You’re correct if you’re put off by that Time Magazine breast feeding cover

If you haven’t yet seen Time Magazine’s most recent cover, welcome back to earth from your extended journey to some other galaxy, far, far away.

To bring you up to speed, here’s a copy of the famous (or infamous) cover for you to enjoy:

The Mom pictured on the cover has promised to stop breast feeding her son before he reaches college, perhaps even before he reaches high school.

Yes, I’m lying.  She’s actually planning on weaning him sometime around kindergarten.  That, of course, is three to four years after most American mothers wean their babies.  And by “most American mothers,” I truly mean “most American mothers,” not just “those American mothers who breast feed.”  In America, almost 75% of women breast feed their babies for some period of time during baby’s first year, with or without adding solid foods to the diet.

Breast feeding is a good thing.  Moms come equipped with a natural processing and delivery system that is always ready to provide baby with a wholesome diet, one that comes complete with all the required nutrients and immunizations, and that is invariably served at the perfect temperature.  From Baby’s point of view, everything is just right:  taste, feel, smell, and cuddle factor.  From Mom’s point of view, there’s no bottle shlepping, no messy formula, and food is instantly available when the baby’s in an uproar.  Moms also theoretically loses in pregnancy weight faster when they breast feed (I certainly didn’t).  Best of all, Mom gets a chance to sit down and put her feet up.

So what’s the big deal about the cover?  I’ve already established (at least to my satisfaction) that most American women breast feed and it’s a good thing.

The big deal, of course, is twofold.  First, that kid is no baby.  Assuming healthy dental development, a normal digestive system, and reasonable coordination skills, he’s perfectly capable of eating the same food as the rest of us.  Second, that Mom isn’t bonding with her son as she stares militantly at the camera.  Nope.  Instead, she’s telling you off, you narrow-minded, prudish, salacious American you.

My understanding is that the point of the article, which I haven’t read since it’s behind a pay wall, is that Dr. William Sears has managed to convince a lot of American women that they have to hyper-bond with their child, a system that requires co-sleeping and endless breast feeding.  I was not a Sears acolyte.  I stopped breast feeding my two when they had some serious teeth in their mouths, figuring that they were telling me they were ready for something that didn’t scream when they bit down. Co-sleeping left me awake in an agony of fear that I would roll over and smother the poor things (something that, Sears & Co. forget was a common cause of infant mortality in pre-industrial Western society.)

I’ve been following Facebook discussions in which the usual crowd, after roundly castigating evil right-wing Republicans for their prudishness about the cover, go on to cite approvingly to Third World (i.e., pre-industrial societies) as role models for up-tight Westerners to follow when it comes to extended breast feeding or even ordinary breast feeding.  I made no friends when I waded into this debate to point out a few obvious things:

First, as I noted above, Americans breast feed in vast numbers, so it’s no use trying to pretend that conservatives are offended about the article just because they want all babies to drink formula from plastic battles (complete with profits going to greedy corporations, of course).

Second, women in poor countries have limited birth control options.  If they want to avoid delivering a baby every ten or twelve months, breast feeding can slow the process.  It’s by no means a perfect birth control mechanism, as many women will attest, but there’s no doubt that it does interfere somewhat with a mother’s fertility.  Mom’s over-bond with one baby so that they won’t have to have another one.  American women have other birth control choices.

Third, women in poor countries may have limited options for feeding their children solid food.  Even if there’s food around, poor sanitation often means that those women who wean early watch their children die quickly from food-borne diseases.  Where food availability and sanitation are issues, extended breast feeding may be a very reasonable option.  Last I looked, we Americans don’t have that problem.

In other words, I think the arguments people are making up to defend the photo’s apparent message (namely, that American women should emulate pre-industrial cultures when it comes to breast feeding) are silly.  The photo itself isn’t actually silly, because it’s a photo, not an argument, but you’re right if you think it’s offensive.

That woman on the cover isn’t bonding, she’s advocating.  She’s so “in your face” she practically leaps off the cover, clawing at your eyeballs.  This picture can best be analogized to a porn picture.  In those, the woman, rather than gazing lovingly at her partner, turns her seductive gaze to the camera — and to the viewer beyond.  Just as porn isn’t about love, this photo isn’t about bonding with a baby.  This is one Mom’s statement about the “evils” of American culture, nicely captured on the front page of a magazine owned and distributed by vast corporate interests.  (I so love the irony.)

