This is what extended breastfeeding really looks like

When I first saw the infamous cover of Time magazine showing the little boy with his mom’s breast is in his mouth, I immediately recognized it as shock journalism. But there was something else unsettling about it. I just couldn’t put my finger on it right away. Yes, the mother’s breast is showing. Yes, the whole propped up boy looking directly at us made me think that Time was trying to misrepresent attachment parenting as something that turns moms into slaves who are at the whim of their children’s every want and desire.

Yet, that wasn’t what really was getting under my skin. I’ve witnessed the heated debates over the photo, the backlash and anger. I’ve heard people calling the photo child porn and accusing the mom of child abuse. I don’t agree with these harsh statements, but I don’t agree with the photo either (and if I’d been the one to fly to New York City for the shoot, I most definitely would not have agreed to posing in that manner).

I received an email from an attachment parent who said she saw the photo as not being sensational and as being natural. After I read her email, I took a look at the photo again. I could not agree with her. I practice extended breastfeeding. I am very supportive of it and attachment parenting, but there was nothing natural about that posed photo. And the only thing “attached” in it was the boy’s mouth to his mom’s breast. As much as I didn’t want to admit it as a mom who is nursing an older child, there was something twisted and sexual about it.

Later I was nursing my sweet 3-year-old, and I felt warm and cuddly. She gently brushed my cheek with her little, dimpled hand and said, “I ‘wuv’ you, Mommy.” And – ah-ha! – it struck me that what bothered me wasn’t what the photo showed but what it didn’t.

I have seen my share of photos of older children nursing in other countries where there’s a lot more of the mother’s breast exposed (like the whole thing – nipple and all – because both breasts are clear to the eye since she’s topless); yet, these photos evoke beauty, peace, and maternity. But this photo does nothing of the sort.

The Time photo shows defiance. It shows a flash of breast. What it doesn’t show is any inkling of serenity or maternity or love.

An anonymous comment over at Faith & Family LIVE! said it best:

“This pic accentuates this woman’s boobs (even if they are not size ‘D’ or anything like that, they’re still highlighted by the pose and clothing); the woman is wearing tight clothes and standing in a defiant pose that does not suggest softness, cuddling, or warmth. My point is that I think this pic was *carefully* designed to pose attachment parenting moms in an unattached way. And attachment parenting without the attachment is… well… what is it? Let’s see, it could be weird… it could be gross… it could be any number of things because the barometer of love between mother and child which guides the mom in her choices and style is broken without attachment. So, would or could it then dip in to some gross sexualized situation? Why not! Basically, this pic turns attachment parenting on its head and debases it. This pic is the antithesis of attachment parenting. Like porn is the antithesis of what sex is meant to be. And I think that’s why this pic feels a little porn-like, even though we all know its just a nursing mom.”

My friend, Michelle, added,

“Breastfeeding is one of those things that I had very little experience seeing until I myself was a nursing mom. Then I saw it everywhere. Never, never, have I seen a great looking mom wearing tight clothes, hands on hips, pulling her top down so her preschooler could get a drink. There is nothing soft, loving or motherly here. It is a pose of defiance that dares the world to tell her she can live her life any way she durn well pleases. Perhaps there are extended breastfeeding mother like this, but they would be in the minority. For most, breastfeeding is a quiet, comforting time for both mother and child…or a time where the mother says, “Again? I just fed your sister…I need to do the dishes…” followed by a sigh (I’ve seen that one most often!). I generally wean by age 2, because I wanted to, not because my children wanted to. And by the time they were 15-18 months old, I discouraged nursing in public just because of this sort of thing. I have friends who NEVER nurse in public, always bringing bottles of pumped milk around, even to my house where I told her she was crazy to pump to nurse an infant, especially at my pro-breastfeeding home. But she just wasn’t comfortable nursing in front of others because of stigmas fueled by this sort of news coverage.”

I hate it that women feel shame because of media stunts like this. I’ve already received several messages from moms who breastfeed older children who are embarrassed and sad due to this hoopla. Want to know the truth? Something that mainstream media rarely, if ever, portrays? This is what extended breastfeeding really looks like:

nursing1 e1336841980444 768x1024 This is what extended breastfeeding really looks like

There is love. There is warmth. There is quiet. We often live in a “not now” world when it comes to our children because everything else demands our attention now.

“Mommy, can you play with me?”

“Not now, sweetie. I’ve got to make dinner.”

“Mommy, let’s paint!”

“Now now, honey, I’m checking my email.”

Breastfeeding limits the amount of “not nows” my child and I have to share (although I certainly do turn down some of my older child’s requests to nurse. A baby’s needs and wants are one in the same. As our children grow older, the line is more blurred). Nursing forces my hummingbird self to slow down and to take time to cuddle with my child. The attachment is way beyond the physical. It hinges on peace and love. The only thing attached in the Time photo was the boy’s mouth to his mother’s breast. No wonder it made people uncomfortable. What is mothering – and breastfeeding beyond what’s considered the “norm” is about mothering and nurturing a child – without love?

If you have a problem with my version of extended breastfeeding, then I’m sorry, but the problem is more you. You are not comfortable with the idea that breasts are instruments to feed children and not just sex toys. You are not comfortable that a child who is beginning to speak for herself and seek independence still needs to be close to her mama sometimes. Or that it might even be good for mama to slow down and to focus on her little one who lives in a world that tries to make her big before she’s ready.

I understand your discomfort. It’s not entirely your fault. There are lots of mixed messages out there and when media portray breastfeeding as Time did, we all get a little uncomfortable.

Aside from shocking people and igniting new mommy wars, what this distorted cover image and its loaded words ultimately did was disenfranchise moms. Thanks to Time, there is one group of moms (those who nurse and especially those who nurse children older than what’s considered “acceptable”) feeling like freaks. They also probably either feel like they have to hide the fact that they are still nursing or are prepared to turn militant about defending their choices. Some may even feel they need to defend that misguided photo (like I was at first, maybe they aren’t even sure why the photo makes them uneasy) because breastfeeding is natural and loving – but not when it’s portrayed the way Time portrayed it. On the other side is different group of moms who don’t nurse and/or practice attachment parenting, and they’re angry at the implication that they are not mom enough because of those big letters on the cover: “Are you mom enough?”

Nobody wins. Shame on Time magazine for making any mom feel unworthy. And right before Mother’s Day, too.

Motherhood is undervalued in our society. We give it plenty of lip service, but we’re constantly trying to define it, box it into a set of principles or rules, objectify it, undermine it, and judge it. At its heart, mothering is about love. And that is what Time magazine purposefully, I believe, completely dismissed when they put that cold and completely detached photo on its cover.

***

The primary purpose of this blog is not to promote breastfeeding or to even defend it. I write to encourage mothers no matter how they choose to feed their child or what season of their mothering life they are in. I also am not trying to be sensational by showing a photo of me nursing my 3-year-old, but I believe we’ve got to put ourselves out there some if want to fight the stereotypes and help to normalize breastfeeding. I’ll get off my soapbox now. Happy Mother’s Day to you all!!!

UPDATE: I feel compelled to add after reading some of the comments and receiving some emails that I was careful to not personally arrack the mom in the photo or to project blame upon her. I’m aware of how it could have possibly been my child and me manipulated into a pose that would sell magazines or even just unaware of all the snapshots being taken. In this post and in all of my discussions about the Time cover, I have referred to the photo and the magazine and its editors as being culpable rather than pointing my finger at the mom. I never said she didn’t love her child or that she was not emotionally attached to him or that she was flippant or arrogant and feeling “mom enough” – only that Time magazine chose a photo that didn’t exactly conjure up maternal love  and portrayed the act of breastfeeding and attachment parenting in a distorted way.

UPDATE (again because it’s my website, and I can update whenever I want): I frequently see passionate parents guilty of making a common logical fallacy when I or some other mom shares her own parenting style or even just a glimpse into her parenting life, and frankly, it drives me nuts. For instance, I’ll say something like I do “A” because it is a way to show love to my child, and someone somewhere angrily wags her finger at me (or that’s what I imagine her doing) and responds by accusing me of saying that because she doesn’t also do “A,” she doesn’t love her child as much as I do. Or because nursing helps to curb me from saying “not now” too often and living more in the moment that nursing longer than expected is the only way to do that. Rubbish.

I’ve heard overwhelmingly positive feedback about this post. There was one guy on Twitter who said the photo was maybe even creepier than the Time one. Whatever. I’m not going to even waste energy defending my words or photo to someone who makes an assessment like that.

But there was one mom, who was charitable in sharing her opposition, but was clearly upset with this post, feeling like I was asking not to be judged but judging moms who didn’t nurse as long I happen to be nursing one of my kids. (For the record: I did not nurse my first two nearly as long either. Also, I actually had to immediately wean the child who is now still nursing when I was put on bed rest after going in to premature labor. She did not nurse for 10 weeks but when the baby was born, she asked about a little mama’s milk, and here we are.) First off, I never asked not to be judged. In fact, I know that even a loving portrayal of breastfeeding an older child would have been rejected by some if it had ended up on the cover of a glossy. And I know there are probably people who saw my photo and squirmed a bit, and remember there’s the Twitter guy who found it really creepy. In these cases, I stand by my statement that that’s the person’s problem. Not that it’s completely anyone’s fault. We have some pretty strict cultural scripts to rewrite before everyone can become more comfortable with breasts’ sole purpose being to feed children – even older ones. Yet, what I never said is that if you choose not to breastfeed your child for a long time (or even at all), then the problem is with you.

But one mom saw it differently. She chose not to breastfeed her children as long, and she felt like I was being divisive and felt that I was saying she and her husband had a problem because they felt like gently weaning earlier was right for their family.  She felt that I was saying that anyone who does not nurse her child as long as I do has a problem. Rubbish, again, I say. I never said that. It was falsely deduced. So often people connect imaginary dots and end up feeling attacked.

As I shared in the combox after this comment, I’m a little disheartened because I so did not want any mom to feel like she had to defend her choices. I hate the mommy wars and always try to be charitable when discussing my mothering lifestyle and choices without making other moms feel like they’re not “mom enough.” I never imagined this post would go so viral, and I realize that there are a ton of people who are new to my website and don’t realize that I’ve written ad nauseum about how how I don’t like labels and that good mothering does not come in one-size-fits-all.

I also read something really great by Lauren @ Hobo Mama about how extended breastfeeding or tandem nursing probably seemed a little weird to most of the women who ended up practicing it now. She writes,

If you think extended breastfeeding, or tandem nursing, is weird, you’re not alone. Most of us did at one point or another, too. Most of us started out merely wanting to breastfeed until our baby wanted to stop, or until we as the nursing parents needed or wanted to, or until it wasn’t working for our family. We wanted weaning to be a gentle and gradual process. You don’t start out breastfeeding a four-year-old — you start out with a newborn, who just keeps growing. By the time a four-year-old is breastfeeding, the frequency is way down, and you both know it’s phasing out. Trust me, it’s not “all about the mother” — it’s about the relationship. And there’s no way you can force a child to breastfeed, so it’s definitely the kid’s choice.

That’s an excellent point. I don’t have “end dates” in mind when I start nursing an infant. I don’t think most moms do. I might have even thought it would be weird to be nursing two kids at once or to be nursing one for longer than toddlerhood. But here I am. And it doesn’t feel weird at all.

I’m adding these tidbits here and there because this post is continuing to attract a lot of attention, and I really appreciate the charitable and engaging conversation that’s going on. And I want anyone who finds her way here to know that I feel called to encourage all parents – whether their kids were breastfed for four years or not at all.

Enter the Conversation...

