I ever could. So my son is in Good Hands! Mothers who smother are teaching their kids they can’t do anything without mom, and that’s not fair to their eventual maturation process. If we’ll Let Go and Let God, we’ll all be better off, I think. Thanks for your well-thought-out comments!

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