Following Time Magazine's article entitled "Are You Mom Enough," there has been a maelstrom of activity in the blogosphere and on social media websites about the article, its title, and mostly its sensationalistic cover, portraying a 3 year old boy standing on a chair while breast feeding. The implication of the title along with the cover photo is that if you're not nursing your toddler, you must not be "mom enough." There is so much wrong with this view that I can't possibly express all of it in one blog post, but here are a few of the main points.
1. Rule #1 of feeding your child is just that - feed your child. Whether you're breastfeeding or bottle feeding, whether your child is eating solids or not, whether he is a snacker or a big-meal eater, feed your child. Yes, do all of the research and make an informed decision. But ultimately what matters most is that your child gets the nutrition that she needs in order to be healthy.
2. We've all heard that "breast is best" and I believe that with all my heart and soul. But for some women it doesn't work, for a variety of reasons. Some don't have enough supply. Some find it too painful. Some have to take medications that preclude nursing. Some are not educated about the benefits of breastfeeding, so they bottle feed because they don't know any better, or because it's the family expectation. There are as many reasons for this decision as there are children. The choice to breastfeed or bottle feed is an individual choice for each mom and child relationship, and how I choose to feed my child is not open for criticism or judgment by anyone else. See Rule #1.
3. Breast feeding beyond the first year is not abnormal. Worldwide, the average age of weaning is between 2 years old and 7.5 years old. I think the uber-sexualization of breasts in the U.S. and other first-world countries has had a negative effect on breast feeding. When I posted a link to an interview with the ladies who posed for the Time article on my facebook page, one of the comments in response was: "But when the boys start liking boobies you should stop feeding them with them. When they start riding motorcycles. They need to get off the BOOB." Really? You're worried about a 3 year old being sexually attracted to the "BOOB?" Give me a break. We as a nation need to be more educated about breast feeding so that when moms make that choice, they have all of the relevant information and they're not making the choice based on societal pressure.
Aside from the nursing issue, there is the "Attachment Parenting" issue. What is attachment parenting? Basically, it's paying attention to the needs of your child and meeting them as they arise. This gives them the confidence and assurance that their parents love them as they grow up and gain independence. Attachment parenting is NOT:
- Giving your child everything she wants when she wants it
- Spoiling your child
- Allowing your child to do whatever he wants
- A lack of discipline or refusal to say "no" to your child
- Nursing your child until she graduates from High School (although Kindergarten is not out of the question!)
Attachment parenting is using your instincts. If your baby is crying after you've put her to bed and your every instinct is telling you to pick her up and hold her and snuggle with her, then by all means do it! Even if you're tired and want her to sleep through the night. Even if the latest parenting book, your well-meaning friends, or your doctor told you to let her "cry it out."
Doing what you KNOW is right for you and your child, in spite of what other sources are telling you, is part of attachment parenting.
Most importantly, mothers need the support of other mothers - not criticism, unsolicited advice, conflict over parenting decisions, or competition - SUPPORT. After all, being a mom is perhaps the hardest, most rewarding thing a woman can do. Let's not fight over who's right or wrong about how to do it. What's right for you may not work in my family and vice-versa. That doesn't mean we can't stand up for each other the way that boy on the Time cover literally stood up for his mother's milk.