117 Responses to “This is what extended breastfeeding really looks like”
  1. Jenn says:

    Kate, I really appreciate what you’ve posted here… thank you for taking the time to wrestle with your reactions to the Time photo, and to write a clear, cogent, and helpful response. You have defined my own feelings in what you said here and I will gladly point others to your post.

    And the photo is beautiful. Perfect depiction of extended breastfeeding.

    Well done!

  2. I nurse my kids, but not beyond a year or so. I’ve always thought of extended breast feeding as going a bit far with it, but I’ve learned not to judge too much because you never know when you might change your own mind…Still, what I love here is that you did the real journalism thing. Took the real pic. Told the real story. That’s shocking in itself, right! Many people would rather sell the sexy story than the true one.
    Amy@Diapeepees recently posted..Diapeepees on Retreat

  3. You go, girl! You are so right. I also didn’t like it that TIME photo and associated on-line articles focus so exclusively on extended nursing when attachment parenting is about so much more. It isn’t even about these practices they are focusing one. It’s about the QUALITY of connection between the parent and child, and the child’s sense of being cherished.

    Love the photo. Beautiful.

  4. Claire says:

    Awesome post, Kate. I didn’t breastfeed my adopted son, but I have often pictured myself nursing him into toddlerhood had things been different, and the photo of you and your daughter perfectly captures how I have envisioned it. In our society we’re in a big hurry to push our kids to grow up and be independent. But truthfully, look at her little dimpled hand. People can call her a toddler or preschooler or whatever they want, but to me, she’s still a baby. And if she wants to nurse once in a while and you’re comfortable with it, and do it in a loving way as opposed to the way it appears on the cover of Time, good for you. As you said, what a shame that trashy journalism distorts this, causing both misunderstanding about breastfeeding and defensiveness among women who don’t breastfeed. Since when has Time modeled itself after the tabloids? Very, very sad.

  5. Sarah says:

    Go Kate. You nailed it here. Motherhood is about love. It’s not for sale, not even if Time Magazine tries to sell it (and to make a lot of people squirm by the way they went about it).

    Beautiful photo. Beautiful mama. Beautiful sweet girl.

    Happy Mother’s Day.
    Sarah recently posted..Spring Daybook

  6. Katelyn says:

    What a perfect explanation. I wasn’t quite sure why that picture gave me the creeps either. lol. I’m glad you ended up relaxing on the beach last week instead of becoming the center of a media circus! :)

  7. Jess says:

    well said!! I’m sharing on my fb wall.
    Jess recently posted..Ten on 10: May

  8. kimberlee says:

    Beautiful picture and beautiful post. You explained the problem with Time so well: it depicts a physical attachment without portraying any emotional attachment and that is very much a twisted thing. Unfortunately it is similar to other behaviors in our contemporary society involving physical connections that are devoid of emotion and stripped of their proper meaning. As you said, what a horrible thing to portray for Mother’s Day.
    I hope you have a blessed day tomorrow, for you are a beautiful, blessed mother indeed.
    kimberlee recently posted..{pretty, happy, funny, real}

  9. Ryan Griffin says:

    Kate,

    Your post made my eyes fill up with tears. Words from a popular song come to mind, in this universe, “I’m glad you came.” I wish the Athens Banner Herald or the Associated Press would write an article and feature your words and picture.

  10. Bridget says:

    I really love this post, Kate. Very well said.

    Oh, how may heart aches that I was never able to nurse. And, honestly, that is why I hated that picture. She seemed so…flippant about something I would have given most anything to have.

    The Mommy Wars leave me grouchy and deflated. And always leave me wanting to naively say, “why can’t we just all get along?”
    Bridget recently posted..Stormy

  11. Ruth says:

    Beautiful article responding to the Time cover. Well said, regardless of whether one practices attachment parenting or not.

  12. Colleen says:

    I just said to my husband last night that what strikes me as so WEIRD is that the mom doesn’t look like she is loving or affectionate at all. Like she is just being used against her will. I would NEVER let my boys see that cover of Time, but I would gladly show them the picture you posted above. A loving moment between mom and child.

    I still need to think through the whole breasts being seen as sexualized vs. just baby feeding accessories. I think breasts are sexual. I think many men find them a turn on, and since they are always covered in public and displayed only for our spouses privately, they are part of married love and foreplay. I don’t think we can say that seeing someone’s breasts as sexual is wrong just because they exist to feed babies. That’s like saying we shouldn’t see someone’s genitals as sexual since they expel waste. Can’t a body part be sexy and functional? Can’t breasts be functional to a child but sexy to my husband? Even though I breastfeed my babies in public, when I see someone else doing it not as discretely, I feel a bit embarrassed like I’m seeing something private not meant for me to see. We all know God created breasts to feed babies, and he created sex to make babies, but both should be done discreetly and lovingly, right?
    Colleen recently posted..7 Quick Takes

    • Kate Wicker says:

      Colleen, I completely agree that in Western society breasts are sexual. And, no, there’s nothing wrong with that. Body parts can be both functional and sexual. I could give some examples, but I’ll spare everyone of that. ;-). However, I think we do need to reevaluate seeing breast as only or merely sex objects. We also have to distinguish nursing a child from a sexual act. I cover up or discreetly nurse when other men are around out of respect for them. I know some lactivists might disagree with that, and I do see their point. If we cover up, then people won’t get used to seeing breastfeeding. If they don’t see it more, how can we normalize it? We really have to look at context here. If we can not see a bum as sexy when it is seated on a toilet (I apologize for that imagery, folks), then why is it so hard for people to not see breasts as sexy when they are being used to feed a baby?

      At any rate, I agree with you and apologize if my post seemed to imply that this part of the female form never should be viewed as sexy,aesthetically pleasing, or admired for its shape and form in the right context. Hope this makes sense.

      • Claire says:

        If I were a nursing mother, I suspect that I would be fairly modest when nursing in public. But I don’t have a problem with women who are less modest. Sex and elimination should be done behind closed doors, but feeding a baby doesn’t seem like it should have to be a private act, even when the breast that feeds the baby also has another purpose that is private.

    • Kate Wicker says:

      Oh, and I should have clarified that in my original post todos not intend to convey that there’s something wrong with someone if they see breasts as sexual. That is healthy and normal in the right context. However, the problem arises when people see nursing as perverted or sexy since breasts do have another, life-giving function and women should have the freedom to use them in this manner without being shamed or sexualized.

  13. Kris says:

    I loved what you said about older children becoming independent but still needing to be close to Mom. This mirrors exactly my experience with my now 7-year old (who nursed the longest of any of my boys) and wants so badly to be a “big boy” like his older brothers, but still needs to be a “Momma’s boy” every once in awhile. We were traveling without my husband and 3 older boys this weekend, and as he was going to bed at his grandparents, in a room by himself, became weepy and asked to sleep with me. Of course, I let him immediately. He very rarely gets in our bed anymore as he’s gotten older, but just for a night, without the comfort of a big brother in his room, he needed to be close to Mom. What a shame if we don’t cherish those precious moments when they are little – as the Mom of a grown daughter and two teenage boys – it goes by WAY to fast!

  14. Leslie says:

    Thanks for posting the lovely picture. I don’t have pictures of myself nursing my kids (the last till well past four years of age). But I also blogged about the essential dishonesty of the TIME cover, and shared my feelings (pretty much the same as what you expressed so well) on what it looks and feels like to nurse an older child. Excellent post.
    Leslie recently posted..In Which TIME Magazine Channels Its Inner National Enquirer

  15. Sarah B says:

    I LOVE this post! I only BF’ed my daughter for about 8 weeks because of some major, major issues, so I am def. an observer of this “debate” but I just love this post so much. Your response to the unsettling and bizarre time magazine photo is spot on!
    Sarah B recently posted..In Music City, Girls in Pearls, and the Best Mother’s Day Gift Ever

  16. Jennifer says:

    Amen, Kate. You said it beautifully. Happy Mother’s Day, dear lady!

  17. Is it only me or does anyone else see ‘childhood sexual abuse’ in taking a picture like the one of that boy on Time magazine and distributing it to the world? I liked the insight I once heard from a woman who said that, for something to be abuse, the abuser doesn’t have to be aware that it is, nor intend for it to be. I don’t criticize the mother, who is probably a good person, and she may even not have known what kind of photography they were going to do. Nor do I “hate” the photographer or journalist. But I do hate the IDEA of anyone making objects out of children. And I think the objectives here seemed to be sensationalism, controversy, and money-making. I left Facebook (mostly) for the weekend, because it upset me so much that people were re-posting the Time magazine photo. Thank you for NOT re-posting the photo with your article. And thank you for sharing many good points.

  18. Wonderful article! I was irritated by the Time cover, as many were. It was so obviously meant to shock and awe, while completely disregarding ANY mother’s reason for extended breastfeeding. I haven’t read the articles, but I certainly hope they presented attachment parenting as about more than EB. I don’t call myself an attachment parent, per se, but I do hold much of that ideology to be loving and unconditional and helpful when trying to raise kids. Sad that Time tried to freak so many people out. And succeeded.
    Sarah @ This Heavenly Life recently posted..Bigger Picture Moments: I Am Alone

  19. Jennifer A says:

    Yes, I completely agree. I’m a mom of four who nursed each one to a year. Not because I was against going longer.. I just didn’t enjoy it. This picture was a horrible representation of extended feeding. I see nothing wrong with it done in a loving way. There was absolutely nothing loving about that picture. Oh and I still have the occasional fight over who gets to sleep with mom and dad.. even the oldest who is 10 still loves his snuggle time!

  20. Kelly says:

    Yes! You nailed it, Kate. Thank you. Your photo captures the true beauty and connection of the moment between mother and child.

    Happy Mother’s Day, beautiful momma!
    Kelly recently posted..{this moment}:: Beautiful Day, Beautiful Boy

  21. Kate – This comment captures it for me: Breastfeeding limits the amount of “not nows” my child and I have to share. I’m a mother with undiagnosed ADHD and nursing is a huge help in forcing me to be rather than to do.

    Your photo is how I picture extended breastfeeding, but, lovely as it is, it’s not the in your face image that I’m sure Time hopes will sell a ton of magazines.

    Happy Mother’s Day.

    P.S. Thank you for linking to my blog the other day. :)
    Kelly@inthesheepfold recently posted..Sometimes You Can Judge a Book By Its Cover

  22. RealMom4Life says:

    Yes! Just discovered your blog thanks to the whole Time mag thing and the mentioning of it on the FandF blog. Love your comments! I breastfed all my kids until somewhere between 13 – 30 months. For my toddlers it wasn’t about physical nourishment, it was about emotional nourishment! The Time mag pic bothered me not because of the subject, but some other reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on. But after reading your comments (and your commentors) I get it. There’s no love depicted there – and that’s what breastfeeding a toddler is all about. And, I agree wholeheartedly. It’s devisive! A mom can be a great mom whether she breastfeeds her child for years, used a bottle from the get go, or anywhere in between.
    RealMom4Life recently posted..Z is for zoo

    • erin says:

      I can assure you that it is about physical nourishment for all toddlers. Of course, it’s emotional too but it’s emotional and physical for any child who is BFing at any age. I mean, if a toddler is not BFing then they need a substitute milk like cow’s milk. Would anyone say that a cow’s milk for a weaned toddler is not about physical nourishment?

  23. erin says:

    Beautifully written, thanks for sharing! I’ve nursed each of my children for years a piece and am currently still nursing my youngest who is about to turn 3. I would like to make one suggestion or at least provide some food for thought — what if we stop using the term “extended” to refer to breastfeeding? I used to always refer to myself as an extended BFer until I one day I realized that I’m not. I just don’t wean prematurely. Now, I call it what it is, full-term breastfeeding.