The uncomfortable feeling we slightly old-fashioned romantics get when we look at that exposed breast is also completely reasonable.  Women’s breasts are wonderfully utilitarian objects, in that they’re dual purpose.  They feed babies and they entice men.  How cool is that?

The smart thing, of course, and the way our culture rolls, is to keep the two purposes separate.  Sometimes we’re in Mom mode, in which case we breast feed, ’cause it’s good for us and good for the baby, but we do so discreetly.  I can guarantee you that, despite having breast fed two children, no one outside of my nuclear family (and that includes the kids themselves) got an eyeful of me.  Feeding mode is not the same as flashing mode.  Nor was I at all inconvenienced by maintaining my [physical privacy.

When we’re not in Mom mode, our societal norms applaud, indeed encourage, showing our breasts — provided that we keep the business parts covered.  Indeed, keeping the business parts covered is important, because otherwise we suddenly depart from Western sexy and find ourselves sliding into Third World utilitarianism, where the breast is constantly exposed by Mom’s simultaneously practicing primitive birth control and disease protection on their children.  Once upon a time, these pictures were exciting for the 13 year old boy, pouring over black and white photos in National Geographic, but that day is long gone. I’m willing to bet that any guys reading this post are not feeling libidinous stirrings as they gaze at the photo below.

When all is said and done, the Time cover is nothing but a publicity gimmick, and I have to admit that I’ve fallen for it — I’m discussing the cover and its meaning.  However, I haven’t gone so far as to buy the magazine and I don’t, and will not, subscribe.  I advise you to avoid the magazine as well.  Sure, a conversation is nice, but lets not get inveigled into increasing one American corporation’s profit simply because it publishes a cover that subtly denigrates America and her normative culture.

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Comments

  1. SADIE says

    Are you Mom Enough? I am not that Mom enough to whip out a breast, boy and put myself on anything, other the the cover of my bed. In a dozen years the kid will be diagnosed with a new disorder BDS – “breast detachment sydrome”. Ahhh…but there’s still more to the story. Mr. & Mrs. Grumet have another son, Samuel, who’s adopted, still nursing and he’s black.

    If Time really wanted to make headlines, they should have put both boys on the cover.
     
    More on that TIME Magazine-cover breast-feeding mother and her four-year-old son who looks nine

  2. Tonestaple says

    Mom certainly looks “in your face” but what’s the expression on that poor boy’s face.  Why are his eyebrows raised like that.  He doesn’t quite look surprised, but neither does he look like he’s particularly enjoying this meal.  This woman may be very “attached” to her kid and the kid is clearly very attached to her, but who else is he attached to?  And after this kind of constant, non-stop, apparently-accepting-of-anything mothering, how on earth is he going to deal with the real world when he has to share?

  3. jj says

    I never got the whole thing.  They told me I was breast-fed for a while, but since I don’t remember any of it they could just as readily have told me I wasn’t.  No loss – or gain – of sleep either way.  Speaking of which, I don’t remember ever being invited to sleep with my parents, either.  Or wanting to, I was an independent little rotter and happy to be in my own space.  Once out of the nursery I was cheerfully off to the other end of the house.  Probably by four, because I remember that birthday.  Can’t speak with accuracy to much prior to that, I don’t seem to be one of those people with clear memories of infancy.  A few spots here and there, that’s about it.
     
    I’ll buy the immunity thing, though.  My mother was one of those people that things like the flu just couldn’t penetrate, and I did get that from somewhere.  I did my high school years away at school being a New England preppie, and there were times when the infirmary would be packed solidly, to the point where people were on cots in the halls, and there’d be me and four other guys showing up for meals – classes would be pretty much canceled for lack of warm bodies – and in all those years I never got a flu shot.  It bounced off, and I figure maybe I got that from her, because it bounced off her, too.  Could have just been genes, though, no real way to know.
     
    I guess I have no particular opinion.  You want to breast feed ‘em ’till they’re seventeen, go ahead.  I have never found breasts to be particularly erotic, or even interesting, (always been a leg man), so the sight of them neither offends nor titillates.  The sight of a six-year old hanging on them would probably be amusingly annoying, but it’s easy enough to look at something else.  I have to look at Obama and Biden on TV every night, I can probably handle a pair of exposed glands.