  24. Erica O'Hara says:

    Thanks for posting this. It really makes me sad that the media continually takes something as beautiful as mothering and twists it into a voyeuristic shock and awe campaign. Thanks for sharing your thought and loving picture.

  25. Elizabeth says:

    Kate,
    For whatever reason I teared up when i read this post. Especially when i scrolled down to the picture of you and your sweet girl. The longest I nursed any of my children thus far has been age 3.5. Honestly, I never really think about this in terms of “is it weird or not?” until something like this comes up. My kids all weaned when they were good and ready, some a little more “encouraged” then others:).
    Thank you for this post. It is beautiful. It makes me so happy that I read your blog:)

  26. Teraisa says:

    Love this: Nobody wins. Shame on Time magazine for making any mom feel unworthy. And right before Mother’s Day, too.

  27. Lauren Wayne says:

    Beautiful response and photo, Kate. I’m so glad you posted this. Clearly the TIME shoot was going for provocative, and the pose seemed so off to me. It was supposed to be modeled after a Rubens painting, but that hasn’t been emphasized at all and is clearly lost in the hubbub of sensationalism — a daughter feeds her imprisoned father, at just such an awkward distance. I think you’ve put your finger on it — there’s nothing soft and nurturing about the pose; it’s mere feeding. It’s not the way I nurse, or at least not usually!
     
    I really love your explanation of what extended breastfeeding really IS. Thank you for the clarity and your calm but earnest tone.

  28. (sigh) I really wish I had proofread that comment before publishing it. :)

    Happy Mother’s day to all of us hardworking moms, no matter how long we breastfeed (if at all), or if we consider ourselves “attachment” parents or not. We ARE all mom enough, because God made us mom to our kids, and through His grace, we will be the right mom for them.
    Michelle Reitemeyer recently posted..Random

    • Kate Wicker says:

      I thought your comment was earnest and spot on (that’s why I highlighted it). And have you noticed how many typos I make in my posts? Sigh.

      Happy Mother’s Day!

  29. Beautiful response and photo, Kate. I’m so glad you posted this. Clearly the TIME shoot was going for provocative, and the pose seemed so off to me. It was supposed to be modeled after a Rubens painting, but that hasn’t been emphasized at all and is clearly lost in the hubbub of sensationalism — a daughter feeds her imprisoned father, at just such an awkward distance. I think you’ve put your finger on it — there’s nothing soft and nurturing about the pose; it’s mere feeding. It’s not the way I nurse, or at least not usually!

    I really love your explanation of what extended breastfeeding really IS. Thank you for the clarity and your calm but earnest tone.
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted..Sunday Surf: Happy Mother’s Day to all of us!

  30. I guess what bothered me most about the picture aside from the lack of caring/nurturing I felt from the mother is that she allowed herself to be photographed in that manner. Not as breastfeeding, but in that pose. She certainly had the right to tell the photographer no, but she chose to go along with it. Or, for all we know, she chose that pose herself. That is deeply disturbing to me. I think her point was not to show the positives of attachment parenting, but to give a big (pardon the expression) “f-you” to everyone not doing it. I don’t think I’m wrong in saying, she didn’t win over any converts.
    Kristen @ St Monica’s Bridge recently posted..Ten On Tuesday

    • With photoshop technology, I refuse to believe that this is the exact pose and attitude. Maybe it was, but maybe it’s a compilation of several photos. And if it is, maybe there was a conversation that went along with it, and the woman was baited into this particular stance. For example, maybe there were no seats available, and the child wanted to nurse. The mom was holding him, but he got heavy. She put him on a chair for a second, and then made a joke about how silly it must look, and how completely unnatural…and that’s the photo that ended up on the cover.
      Michelle Reitemeyer recently posted..Random

  31. Melanie B says:

    Thank you, Kate. This is a beautiful response. Just spot on.

  32. Lerin says:

    You said it so beautifully, Kate. And this is what Time’s cover should have looked like. Thank you for being YOU. You are a light to the world!
    Lerin recently posted..Isabella’s Thoughts on Her Mommy

  33. Wade says:

    I’m not going to go either way on the subject since I’m a guy but I will ask this…..If Time had used a traditional type picture like Kate’s, would there have been the same kind of discussion on extended breast-feeding as what is going on now???? Sometimes you have to draw attention to the subject matter and and I think that was more of the intent. And just for the record, before somebody stomps on me, my wife breast-fed both of our daughters. %-)

  34. Wendy R says:

    Very well said! I extended breastfeeding with all my children, my youngest two longest of all (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years each). I consider nursing my children as one of the best parts of my motherhood experience! :-)
    Wendy R recently posted..Wordless Wednesday

  35. You nailed it… My boys are passed the nursing stage but I was blessed to nurse my youngest until he was 3 1/2 and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Those quiet cuddly times together are hard to come by as they grow up… (My boys are 9 1/2 and 6 1/2 now and I savor every snuggle I can still get from them)
    The Time cover missed the mark by leaving out the quiet intimate time a child and parent have.
    Cariann McCready recently posted..Scripture Sunday Mother’s Day

  36. Tanja Cilia says:

    … that was not a breastfeeding photo. That was a showing off photo.

  37. i have to disagree that your pic is “what extended breastfeeding looks like”. i think it looks like whatever it needs to look like in order to get the job done, frankly.
    i have 5 children and have long-term nursed all of them to child led weaning. since they are very close in age, this means that i nursed 2 and 3 at a time for over 10 of those years.(now i’m back to nursing only one – my last son – who is still going strong at 4 1/2) and YES, i have nursed standing up. many times.

    showering with a little one as fast as i can, while the newborn is in a vibrating chair just outside the shower door. suddenly the newborn starts wailing. i already knew the shower was pushing it as the baby had been asleep way past the feeding time. so i bring baby into the shower for a quick nip (pun intended) and suddenly the nursing toddler needs some milkies, too. so s/he stands up on the built-in seat/shelf and i stand there, resigned, with 2 babies hooked to my breasts.

    and if someone snapped a picture of us right then, i doubt anyone would think it looked nurturing – or quiet – or peaceful. in fact, my expression might be…defiant.
    i’ve done the same thing while standing at the stove, cooking a dinner that can’t be walked away from and had a toddler who’d been put off too long and was melting down. i’ve done it while hot rolling my hair in front of the bathroom mirror.
    and hearing ppl say it would look like sexual abuse or be twisted makes me celebrate the defiant pose the mother in the picture seems to have. you have to be strong to nurse this many for this long and put up with the criticism and judgment you are going to get. i love the cover photo for this reason.

    i’m so disappointed it has caused a rift even amongst mothers practicing long-term breastfeeding/ child led weaning. we should be happy any magazine has published a picture of a preschooler nursing. even if they were curled up on the couch, people would find fault. then they’d say the mother was touching the child too much or the child appeared to be caressing and stroking the mother’s breast too much.

    i’ve heard people criticize that’s she’s too airbrushed and perfect. that she doesn’t really represent “real moms”. but i’ve also seen pictures of “real moms” nursing older babies and seen comments asking why it’s always fat, unattractive women who breast feed for “too long” as if this is proof that they must do it because of self-esteem issues.

    the more i think of all the things that would be said about ANY pose that could have been chosen, the more i think a defiant one was just.absolutely.perfect.
    we need to stop nitpicking and just be glad for the chance to share and educate about normal breastfeeding.

    • Claire says:

      You can celebrate the defiant pose all you want, but it’s not going to make any headway in helping to improve acceptance for extended breastfeeding. Neither is the caption “Are you Mom enough?”

      • that’s okay, i don’t think every single depiction of long-term or normal breastfeeding needs to grovel for our cause to be accepted. i also don’t care what anyone else thinks about my stance on vaccines, babywearing, bedsharing, ECing, inactivism or any of my other non-mainstream parenting choices. whether they become accepted or not, i’m still doing what’s best for my children. there comes a point where i just want to say, “hey – like it or not, it’s here to stay.” i suppose it’s that part of the photo that appeals to me.

        long-term breastfeeding is not always a lovefest every time you do it. it gets hard. you get touched out. it can be painful. it can be annoying. it’s often awkward. not every mom is actually physically comfortable holding and nursing a bigger child. i know, i’ve done it for 5 kids now, over 12.5 years. if you added up all the years i’ve breastfed consecutively instead of concurrently, it would be 23.5 years’ worth of breastfeeding experience and counting. not to mention i’m also a lactation counselor and have helped hundreds of other mothers with breastfeeding.

        and i’m just saying: a cuddly, snuggle, misty-in-love photo of a mom nursing her preschooler would not have fared any better in the forum of public opinion. trust me. i’ve allowed a few of my own to be published in various forums (tho nothing like TIME magazine) and learned this the hard way!

        saying that breastfeeding never looks like this just isn’t true. it looks all kinds of ways. have you ever seen a child on the autism spectrum nurse? an impaired child? a child w/ a mother w/ mental or emotional disorders? a mother in mourning after the loss of another child? or how about just a frazzled mom w/ a lot of kids really close in age who practically has to sit on her hands b/c she is so touched out she wants to tweak their little nursing ears?

        depicting breastfeeding as always being hearts and roses can make it just as daunting and unattainable as some ppl think that photo is.
        it’s just one depiction of one nursing dyad’s experience at one moment in time.
        i own it, i embrace it, i laugh about it and i move on. there’s no point in taking it personally or judging the woman brave enough to do it – i agree that the presentation is incendiary, but that’s just what publications do to stay in business. i can laugh about that, too – and then move on to the business of truly helping new mothers learn about breastfeeding their children and leave the criticizing and nitpicking to others .
        jack gruttadauria recently posted..If You Watch

        • Claire says:

          Kate’s pose isn’t exactly groveling. And there’s nothing brave about practically glaring at the camera, or about exploiting a young boy for all the world to see. As far as taking it personally, maybe if someone asked you if you were mom enough (something you have yet to address), you might take that personally too.

        • Kate Wicker says:

          Here’s where I think you’re missing the point. There is no wrong or right way to breastfeed, but there is a right and wrong way to portray it in a society that isn’t always entirely comfortable with it, especially when it involves an older child. Also, I never judged the woman. I have judged Time magazine for pulling a stunt like this. I tend to agree with Michelle who commented above that this cover image was likely taken out of context or airbrushed or that the mom was manipulated or pushed in some way. But, again, that’s not the point. Your comment is the first message I’ve seen that’s actually incited the mommy wars and tension between breastfeeding mothers themselves.

          This is an imperfect analogy but imagine having a friend who is really wary of eating seafood. You know how healthy it is to incorporate fish into your diet, so you want to help introduce her to eating it. So you invite her over to dinner and explain you’re going to try to serve her fish dish. Would you plop down a plate with fish head – eyes and all – in front of her? No, I suspect you’d start her out with a milder fish dish – maybe some flaky, white fish or salmon seasoned right. This doesn’t mean eating a fish head is wrong since it’s actually a delicacy in other cultures, but it would not be the right way to present fish to someone in America who hasn’t been adventurous eater.

          The same is true with extended breastfeeding. We need to present it in the context of love not a defiance or even a rushed manner – as in this is something I just do on-the-go. Of course, you’re right that breastfeeding isn’t always easy. Neither is mothering. But if we continually get bogged down by the not-so-fun size then what we’re doing is victimizing moms.

          Likewise, defiance in case like this isn’t really the answer either. Rosa Parks needed to exercise defiance. We need to exercise confidence to promote extended breastfeeding. There’s a difference. The kind of defiance you’re eager to embrace seems more likely to incite tension and give ill-informed people the opportunity to point their fingers at us at our “weird” or “gross” behavior.

          It’s wonderful that you’re an advocate for your children. I sense that you’ve had to fight for some of your choices. I’ve been blessed to have a supportive family and network of moms, although they don’t always do things the way I do. But becoming flippant, divisive, derisive, or defiant is more likely to isolate than unite moms. If we become defiant and argumentative in our breastfeeding stance, there’s also the risk of allowing the act to become politicized and a way to assert ourselves and our parenting choices rather than a way to nurture and nourish our children. It’s like if we believe children should be made to feel more welcome in public places in America, we should go about taking our kids out more and gently guiding them to behave the right way – not let them act like crazed monkeys and stick our chin out to the people who glance at them with raised eyebrows. “My kids belong here as much as you do!” That may be true, but that’s not the best way to win others over to your side.

          Furthermore, I think there’s a difference between being highly assertive when it comes to our parenting styles when people close to us are questioning our decisions or when a big media misrepresents us as moms and being too opinionated or high and mighty about our choices (which the “Are you mom enough?” headline certainly did) with our fellow moms. If we want to promote attachment parenting and/or extended breastfeeding in a healthy way, then we just need to openly live it and answer questions from those who are curious or write and talk about it with charity in a non-threatening way. If we get too militant about the “rules” of AP or defiant about how we’re free to nurse in any darn way we please, we’re going to lose some moms (and others, too). We’ll end up sequestered with a bunch of moms who practice parenting in the exact way we do, which, yes, is helpful and supportive, but it’s good to branch out, too. I have lots of friends who parent similar to me, but I have a lot of friends who don’t. Yet, we are able to maintain mutual respect. I don’t feel the need to defend anything around these amazing moms, and I learn from them, too. What’s amazing is I’ve had a few friends ask me for tips and advice, who, I know, would have avoided me if I’d immediately started defending my decisions or flaunting the fact that I tandem nurse. “Show don’t tell” seems to work well with moms in my experience. I hope my little crew and I can be a mirror that reflects love, peace, and happiness so that people will start to stare a little bit longer and see what we’re doing.

          Can breastfeeding be hard? Sure. I had mastitis a few weeks ago, and it was not a love fest nursing through the pain. However, I’d disagree that extended breastfeeding isn’t more about love than being something extreme. Just as authentic, good mothering – however we choose to practice it – should come from love and not our desire to prove ourselves, etc. It has become easy and naturally and time to nourish and nurture, and that’s why I’m still doing it. I do nurse in like that or a lot of time lying down. Not that I’ve nursed other ways, too, but I admit I’ve never gotten as creative as you have with nursing. :-)

          Ironically, you seem angry angry because you feel others are judging the mom on Time (which, again, if you go back and read my article, I never personally attack her); yet, you are judging the way I nurse and a photo I chose to represent what nursing means to me and frankly, I’m making an assumption here, but I’d have to say most of the moms I know who nurse and enjoy it see beauty and authenticity in this photo more than a staged shot to misrepresent breastfeeding. Likewise, don’t you see that that cover – whether you agree with it or not – likely wasn’t the right way to portray nursing an older child to a society that as I stated above isn’t as familiar with extended breastfeeding? That photo did absolutely nothing to promote extended breastfeeding or attachment parenting in any way (maybe the article inside was different; I still haven’t read it because I refuse to buy the magazine).

          This comment is ridiculously long, so I’m going to paste something my mother-in-law, a lactation consultant, sent me in another post that mirrors some of the points I’m trying to get across here.

          Nurse on, mamas, but do it out of love and respect for your child not because you have anything to prove.

        • Kate Wicker says:

          Here’s an article from “Breastfeeding Medicine” that makes some excellent points; it’s title is spot-on as well.

          Time cover sells out moms to sell magazines

          Time Magazine’s “Are you MOM enough?” cover is brilliant marketing. It’s also a terrible disservice to women’s health.

          In case you missed it, the magazine cover features a mother with her three-year-old son, standing on a chair, latched on to her breast. The photo had sparked disgust from readers who have expressed outrage at the “sick” and “deviant” behavior of breastfeeding a three-year-old.

          In traditional human societies, Katherine Dettwyler has demonstrated that children wean between 2 and 5 years of age. Using data from non-human primates, evidence suggests that the biological age to stop breastfeeding is between 2.5 and 7. From an anthropological standpoint, therefore, nursing a three-year-old is not “sick,” “strange” or “deviant.” It is normal human physiology.

          In traditional societies, weaning occurs between 2 and 5 years. (Used with permission from Lawrence and Lawrence, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, 7th edition, Modified from Dettwyler KA: A time to wean. In Stuart-MacAdam P, Dettwyler KA, editors: Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives, New York, 1995, Aldine de Gruyter.)

          Furthermore, extended breastfeeding is endorsed by major medical organizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reaffirmed their position recommending “exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.” The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to two years or age or beyond. It’s also important for women’s health. Studies show that, compared with women who breastfeed for at least 1 year for each child, women who wean prematurely face increased risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks.

          In Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives, Dettwyler makes a plea for thoughtful, considerate debate regarding the right time for weaning for each mother-child dyad. She writes:

          The information that 3 or 4 years of breastfeeding, or even longer, is both normal and appropriate for human infants, should be disseminated to health care professionals and parents alike. It is to be hoped that people will stop criticizing mothers and suggesting that they need to wean because the child is “too old.” Above all, it is hoped that people will stop questioning the motives of mothers who nurse their children for several years. It is to be hoped that mothers who follow their own instincts to meet their children’s needs – not only their physiological needs for nutrition and immunological protection, but their cognitive and emotional needs for warmth, touching, social contact, and interaction through breastfeeding as long as the child expresses those needs – will be encouraged and supported, both by health care professionals and by their family and friends.

          But rather than supporting mothers to follow their own instincts to meet their children’s needs, Time magazine put an enormous 3-year-old, dressed in very “big kid” clothes, on the cover with his mom dressed in a tank top and skinny jeans. Every aspect of the photo is engineered to evoke sexual undertones, and Time’s tabloid approach has (predictably) brought out a mob of people saying breastfeeding is “sick” and “perverted.”

          The cover not only castigates mothers and children who practice extended nursing, but it also lends legitimacy to strangers who assail moms for nursing any infant in public as “nasty” and “indecent.” Recent stories of nursing mothers ejected from big box stores, courtrooms and churches demonstrate that it is not easy to be a breastfeeding mother in America. When you follow medical recommendations, you face public humiliation.

          Time’s cover throws fuel on that fire, and it’s a slap in the face for the moms who are trying to do right for their own health and the health of their children. And that’s a very unhappy Mother’s Day present.

          Alison Stuebe, MD, MSc, is a maternal-fetal medicine physician, breastfeeding researcher, and assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. She is a member of the board of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.

    • Kate Wicker says:

      One more thing I meant to add is that there are some who believe bad PR is still good PR. I have to disagree. It’s great that we’re talking about extended breastfeeding and that the cover sparked this discussion; however, there are a lot of people who are never going to get past that photo. As the “Breastfeeding Medicine” article stated Time sold out moms to sell more magazines.

      I also want to thank all of you who have supported me, sent me warm messages, posted encouraging comments!

  38. Andrea says:

    Yes!!! I also did not agree with the Time cover but could not place exactly why. Thank you for this post!!
    Andrea recently posted..Look out goals…. Here I come.

  39. daphne says:

    I still nurse my 4 year old daughter, simply there are many reasons to still nurse her a little bit.
    ANd it is verry healty it is her cup of milk, but also i can see she feel so self confident .
    it is a good thing to get open about this, most people in my neighborhood react possitive, but they think it is heavy for me to make all the milk for her and my baby. I never was breastfed myself and came from a cold mother she almost neaver cuddled me, so i am now so happy to do te exact opposit.and as long as they have their baby teeth they are able to drink and that is untill they are 7 jears old!many times i see children that age suck on their thumbs, some children need that. i love your article and it is a beautiful loving picture!

  40. Al Thompson says:

    The photo depicting a mother breastfeeding in the comment section is not offensive at all. It shows breastfeeding with her holding her child, instead of that cold fish on Time magazine. I was greatly offended by the Time magazine photo because of the way it was all presented. Cold, calculating, and I took it as a promotion of child abuse. The woman had that “I’m a cold bitch” look; just look at here face. I know a lot of people won’t agree with me, but the picture tells me there’s another agenda going on. Now, look at the article about HBO. HBO is run by Time Warner, and I see a pattern here.
    http://verydumbgovernment.blogspot.com/2012/04/hbo-shows-graphic-pornography.html

    I believe it is an “in your face” attack by perverts against the children.
    Time to cancel the HBO.

  41. Robbie says:

    This was sensationalism at its best or worst- take your pick. For me the picture does nothing to provoke serious discussion for or against breastfeeding of a child of any age.
    The picture was carefully selected to show an attractive young woman with a child sucking on her breast. (Child=innocence) and (attractive women = sex) was the thought which the picture hoped and intended to provoke. The journalist writing this piece has chosen this mother and child for a very good reason. The older the child and the younger the mother closes the age gap and implies sexual undertones.
    The picture depicts a mother breastfeeding her child to say this is unnatural is unnatural in itself.

    • Al Thompson says:

      >>The picture was carefully selected to show an attractive young woman with a child sucking on her breast. (Child=innocence) and (attractive women = sex) was the thought which the picture hoped and intended to provoke <<

      You said it better than I did. The MSM has never favored the family. They are attacking the family and normal marriage between a man and a woman. Compare the Time magazine photo with the one that is posted here.
      They are two separate things. There is nothing offensive about the photo posted on this blog. The media is getting really creepy lately. They have a political agenda designed to destroy everything that is good about life. The photo on this blog shows the joy of motherhood, but the Time photo provokes an in-your-face overture to child abuse. That woman's face is really bitchy. Sorry, I was married to a nice looking woman and I know that look. It is pure evil.
      Al Thompson recently posted..What is Entertaining about Death?

  42. Larry Katz says:

    When I looked at the Time picture, I was bothered by it. But then I remembered this baby milk commercial which said: “Breast milk is still best for babies up to 2 years.” after the commercial shebang is done. I didn’t know that there are still mothers in this part of the world that practice extended breastfeeding.

    Thank you for explaining to me why extended breastfeeding is good. It makes you emotionally attached to your child and your child feels that strong motherly love.
    Larry Katz recently posted..ed hardy perfume

  43. claire,

    i in no way meant to indicate that i think kate’s photo is groveling. i’m sorry for the misunderstanding! i would never insult or judge another mother’s intentions in posting a long-term breastfeeding photo like that – it’s such a personal relationship for each nursing dyad and i don’t think any 2 ppl can look at such a photo and see the same thing, anyway!

    what i was trying to say was that if someone sat down and tried to come up with the absolutely least “in your face” and most politically correct and inoffensive photo of a mother nursing a preschooler that they could, not only would it fare no better in the court of public opinion, but i personally don’t think it would have addressed that part of us that is sick of feeling like we have to hide or be careful about what we do.

    i just think it’s okay to show a defiant, strong, “loud and proud” photo, too – b/c for me at least, i have felt that way many times when faced with ignorance or shaming about how long i nurse. not every photo should be of us tucked away in the privacy of our own homes, breasts completely covered, mother and child gazing lovingly at each other. for me, the TIME photo shows the strength required to do what we do.

    and as for the ‘taking it personally’ aspect of being asked if i’m mom enough. – i simply don’t. it wasn’t meant personally, it was meant to sell magazines. it’s laughable and i feel dismissive about it. insults are a package left at your feet. you can choose to pick them up or not. this one doesn’t even rate stopping to read the label.

    frankly, i get more upset over the ads for formula that tell mothers their babies need “comfort proteins” for optimal digestion and hint that breastmilk couldn’t possibly be as good as what science can create. factual-sounding pseudoscience aimed at targeting ppl’s inexperience as new parents is more more concerning in my mind than an obvious “neener-neener” jab by a magazine to boost sales. it’s already escalated the mommy wars to a fever pitch, don’t let it divide those of us on the same side, too.
    jack gruttadauria recently posted..If You Watch

    • Kate Wicker says:

      While I agree that there still would have been people who found my kind of photo weird, I have to disagree that with you that it would not have been a better way for a mainstream glossy to portray extended breastfeeding. I already had someone say it was more creepy than the Time photo over on Twitter, so I understand your frustrations with people questioning your choices.