  4. neocon hippie says

    That one of the biggest media corporations ever would choose to put this picture on the cover of their once-flagship newsweekly shows just how bizarre our culture has become.
    The central message of the pic isn’t about breastfeeding at all, although it points to an article that is. It’s yet another in that favorite cultural-left pose: “Look how cool and transgressive I/we are! Take that, you squares!”

  5. Oldflyer says

    Wish Time would go back in X years and check on the boy.  Or alternatively they could looked up some who have been through the experience.
     
    Bullying is much in the news lately.  Can you imagine what that kid will face if his peers remember that picture once he is in school?  When I was a kid, we knew nothing about homosexuality, but Lord help the Boy who didn’t man-up to age group standards.
     
    My take is that Mothering is good.  I believe that a boy (or girl) should know from demonstration as well as instinct that they have unconditional mother love.  I also believe that they should know that Mom has enough confidence in them to loosen the leash–or dare I say umbilical cord?– at appropriate stages in their development.  Looks like this Mom is falling behind that curve.

  6. Mike Devx says

    It’s an in yoour face, assaulting image.  It’s an attack.  Breast-feeding a five year old, standing on a chair so he can suck on mommie’s tit while dressed in army fatigue pants… while Mom stands there staring coolly into the camera… is not really about breast feeding at all.  There’s a remote coldness to the image that is disturbing.  This is, no NO way, a loving image.

    And where’s the husband in this image?  It reminds me of what struck me about Obama’s ‘Life Of Julia’.  Across her entire life… WHERE ARE THE MEN???  They simply do not exist.  It’s a radical feminists Utopia.  In both cases, this Time cover and Obama’s Julia, I don’t think it was done entirely on purpose.  I think they’re brainwashed and radicalized, and they can’t see the extent of their own brainwashing or radicalization.

    To them, the Time image and the Life Of Julia, and their absence of men, is something entirely normal.  They can’t even really see how abnormal it is.  They’re totally cocooned.
     

  7. Danny Lemieux says

    In my youth, the guru of child raising was Dr. Spock (and apparently still is, as his books continue to be sold).

    Millions of women flocked to his knee to be told by this childless, New Age, Ivy League-trained pediatrician how they should really, really raise their kids because they didn’t have the faith in their forebears nor the common sense to figure it out on their own.

    Many of today’s problems stem from that man’s influence.

    I suspect that my fellow commentators are right: what the title of this article should have been about is the next screwed-up generation’s failure to wean on the advice of a clueless pediatrician and his brainless acolytes. 

  8. Beth says

    For goodness sake, is nothing sacred?  I know, I know, another stupid question from this ‘sheltered, backwards, repressed’ woman.  The Left consistently takes something good and twists it, turns it, malls it beyond recognition….marriage, family, procreation, patriotism, fidelity, loyalty, hard work, responsibility and the list just goes on an on.
    This Time cover is just another example of the Left flipping the bird to tradition which has proven itself right and good, productive and frankly, joyful.  I am “Mom Enough” to teach my children a sense of shame!  If someone wants to nurse their children until five, then that is their business–and I agree with you Bookworm on the necessity or lack there of.  Why on earth is this something that should be thrust onto magazine covers? 
    Hate to sound so pessimistic, but I think we’ve passed the point for our society to regroup to find it’s soul. 

  9. SADIE says

    The print media is in the throws of a slow death and they’re fighting one another for the last gasp of thin air.  

    The link and the covers of Newsweek and The New Yorker make Don King, the fight promoter, look like a wall flower.

    (YAHOO! NEWS)      

  10. Danny Lemieux says

    If it is any comfort to you, Beth…chances are the kid in that Time cover will never reproduce. Nor will the people that put together that cover.

  11. says

    Hate to sound so pessimistic, but I think we’ve passed the point for our society to regroup to find it’s soul.  

    That’s not pessimistic. You should hear some of the things I’ve heard. That would be pessimistic. 

    The Progressive movement progress humanity towards ultimate despair, slavery, and totalitarian tyranny. How’s that for human progress?

  12. Victory says

    How did all of you fail to see what was really happening in that photo? Do you really think that these photo subjects get to have their say as to how they place themselves and look at the camera? I have NEVER seen a professional photo where the photographer says “Do what you want”. Of course they are posing for the camera as the photographer told them!!! Look at the expression on that poor kids face, it says it all!
    It’s time to return to reality people.

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