      I had someone write this to me: “All I want is to feel surrounded by a society that is not detached from the human experience, one that embraces parenting and breastfeeding, and encourages lifelong nurturing.”

      Like you she is very passionate about her parenting choices and has had to be advocate – sometimes a militant one because even her own family did not always support her – yet, I’d have to argue that the path to arriving at a society she describes is not with anger, an “I can do whatever the hell I want,” or flippancy. And you’re right: The headline “Are you mom enough?” was designed to sell magazines. You may find it laughable, but moms who don’t breastfeed and were perhaps unable to do or didn’t have the support didn’t. It isolated them.

    • Kate Wicker says:

      Thank you for this. I don’t want to divide moms either.

      Also, quiet defiance may sometimes be the best route such as a peaceful nurse-in in a public place that had admonished nursing or even a quiet nurse-in of older children out in public just to get people used to the idea, but there’s no need for bra burning.

      For me, again, it ultimately boils down to what the photo didn’t show not what it did. As moms, we make these choices out of love for our children not to make a stance, and that love was missing in the photo. I don’t doubt that mom really loves her children, but the way Time portrayed her (perhaps resorting to subterfuge) didn’t convey maternal love or connection (other than the physical kind) at all.

      I really do need to get off my soapbox now. Thanks to everyone for the great conversation.

      God bless.

    • Claire says:

      I’m sorry, but I don’t find the caption “Are You Mom Enough?” to be laughable. Especially when linked with that particular photo. The combination of that caption with that photo is sensationalized journalism that serves to politicize and exploit the topic at hand for the purpose of shocking and selling magazines, which does nothing to promote extended breastfeeding. A more loving photo might have still generated some criticism, but this one is intentionally militant and divisive, and that is not something to celebrate.

  44. mag says:

    I was so confused why i loved breastfeeding but wasn’t a fan of the magazine cover. I know the title sucks but the photo made me feel sort of strange and you finally made me realize why. It’s not about what they showed on the cover, it’s what they didn’t show on the cover.
    mag recently posted..Chocolate banana

  45. Kat says:

    What a lovely article. It made me tear up. I’ve nursed 2 of my 6 living children until age 3. My baby is 8 months and will most likely wean sometime before he’s 5. Definitely before high school.

    All kidding aside, you expressed what was wrong about the photo and article clearly, compassionately, and in a manner that encourages instead of tearing down. Thank you!

  46. Molly says:

    I enjoyed reading this post very much. The detachment of the Times cover is exactly what makes it uncomfortable. (I couldn’t put my finger on why it looked off until I read your articulation.)

    Thank you for posting your photo; it shows the attachment and love that parenting should be.

  47. kate,

    i love your replies and agree with very many of them. i wouldn’t have work nor many friends if i went around nursing like the mom on TIME. i get that. and i certainly am not as “militant” in person as i suppose i sound here. many of my clients don’t even know how long i nurse. it’s not pertinent to my work, and it can be very daunting for a new mother just trying to make it through those painful, leaky, engorged 1st few weeks to wrap their minds around doing it for 4 more years!

    like you, if someone asks me directly – or “heard a rumor” about how long i nurse and asks me indirectly, i am very friendly, polite and informative. i always deliver my opinions with self-effacing humor when possible, and facts when necessary. i’ve made more adversaries into allies than i can count – and i hold them among my dearest victories in life.

    also like you – i have actually not even read the accompanying article to the TIME photo – nor did i go out and buy the issue. no need to – i knew my FB page would be plastered w/ all of it before the day was out! ;-P

    i had a friend i made who was nursing a toddler the same age as mine. she was very militant in her opinions when we hung out alone or in our bfing support groups, but i had no idea how far it went until we went out in public together. she would approach moms in the formula aisle of stores and ask them why they weren’t bfing. she handed out small cards with the benefits of bfing printed on them to bottle-feeding moms everywhere she went. she tucked them into mainstream parenting books in bookstores and she put them under the removable lids of cans of formula in stores. she would target moms using bottles in public and sit next to them, expose her entire breast and latch her toddler on. it made me extremely uncomfortable, to say the least. i r/m one time in particular when we were at a photo studio in the mall and she sat down next to a couple to do this and the husband was so angry, he pulled his wife up by the arm and they left the mall with him shouting at my friend as they were walking out on their portrait appt.

    i was always “discreet” in my public nursing – quite a feat considering i was always nursing 2 or 3.

    there is the mindset that we should expose our breasts openly when nursing to show society that it is normal. in other parts of the world, nobody bats an eye at nursing moms and their exposed breasts.

    but, like you – i’ve always felt “when in rome…” and not wanted to set my cause back by being so “militant”. you really DO attract more bees w/ honey than vinegar. plus, like most american women, i’ve been raised to think of breasts in such a sexualized way, that i turn as red as a lobster if even a tiny bit of breast gets accidentally exposed while i’m nursing in public.

    but after all these years of long-term breastfeeding, i’ve gained confidence. i know i have the right to nurse my children until they choose to wean – and i know it’s best for them. and i also know that society would shame me for it if they saw it done in an uninhibited way.

    tell the truth: are you comfortable nursing your daughter in public at this age? i’ll show you mine: my daughter is VERY tall for her age. she nursed longer than any of my sons. when she was 5 1/2, she looked 7 1/2. i was so relieved when she started asking less and less to nurse in public. it is *hard* to be comfortable nursing an older child – or even baby!- in our culture.

    i was drawn to reply to your article b/c a friend shared it on FB and i found the title intriguing. just as you and many of your readers object to the TIME article’s title, i thought yours might be a bit audacious. it translates as though meant to ‘correct’ the TIME article’s depiction of what long-term bfing looks like. and when i looked at the pic, my 1st reaction was, “no – that’s not it, either.”

    i have read through your article and comments here and seen the TIME photo picked apart and every kind of assumption made about it from the boys’ pattern on his pants to the mother’s obvious supposed compliance in some child abuse scheme. i appreciate that ppl will translate images into their own paradigm, but have you wondered what your own might say to the critical eye?

    1st of all, you are in a very uncomfortable pose. sitting on a hard window seat with no support for your back. this could be translated as you being a martyr for your cause of long-term bfing – so it’s all about you trying to do this for your own self-value and importance.

    next, you are gazing lovingly at your child, but she does not return your gaze. this could mean that you are inappropriately seeking to prolong a connection that should have ben broken long ago. you could be exploiting your child to feed your own emotional needs, trying to force her to stay attached to you long past an age when she should. no doubt she is going to be emotionally incapable of ever separating from you.

    your breast is entirely covered, not a hint of flesh anywhere. do you really nurse that way in your own home? are you really that inhibited and ashamed of what you are doing? see, you know there are sexual undertones to it, even you don’t feel right about it. this is further supported by the fact that the blinds behind you are closed tight. you’d never actually want anyone in your neighborhood to see what you’re doing b/c you know it is bordering on sexual molestation!

    your child’s pose is extremely uncomfortable-looking. you must have bribed or coerced her. surely you are forcing a child that age to keep nursing. and further exploiting her by making her be in a picture of it when she’s obviously so uncomfortable with it.

    your attire says that you probably get to stay home and raise your child. you need to get a life. you must be lonely and unfulfilled to drag out a bfing relationship way past its natural conclusion like this.

    see how many things are open to interpretation? if TIME featured that exact pic of you and your daughter, i can guarantee those comments – and worse – would be among the top and first responses. no 2 ppl are going to look at any controversial pic and see the same thing.

    and that’s okay. i totally respect and enjoy learning from the things you say in your blog about this issue. i enjoy the productive and respectful debate about it. what has prompted me into posting here (and b/l me, i am actually trying NOT to get sucked into this debate everywhere else) is that i DO agree w/ so much of what you say and think you are a wonderful advocate for the cause, BUT i just take exception to anyone posting that there is one right way to do this. or one right photo to show of it.

    i read that you yourself might have posed for this picture, so i totally get your scrutiny of it. i know i’d be doing the same thing. but when you come back at it by holding up your own version of what you think is the “right” way to do it, you are doing the same thing TIME did. and opening yourself up to the same criticisms and isolating of a large demographic of parents. her picture does not portray what long-term nursing looks like for most of the women i know who do it. but actually, neither does yours.

    i think back in the day before such rampant and instant access to social networking on the internet, publishing that pic would have been the blow to our cause that you say it is. but today i think major media knows that the best way to get attention and money is to publish the most controversial shocking headlines and photos they can – and then let the public hash it out online to keep the publicity going with much more momentum than ever possible before. that’s just the chum to draw the sharks, in other words. and they know they can backtrack and apologize and pretend they didn’t know how scandalous it was down the road, when they see they really blew it w/ a majority of ppl. after all the fallout, i’m betting there will be some sort of half-hearted apology for this.

    but in the meantime, i really do think it opened up the subject to examination and communication like almost nothing before has. i’ve answered my phone 3x today just since starting to write this reply – all mothers and clients of mine who wanted to talk about the picture! now it’s up to those of us who actually live this way to share a more accurate image of it. if we’re good, we can turn a negative into a positive.

    the mother in me who has questioned and shirked and covered up and worried about who will react in what way (esp when they start kindergarten and haven’t weaned yet) still LOVES this photo. it exudes confidence to me. it depicts a woman with nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of. if i have to wade through all the furor this has caused in my life and work -at the end of the day i want to be able to re-examine a photo of a woman who at least did it with her head held high with pride. i want the ppl who pinpoint me as the woman in their neighborhood that does this, to see the woman who caused all the publicity as confident and unashamed.

    • Kate Wicker says:

      Thank you for this. I do get what you’re saying, and I hope you don’t think this and were just voicing what others might think, but I did not bride my child. She asked for mama’s milk upstairs when we getting ready to start our day. Our resident photographer (my 7-year-old) captured the moment. You are right about the window seat being rather hard. It’s one of my favorite places in our new home (I’ve always thought window seats offered the perfect, dreamy idyll to do things like read, nurse, or daydream), but I would love a cushion for it! :-) I can’t sew, and it is an awkward size since the house was built in the 1930s so I haven’t been able to make it softer. Usually it’s covered with dolls and toys any way. I will say with 100 percent certainty that whether someone is comfortable with extended breastfeeding or not, my M.E. and I look a whole lot more comfortable than the mom and her boy on the cover of Time. Poor boy looks like he’s getting a crick in his neck having to look right at us. Likewise, while a more loving and less cold as well as just plain awkward depiction of extended nursing may have still raised some eyebrows, I seriously doubt a photo that was more like the one I showed here – even if it, too, was posed and considered contrived by some – would have not stirred up this much controversy. Time chose this depiction because of its inflammatory potential.

      I do think some of the assumptions you shared that others might make seeing the photo are far-fetched (just as my initial assumption about the cammo pants and Time trying to portray the child as being in charge was probably just my own projections and me looking for something to explain why I initially felt uncomfortable about the photo) – like assuming I’m an at-home mom because of my attire. Could it not be the weekend or when I was off of work? I mean isn’t that when even a mom who works outside of the home would be nursing her preschooler? Chances are, she wouldn’t be in a Gucci suit. The most honest depiction of what extended breastfeeding looks like in my home actually would have been me lying down with my 3-year-old in a nest of covers, but then people would not have been able to see anything and would have just assumed we were taking a siesta together.

      Perhaps my post title was misleading. Maybe I should have said this is what real attachment looks like, or this is what one version of what extended breastfeeding looks like. I purposefully did not use “should” in the title – as in this is what extended breastfeeding should look like – but maybe I should have also omitted the “really.” I can not speak for what a loving moment of nursing should look like for other moms and their nursling, but I can tell you what it probably shouldn’t look like when disseminated via mass media. Again, I am not condemning the mother or the child in the photo or even attempting to decipher her motivations as you seem to be doing to me. I put the blame on the magazine editors. As I wrote in my post, nobody won with this cover and its loaded headline and sensational photo except for maybe the magazine.

      However, you write: “BUT I just take exception to anyone posting that there is one right way to do this. or one right photo to show of it.” Please look past my photo and look more at my words if my photo is really irking you. I was not saying that image is the one right way to practice extended breastfeeding, but whatever image you choose to represent this act it needs to be softer and more maternal than the one on Time. When most of us think of our moms (or what we hoped our moms would be like), we think of apple pie or chocolate chip cookies, sweetness, quiet strength, cuddles, and sometimes fierce mama bears, but the mama is still there even when the claws are out. And a mama is supposed to be love personified. Because every we choice we make should come from a place of love before it comes from a place of defiance. On paper, this sounds touchy-feely, but mothering and breastfeeding IS touchy-feely.

      I do agree with you that nursing an older child out in public presents its share of challenges. Truthfully, I always hope my older child won’t ask to nurse when we’re out and about, although I have no problem nursing my baby. I’ve struggled with whether I need to always cover up while out in public. With my first, I was afraid to nurse at Mass until I realized how this was completely wrong if I truly believed God had designed my body to feed and comfort my baby. One of the most controversial pieces I’ve ever written was entitled “Why I nurse at the mall and at mass.” The website changed, and the comments have vanished, but there were over 200 heated comments – most in support of what I had written, but there were many arguing it was obscene or wrong. Many of the comments were simply anti-children not just anti-breastfeeding. And that’s when I think, maybe more needs to be done. The late Blessed Pope John Paul II really encouraged breastfeeding and I’ve heard stories (can’t find any images on the Internet) of him blessing women from other cultures who were openly nursing a child with their breast exposed. When I hear that nursing is obscene in church or otherwise, I have to wonder if there remains a strong undercurrent of Manicheism among many faithful Catholics, a deeply-held attitude that the body is essentially bad or unimportant or something to be feared. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This isn’t the time or place to explore this misguided theology, but I don’t agree with that belief at all.

      I personally choose to nurse modestly (I love the nursing cover my sister-in-law made me; there’s some shameless nepotism for you!), not because I believe nursing is anything sexual or because I am clinging to the vestiges of American puritanism but out of respect for the men in my culture who do find breasts sexual. I totally get some of nursing friends’ beliefs, however, that if we continue to cover up, then we won’t help to normalize nursing. So I am kind of torn on this issue. It really has to do more with my own personal comfort level in how I choose to nurse. I honestly do often nurse – even in my own home – more discreetly than others might choose to, not out of shame for breastfeeding, but more because of some residual body image issues (you’re new to my blog, so you probably don’t know I was fat kid who got teased and ridiculed and then later had an eating disorder). I’m not even thinking about showing a flash of breast; I just get hung up on (sometimes) on a soft belly showing or something like that. Totally irrational on my part, but it’s the truth.

      I’m all over the place here, but breastfeeding has actually been one of the best body image boosters I’ve ever had (as has labor) because it has revealed to me the beauty and function of my body are inextricably linked. I used to wear skirts a few too inches short or wear more revealing tops because I was hungry for affirmation and acceptance. Yet, I was offended if a man looked at me the wrong way or made assumptions about me. As I’ve made peace with my body and femininity, I’ve learned that there’s quite a lot of beauty in the mystery of the female form. Nursing is a miraculous act to me; it is also an intimate act between my child and me. There’s no need to get all flashy about it. In other cultures other parts of the female form are considered sexy. I’ve heard that armpits are erotic to men in certain parts of the world! But here in America, breasts are sexy; yet, I do believe men and others should be able to compartmentalize the sexual appeal of breasts to the bedroom and not get uncomfortable when a woman is nursing. And there’s definitely something wrong when people get upset about seeing the soft skin of a breast in a nursling’s mouth or even get upset when a woman is using a nursing cover simply because they are imagining the breast in a mouth, but then they don’t even bat an eye at all the magazines in the checkout line of the grocery store shown deep cleavage and breasts bulging out of push-up bikinis.

      In my own mothering and breastfeeding journey, I’ve realized that you can do something like breastfeed without any shame while still doing it in a way that is respectful to others as well as not divisive to other moms. That’s what I try to do. This will hopefully help to rewrite cultural scripts without isolating anyone or without me being accused of being offensive (anyone who sees discreet nursing as offensive needs to do some soul-searching, as a man-friend of mine pointed out after I posted this image). And we’ll just have to agree to disagree that we can hold our heads high as well as exude confidence and most importantly, love for our children without blatant defiance.

      And with that, I offer you my peace and blessings. I am doing just what I discouraged mamas not to do and attaching myself too much to the views of others and to defending my own position rather than focusing on my children.

      Peace and blessings to you.

  48. Jessica says:

    You hit the nail on the head. I found the Time Magazine cover photo uncomfortable to look at, and you completely put the words to why I felt that way. I was not uncomfortable with your photo in the least, and that would have been a much better pose for Time to use, though I don’t think it would have caused as much controversy (which is what I think they were looking for).

  49. Leslee says:

    Thank you so much for this piece! I have been so hurt by what so many people are saying in response to the Time cover. I nursed my oldest daughter til she was 2 years and 8 months and my youngest until she was 18 months. I wrote a post on my own blog last Friday explaining how women really end up extended nursing and how natural and benign the act really is. I would say most of us don’t plan it, we just end up doing it because we understand it is what our child needs at that time. I had two very different kids and thus they weaned at different times. It’s all about mother’s intuition and doing the best you can for your kids. Also I don’t know if you watched the interviews with Jamie Lynn (the model) but she was so articulate, intelligent and loving when she talked about her decision. She also said herself that the picture on the cover is NOT the one she would have wanted but she understands why Time chose to use it (attention grabbing, getting people talking, and selling mags).

    • Kate Wicker says:

      Leslee, I have not seen any of the interviews with the mom, but others have also told me she was very authentic and came off as a loving mom. I am sorry she got dragged into this firestorm and am thankful I had a scheduling conflict!!! ;-). Thanks for bringing this up.

    • Kate Wicker says:

      Leslee, I have not seen any of the interviews with the mom, but others have also told me she was very authentic and came off as a loving mom. I feel badly that she got dragged into this firestorm and am thankful I had a scheduling conflict!!! ;-). Thanks for bringing this up. 

  50. kate,

    perfect point at the end! i am now doing what i said i wasn’t going to do, either and spending too much time on this that could be better used elsewhere, but at least it’s been a worthy discussion, unlike most i’ve skimmed in most other forums online! i will try to make this my last comment.

    i just wanted to end it by saying once again that i agree w/ more of what you say than not.
    (esp. about the belly being the more horrific thing to flash, HA!) and to assure you that i personally do not think any of those things about your photo – i was just trying to show you how it could be picked apart if it were on the cover of TIME also.

    i don’t think any of my fake comments were farfetched in the least – i have seen FAR more outlandish things being assumed about the mother on TIME based on equally sparse info. i was trying to show you the ignorant and very biased leaps that ppl will make based on their own mindsets. and while you might not be doing that to the TIME mother, many comments here are, so i just wanted to point it out.
    one picture of one moment in time.
    in one nursing relationship.

    i knew you can’t always nurse on a hard surface, who would? it has nothing to do w/ whether or not you could be a martyr, it was me showing what ignorant ppl who are trying to read into your actions will say. and as i mentioned, i’ve had photos just like yours published to public access – so i’m speaking from experience. and truly, the more physical contact i have w/ my older children in the pics (esp my sons), the more “pervy” ppl think it is. ridiculous!

    i also recognize that as a lactation counselor, i work mainly with breastfeeding moms experiencing difficulty. so there’s my own bias. something in me objects when you keep saying “loving, quiet, peaceful, etc…” that’s ideal, i agree – but i see breastfeeding done w/ grimaces of agony, through despair, in great anxiety or guilt, in frustration, in resentment, in depression, through grieving, in defiance,with no support, despite condemnation and sometimes even without any emotion at all, far more than i get to see it done like in your photo.

    if i were to show all of my clients your photo as how i think breastfeeding should look, i would probably lose most of them. that just isn’t even remotely attainable at the point in time that i am in their lives, for most of them. so i feel like her photo addresses them a little more than yours does.
    fighting to keep up breastfeeding, you know?
    defying the odds.
    refusing to be told they can’t do it.

    that’s all, that’s where i’m coming from. i hate to see the mamas i work so hard to help left out or isolated, too. and like i said, for my own personal experience w/ 5 kids only 7 yrs apart and each one full-term breastfed…well, quiet moments and peaceful nursing sessions could be pretty hard to come by sometimes!

    if i could have been the boss of this photo shoot, it would have been a pictorial of all kinds of different long-term breastfeeding photos. autistic children who were barely attached w/ mothers who looked wistful, sad or frustrated – or had learned to stop trying to engage at all b/c it only upset the child and were playing with apps on their iphone or reading a book. moms nursing an older child after a pregnancy loss, through tears. moms like the one they chose, defiantly proud. moms nursing a child with impairments or challenges. moms with some breast exposed. moms with full breast exposed. moms like me, breastfeeding 2 babies while multitasking and probably on the phone or computer helping other moms w/ bfing problems. moms like you, taking the time to enjoy the bonding to the fullest. now THAT would be an issue i’d go out and buy!

    thank you for the courtesy of your time and replies, i have bookmarked your blog and look forward to checking in when i can!
    jack gruttadauria recently posted..If You Watch

    • Kate Wicker says:

      Thank you for your charity as well as for the work you do to support breastfeeding moms. My mother-in-law is a lactation consultant at a children’s hospital and like you works with moms facing some daunting challenges when it comes to nursing and beyond. She has used some photos of me nursing my children in presentations, etc. I don’t think she’s used them under the context of this is what breastfeeding should look like because we all know everything about mothering can be grueling and not all sepia-toned. But, rather, she shows the photos – just as some mommy bloggers show happy moments of motherhood and get accused of being too glittery gold – to say, “Hey, it won’t always be this hard day after day. This is why breastfeeding can look like on a good day when you’re a home away from the maze of medical tubes or when your breasts are no longer blistered.”

      I had my first bout of mastitis recently. I waited too long to get on antibiotics. My goodness, it was painful. I had to remind myself it wasn’t going to always hurt this badly. It wasn’t always going to be such a sacrificial act. It would get back to normal and be better. I’d like to think we should give moms struggling with nursing or any area of motherhood that a glimmer of hope. There’s a point to your suffering and your giving and it won’t always hurt this badly. But that’s just my take on it all.

      Thanks again for the discussion. I enjoy being pushed to see things from all angles. You’ve helped me to do just that.

      No time to proof, so please forgive any typos, etc.

    • Kate Wicker says:

      Thank you for your charity as well as for the work you do to support breastfeeding moms. My mother-in-law is a lactation consultant at a children’s hospital and like you works with moms facing some daunting challenges when it comes to nursing and beyond. She has used some photos of me nursing my children in presentations, etc.  I don’t think she’s used them under the context of this is what breastfeeding should look like because we all know everything about mothering can be grueling and  not all sepia-toned. But, rather, she shows the photos – just as some mommy bloggers show happy moments of motherhood and get accused of being too glittery gold – to say, “Hey, it won’t always be this hard day after day. This is why breastfeeding can look like on a good day when you’re a home away from the maze of medical tubes or when your breasts are no longer blistered.”

      I had my first bout of mastitis recently. I waited too long to get on antibiotics. My goodness, it was painful. I had to remind myself it wasn’t going to always hurt this badly. It wasn’t always going to be such a sacrificial act. It would get back to normal and be better. I’d like to think we should give moms struggling with nursing or any area of motherhood that a glimmer of hope. There’s a point to your suffering and your giving and it won’t always hurt this badly. But that’s just my take on it all. 

      Thanks again for the discussion. I enjoy being pushed to see things from all angles. You’ve helped me to do just that.   

      No time to proof, so please forgive any typos, etc. 

  51. MAT says:

    My biggest problem with the time photo was she looked like she was saying this is the way to be a good mom. Most moms I know couldn’t nurse their babies for 4 years. They have to work. If they have more then 1 child, nursing more then one at a time wouldn’t be healthy. I nursed both my children at 9 months the oldest said no more so fast I got mastitis, my second decided he was a big boy at 1 year. DD nursed her son when she was at home and pumped when she was at work. At 7 months he decided he only wanted a bottle. I felt like this lady was saying we should have forced our children to nurse.

  52. Sheila says:

    I hear the photographer defended the picture on the grounds that normally, mothers hold their nursing babies, but with children that age, it would have been impossible. That’s just an outright lie. I’ve actually seen a picture of this same mom and toddler sitting on a stool nursing. But the implication that a child is too big to hold, and therefore to old to nurse, is intentional, I’m sure. (I think a child is never too big to hold. What about the Pieta? And I still sit on my mom’s lap from time to time!)

    Not that there’s anything wrong with nursing standing up. I’ve seen pictures of baby Jesus standing up to nurse, and they look fine to me. But the details of the picture WERE chosen to be disturbing, for sure.

    Still, it’s the headline that gets me. Seriously, TIME magazine? For Mother’s Day?

  53. Hal Johnson says:

    As a guy who got married and became a dad rather late in life, I spent my single years wishing women would cover up when breastfeeding in public; it embarrassed me. Now, after seeing the warmth and security that my son had breastfeeding, I want to smile at women I see breastfeeding and give them a thumbs up.

    I’m a guy, and I still see breasts as sexual, be they small, large, or in-between. But having seen that special bond between child and son up close, I now hold that boobies are mainly for babies. And toddlers.

    Now, I might draw the line at breastfeeding your kid while he or she plays a game on the Xbox. :-)

  54. MAT: i’m curious about why you think it wouldn’t be healthy to nurse 2 babies? i specialize in helping mothers to nurse multiples as well as babies w/ food allergies. i definitely see more tandem nursing women than women nursing single babies. i myself nursed 2 or 3 for the last 10 years – even completely through pregnancies. there are MANY health benefits to normal term breastfeeding, we can only infer that those benefits are amplified by nursing more than one at a time. i know of absolutely no health risks to doing so, unless the mother is pregnant and ordered on pelvic rest.

    sheila, now that you mention jesus breastfeeding, i recall seeing an article where the photographer said that he did pose this mother and son after an image of jesus breastfeeding.
    jack gruttadauria recently posted..If You Watch

  55. Wow. I see some women who are commenting who are NOT being nice. I too breastfed my son long and well and if we had been photographed there may have been some that look like the photo on this website and some that look like gymnastics and some when my son looked distracted just before he raced off to do something daring. He may even have put on a fierce face for the camera just for the heck of it.

    A single photograph does not mean that this mother is detached. If you actually listened to her describe how she parents, you would realize that she follows attachment parenting very closely. The woman in the photograph is very warm and nonjudgmental herself. I think we need ALL different types of photos of mothers so that we can begin to realize that mothers and babies can breastfeed in all sorts of situations and in all sorts of moods.

    I actually did nurse my 10 month old when he turned into the flying baby. He literally trampolined off the bed and into the air and was a danger to us and himself. So, for about month I nursed him over the edge of his crib while both of us were standing until he fell asleep. Then when he no longer used our bed as a trampoline, he returned into our bed until I built him a bunkbed and he helped paint it when he was around 2 years old. He never had any problems with transitioning through those changes. We would always read him a story whereever he slept. The total amount of use that we got out of our crib was exactly that one month.

  56. George says:

    We often act against what comes natural with our children for their benefit. I don’t feel what is natural should be a golden rule for raising children. All forms of discipline feel unnatural, but children must know boundaries as they’ll grow up with them in life. It feels natural to constantly sing our children’s praises, though we have to temper that praise to instill humility. It’d be more natural to allow my children to fall asleep when they’re tired, but I know sleep is so critical these early school years.

    That said, this is totally a social thing. There’s no two ways about it – you can’t say unequivocally that it’s either beneficial or detrimental to breastfeed a 4 year old. It feels infantile to me, but I’m sure thousands of years in other cultures would disagree. Really, what you do with your child is your business and yours alone. As long as you do it with a mature mind towards their future benefit. If this is for their benefit, God Bless you. World’s your oyster.

    However, it can’t be just following what feels natural. Parenthood is rife with doing what age and wisdom teaches us is best for our children, against all that feels natural. My 3 year old son makes certain that when I give him a haircut, it is the most unnatural process I can bear through, but I know if I don’t, he’ll look like captain caveman.

  57. This comment says it all, “If you have a problem with my version of extended breastfeeding, then I’m sorry, but the problem is more you. You are not comfortable with the idea that breasts are instruments to feed children more than sex toys.”

    Just as, at a luncheon one day, a Protestant friend of mine, and I love her so much, was upset with the idea that making love – as in having sex – was actually meant to have babies and that contraceptives were not to be used just so we could have sex. For some reason sex for sex sake always seems permissible ??? just as breasts are okay on Playboy or great art but not for nursing ? Breasts are meant for feeding children. Thank you for your sharing. Thank you Lord for your design and plan.
    Terry Fenwick recently posted..Peggy Noonan says . . . always good stuff!

  58. San says:

    So eloquent and beautiful. especially the pic of you nursing.

    I thank God that I was able to nurse my littlest until her third birthday, sadly shortly after I had to wean her for my own medical reasons. I’m thankful that I was able to wean her in a very gentle way and all went well.

    Thankyou for sharing
    San recently posted..Classrooms who needs them?

  59. Sisifo says:

    I’m so glad I read this. I couldn’t figure out what was missing from the photo either until I read what you said. It is definitely not a motherly, nurturing photo. I think it’s great that she’s not afraid, but at the same time, I think she could have posed differently, making it more about her being a mother. Not just a woman on the cover of a magazine.
    Sisifo recently posted..Left to Burn

  60. patrizia says:

    Hello,
    I agree with you and did not appreciate the photo either (though I did witness more than once this kind of breastfeeding position). I also agree that everyone should be able to do as they wish, as long as, of course, there is no harm for anyone else. That said, though, I have to disagree when you say that if someone has a problem with your “version of extended breastfeeding, then the problem is more you. You are not comfortable with the idea that breasts are instruments to feed children more than sex toys…” You say that you do not want to be judged, but this looks like a judgement to me: my husband and I decided that the breastfeeding should have stopped when our kids would have been able to walk and talk, and so it happened. It is our choice, motivated by a long series of reasons, none of which includes seeing the breast as a sex toy only or, as you write, being “not comfortable that a child who is beginning to speak for herself and seek independence still needs to be close to her mama sometimes. Or that it might even be good for mama to slow down and to focus on her little one who lives in a world that tries to make her big before she’s ready.” Our two daughters are 5 and almost 3 years old, they happily breastfed and then weaned on their own around 13 months of age, but, should have this not happened, I would have, slowly, with respect and love, made it happen around 18 months or so. With my first daughter breastfeeding was very hard for the first month because she would not suck strong enough and my milk supply was very low, but we hold on to it and after 5 or 6 weeks everything started to be smooth. I really enjoyed breastfeeding and loved every minute of it, but convinced that weaning by the 18 months of age was the best choice for our kids (a personal and personal only decision). That said, with our kids, both daddy and I do a lot of cuddling, we do projects together, we read in bed together, we “wrestle”, we play pretend, we dance and do a lot of the stuff the every parent does. I appreciate your finding time for your little ones because, as you say, “Breastfeeding limits the amount of “not nows””, but, forgive me if I say so, it is not necessarily true or needed, as the same thing can be done without breastfeeding: I just stop doing what I am doing and do what my kids ask me to, even though our house is often a disaster. Same thing is for their daddy: there is no breastfeeding there either (!), but he finds time and limits the “not nows” playing the keyboard or reading or something else together. We live in a town where NOT breast feeding is not well seen. Still, my best friend breastfed her kids for their first three years of age and this difference in our choices did not put any distance between us because we do not judge each other and because there are many other choices that a person makes every day with their kids that, forgive me if we may disagree, I think are way more important of how many months we decide to breastfeed. Why do not we just say that, as long the kids are loved, deeply and unselfishly, and there is education about the advantages of breastfeeding, then it really does not matter how many months or years a mom decide to breastfeed? Let’s respect each other choices, not pretending to know better, because each one of us has a story before being a mom and we all need to respect the mystery that is everyone’s life. Sorry, ended up a bit too “ontological”, but what more than that than a new life and its beginnings? Thanks for your patience in reading this, if you decide to do so, and forgive the length…

    • Kate Wicker says:

      NOTE: I accidentally posted a disjointed draft of a comment, but this is the one I meant to post so if the other one goes through, please disregard it!

      Hi, Patrizia. I think you’ve misinterpreted my post or at least the quote that bothered with you. I agree with you 100 percent with what you wrote: as long the kids are loved, deeply and unselfishly, and there is education about the advantages of breastfeeding, then it really does not matter how many months or years a mom decide to breastfeed.

      There seems to be a common logical fallacy that happens when I say that I do “A” and I do out of love that if someone else does not do “A,” they do not love their child. Or that because I choose to breastfeed, in part, because it helps me to slow down and helps to not force my kids to grow up too quickly that moms who wean sooner are saying to their kids, “Grow up already.”

      Finally, there’s a big difference between me saying that the problem is you if you don’t like MY version of extended breastfeeding and suggesting that I said there’s a problem with you (and that you can’t get past breasts only being sex objects) if you don’t nurse your children as long (which was never said in the post but implied by you). Do you see the difference? You’re making a big jump here. I never said or suggested any of the things you’re upset about. Aren’t we blessed to live in a country where we can meet our children’s nutritional needs in other ways and can choose to not continue nursing into toddlerhood?

      A lovely, healthy breastfeeding relationship may last a few months or a few years. I, in fact, gently weaned my first at 22 months because I was having trouble getting pregnant and someone well-versed in Natural Family Planning (NFP) took a look at my charts and said that if I was ready to wean – and she wisely counseled me to pray about it and see if I was – then I’d likely get pregnant right away. I gently weaned (which I found was much easier with only one child and there have been times when I’ve tried to wean my older child now but as I’ve also written about before, I’m just plain lazy. :-)

      One of the principles of attachment parenting is feeding with love and respect – something you clearly have done with your children. Feeding with love and respect can mean breastfeeding an older child, but it can mean a lot of others things, too. Think about adoptive mothers who don’t nurse at all!!! (This was discussed over at Facebook and was such a valid point). AP parents often do practice certain things like child-led weaning or co-sleeping, but they may not practice all of them and what is far more important than the act itself is the love behind it. Mothers can reveal their love and form an emotional bond and attachment to their children in many ways. But just as I wouldn’t judge you for weaning earlier than I did, I don’t think people should judge me and the way I portrayed extended breastfeeding on my website and if they do condemn (and condemn might be an appropriate word than judge since judge is more about assessing the situation), then I stand by my statement that they are not seeing clearly. But you can’t flip that around and say that because I said that I am saying you don’t see things clearly because you chose to wean earlier than I did.

      I’m a little disheartened because I so did not want any mom to feel like she had to defend her choices. I hate the mommy wars and always try to be charitable when discussing my choices without making other moms feel like they’re not “mom enough.” I suspect you’re probably new to my website, but I’ve written ad nauseum about how how I don’t like labels and that good mothering does not come in one-size-fits-all. My mom – surprise! – didn’t breastfeed any of her kids, and I always ask her after I write a pro-breastfeeding post if I was sensitive to people who have chosen to feed their children differently or the choice was simply made for them, and my mom has always assured me that I write about in a very sensitive way. I hope she’s right. Likewise, I have one sweet friend who has tried to breastfeed all of her children and at first would even refuse formula when the poor child was starving because she was so determined to do it. Then when she had to use formula because she absolutely could not increase her milk supply after working with lactation consultants for months and months, she would hide it in her grocery cart. This breaks my heart. She has gotten over this now and says that her experience with nursing has been a very humbling experience. However, her story is always in the back of my mind when I write about nursing. She doesn’t need any guilt.

      Your comment shows a very attached mama who cares deeply for her children. God bless you! Over on a Facebook discussion a mom said that the more she lets go of “AP” and just tries to be a good Catholic, the happier she and her family are. That’s right on, I think.

      Ultimately, the best guide for us to do this doesn’t come from the Internet, but from watching other mothers, from parenting our own children, and above all, and for Christians like myself, from turning to Love itself, our beloved Father, to help mold us in to a more perfect parent. Jesus was all about extreme love. He’s a far better teacher on how to love and show mercy than any parenting guru.

      (And obviously you never have to apologize about leaving a lengthy comment around here since I am the Queen of “Long-Windedness”!)

      • Kate Wicker says:

        p.s. I keep meaning to add that I actually had to abruptly wean the child that is now still nursing after I went in to preterm labor with my fourth pregnancy. She did not nurse for over two months. It was a sad way to, I thought, end a lovely nursing relationship. But when the baby was born last August when she was about 2 1/2 years old, she asked about mama’s milk. Now here we are! :-)

  61. Maggie says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say why that cover bothered me so much. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I saw the picture you posted of nursing. It made me tear up and then it made me angry. Not at you or extended breast feeding, but at recognizing one more thing that my childhood abuse stole from me. I nursed my daughter until she self weaned at 10 months. I wasn’t ready to give up nursing but she was. In hind site, I think it was a blessing in disguise because after seeing that cover I don’t think I could have nursed an older child. That Time cover made me feel nauseous.

    Let me be clear here, I do not think extended breastfeeding is child abuse. That picture you posted was beautiful and nurturing, just the way I pictured extended breastfeeding. However, if the stats are correct at lease 25% of the women out there are survivors. I can tell myself all day long that breasts are not sexual but the physical memory beat into my very soul from a young age says otherwise. So I guess what I’m saying is that if you (not you directly, but you everyone)have the ability to nurture your child in that manner, then you should consider yourself very blessed. In my opinion, it’s a gift.

    • Kate Wicker says:

      I’m so sorry for your painful past, Maggie. Thank you for opening your heart here.

    • Claire says:

      Maggie, that is heartbreaking. I never even thought of it that way, from the perspective of someone who is an abuse survivor. I pray that motherhood has been and will continue to be a huge source of healing for you.

      • Maggie says:

        Thank you Kate and Claire for your kind words. One of my greatest blessings is God’s grace in my life that my own children have a completely different childhood from my own.

        HE is faithful to heal.

  62. Tara Lindis says:

    Gorgeous! And so eloquent!
    Tara Lindis recently posted..What I Want For Mother’s Day

  63. Brandyn says:

    Great response to the TIME article. I don’t have children (hopefully someday), but I was BF until I naturally weaned at 3 and a half. I’ve never had a reason to tell people that until the TIME cover came out.

    I’ve been frustrated by all the uneducated comments about how the child will be clingy or spoiled, so I’ve felt the need to talk about EBF as it applies to me because I feel it’s one way to normalize it. Hopefully pointing out that I was EBF when I am clearly independent and have a great work ethic will help dispel some of these misconceptions.

    TIME was trying to sell magazines – I get it, the print industry is struggling, but there was another picture of Jamie and her son with him curled up against her with his eyes closed. That picture would have gotten just as much attention since most people are uncomfortable with EBF and would have allowed for a better discussion on the actual topic rather that discussing what to me seemed like an inappropriate pose.

    I’m greatful for the TIME issue because I did more research and learned a lot about EBF I didn’t know before. I wish 90% of the people commenting would have read the content instead of just commenting on the cover.
    Brandyn recently posted..The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

  64. Kate, you rock. Plain and simple.
    Karen Edmisten recently posted..Food, Glorious Food

  65. Katrina says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! From another mom who gives “num” to older children, but didn’t quite know how to put this all into words.

  66. Jennifer says:

    I enjoyed reading what you had to say. I still nurse my daughter and she turned three in March. I have to hear about it all the time from her father and how she needs to stop, he has even gone so far as telling me he will move out until she stops. My reply is always the same, “there is the door”. I have to hide if from his family so I don’t have to hear all the negativity, especially from his mother. I’m 35 years old and this is my first child, she is smart,healthy, well-behaved and very independent. She’s just not ready to give the boob up yet and I don’t feel that there is anything wrong with that. I think it’s great that there are more women out there that do EBF and hope that the knowledge of the benefits can help to rid us of some of the ignorance. I don’t have a problem with mother’s who can’t or choose not to breastfeed it’s each persons personal decision. What I have a problem with is people that don’t know what they’re talking about saying that it doesn’t benefit the child past one year and such things. They either need to do their research to reduce their ignorance or mind their own business as far as I’m concerned.

  67. Jessica says:

    Thanks for this. I’m still nursing my two-year-old son. I had “soft” weaning dates, and assumed I’d have weaned him at 18 months. It clearly wasn’t right for him, or for me, so I’m still nursing him. Now I have a “soft” weaning date of 3 years old. Maybe that’ll change too?

    And for this extended nursing mom, real nursing is often very squirmy. He wants to nurse, I don’t force it, but he moves from one breast to the other, squirms around, and is generally very “I’m a little boy” about it.

  68. Jessica Z. says:

    Beautiful post, beautiful photo!
    Seems I’m a little late to the party (just stumbled onto your blog), but it took me awhile to figure out why the Time photo made me uncomfortable as well. As a semi-attachment, semi-extended nursing mom (I say, throw the labels out and just figure out what works best for you and your babies), I had no issue with extended breast-feeding but found the Time photo to be in poor taste. Thanks for articulating your point so well!
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts!

  69. Gina says:

    What a wonderful post! I was freaked out by the Time mag pic too but could not put my finger on it, until you brought the truth to light. The love and warmth was taken out. Typical mainstream media. Anyhoo….I tried nursing my second born but she was having trouble eating and latching on due to being premature. I was sad but let it go bc it didnt seem worthwhile to hang on to something I couldnt control. I have always seen nursing as “great if ya do and great if ya dont”. I hate to see women giving other women a hard time for their choices. Being a mom is a blessing but not without difficulty. And no one knows what’s going on in another mother’s life.
    For me it turned out that my baby girl has a metabolic disorder and needed biotin daily. It had to be in cool formula bc it would breakdown in warmed milk. So she would have had to have formula anyway.
    I do often wonder how a mom can nurse for so long, but never in a million years would I tell her it is wrong or disgusting. It is a tender moment bt mother and child.
    Unless the five yr old son is lifting up the mother’s shirt for some “nubnub” at Moe’s. That’s when I do get (just being honest) a tiny bit creeped out. You know? I mean there has got to be a line where in a developed nation, nursing goes from warm and loving to….?? Does that make sense? I don’t know where the line is (& for each mom it is different & personal obviously) but for me, the Moe’s situation is a good starter for where my level of comfort stops.
    Your photo was precious! thank you for sharing such a sweet mommy/daughter moment!
    BTW your blog is wonderful!

  70. Steve McPhail says:

    Hello Kate,
    I just wanted you to know that I applaud you for allowing your 3 year old daughter to continue her bonding through breastfeeding. I’m a very strong supporter of extended breastfeeding and I honestly feel like whenever your daughter decides to wean herself from your breast; I’m sure she’ll let you know. Until then, I believe that you and your daughter should treasure every precious moment when your allowing her to continue her nursing on your breast. Besides, there’s NOTHING absolutely wrong with breastfeeding an older child; the longer your 3 year old daughter continues her breastfeeding; the less likely she’ll be acceptable to various illnesses… earaches, colds, allergies, etc… KATE… KEEP BREASTFEEDING YOUR DAUGHTER AS LONG AS YOU AND HER ARE COMFORTABLE WITH IT!! Don’t worry about what other other people are thinking you’re just continuing to give your 3 year old daughter the very best nourishment in all the world… your breastmilk!!

    • Kate Wicker says:

      Thank you for your encouragement and don’t worry: That sweet girl is approaching her fourth birthday and still occasionally asks for mama’s milk. :-) It’s our (happy) little secret.

  71. Darla says:

    Hey, I just stumbled upon this and really need some advice/support. I have 4 year old daughter and a 21 month old son. I have nursed them both, we co-sleep, homeschool, and feel like we are AP folks. Media hype like that cover just seem to give fuel to the naysayers. We live in a small town and people are very judgemental about breastfeeding period, let alone extended. My family’s choice to breastfeed until our daughter weaned was one not made public. I felt so strongly about letting her be the one to end that relationship. But, things like this cover, I feel, made me uncomfortable with my choice. When my son was born the tandem nursing relationship that I looked forward to was SOOO not what I imagined. I felt overwhelmed, over-touched, and just totally over my eldest nursing. The comments that we got from family and friends just pushed me over.the edge. “Umm isn’t she a little old for that?” or “How long are you planning on letting her do that?” Those were the norm, but they got better, especially when folks addressed my daughter personally and told her SHE was to big fir that and it was only for babies. It was absolutely horrible and to this day heartbreaking. It was past her 3rd birthday before I totally put a stop to it. And she still asks for “nummies” when she feels she needs comfort. I feel so awful and so cruel for taking that sweet bond away. I sometimes just want to give in and hold her. BUT, then there’s the creepy cover photo, the judgement from family, from friends, from doctors. They turn everything beautiful and precious into something to be ashamed of. I really felt that I had to limit my ” snuggle time” greatly with her because she would constantly ask for nummies. Even her behavior changed for the worse and I fear it’s because she feels rejected. I just don’t know what to do. It has been months since I let her nurse and I tell her it’s because she has sharp teeth now for eating and that they hurt ( which is true– after my son was born her grip seemed so intense). How do I get that bond back? I feel like I just ripped off a band aid and walked away.

  72. Maricela says:

    Great web site you’ve got here.. It’s hard to find quality writing
    like yours these days. I honestly appreciate individuals like
    you! Take care!!
    Maricela recently posted..Maricela

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