a story about boobs

I know how to write an attention-grabbing lede, right? So, on the topic of Time's breastfeeding cover: a few, hasty observations made without any knowledge of what the publisher, photographer or model were truly going for:

  1. This woman is a very thin, probably healthy, woman. She's magazine-model-ready. This is flaunted by her thin, nearly sexualized combination of transparent tanktop and no-bra.
  2. Here we have her three year old kid suckling her tit, staring also into the camera.

Number of times this ever happens in real life? 0. Okay, 1.
Number of people who were previously perhaps ... confused or hostile to the cause of public breastfeeding that are going to be swayed away from that opinion? 0.
Number of grown adolescents having their suspicions confirmed that breastfeeding is something to sexualized, spotlighted, or otherwise mocked/feared/poked/prodded? a lot.

I don't want to get too worked up about whether this woman is or is not the ideal representation of your "average" woman. She's clearly not, but I know plenty of women who look just like her that have had babies and probably breastfed. Women come in all shapes and sizes. The choice here is curious and probably damaging.

I haven't read about attachment parenting, so I don't really know what it is. (I guess I can read the piece in Time and find out!) Maybe this super weird hypersurreal representation of breastfeeding is appropriate somehow in the context of attachment parenting?

If not, maybe they could have chosen a representation of a more normal photo of a woman breastfeeding her child. They're not hard to come by, really.

The chosen photo does nothing but stoke the fires of the debate between prudes and pervs, and the mothers are yet again left out in the cold (or more accurately, in the stink of a shit-stinking bathroom, clandestinely feeding their baby).

  • chotiius

    I nursed all my children until at least 2 years. My eldest nursed to past 5.  After about the age of 18 months, however, nursing was typically accomplished at home unless somebody fell down/bonked their head/scraped a knee, and immediate soothing/stopping public shrieking bloody murder was more important than what strangers might think. I don’t care if people use a chair (I found a couch far more comfortable) but even I, an unrepentent extended-nursing mama, find that particular picture offensive for all the reasons you give. Sigh.

  • TheFact

    When I think of a child nursing til 5 I think of the child from Game of Thrones. It is just weird. Humans were not meant to nurse that long, in general til the last several hundred years we have had a lactose intolerance. The reason being is that we are the only animal that drinks milk past infancy.  So it is not natural and has never been accepted.

    • Chris Wage

      Lactase stops being produced via weaning, which can happen at any time, really. As for what humans were meant to do, I’m curious, where’s your source? Can I get in on that?

      • Chotiius

        A very quick search on information about gorillas turns up a comment from a researcher than a baby gorilla (and they are still called babies at that point – do they have a longer lifespan than we do?) who is forcibly weaned before 3 may die of stress (
        http://gorilladoctors.wildlifedirect.org/2009/05/12/umoja-weaned-blog/ ). Admittedly, this is in the wild, without benefit of modern conveniences. Nevertheless, gorillas customarily suckle their young for at least three years, long after the babies have begun eating solid foods.  Even horses and cattle will sometimes permit a yearling to suckle, and a yearling colt or steer is damn near as big as its mama.

        Human milk is many times higher in lactose than cow’s milk. Lactase production does tend to disappear after weaning in many races. In some (esp. European descent) it may continue throughout life. I only developed lactose intolerance in my late 30s. One of my twins experiences it too. The rest drink milk just fine.How do you define ‘infancy’? What arbitrary line do you use to delimit ‘this is an infant’ and ‘that is not’? Walking? Talking? Climbing the stairs? Using a potty independently? The growth of teeth?  None of these are consistent from child to child, and the disparities can be great. I had one child walk at 13 months, and one at 2 1/2 (although she had medical issues; the number stands). Some babies are born with teeth. One of mine didn’t talk until she was three, and then it was practically full sentences in the span of a couple of weeks.This leaves you with, ‘the calendar says they’re old enough’. Fine. But I can tell you this: toddlers are very busy people, and mom’s breast can’t be dragged around the house like a bottle, or sucked endlessly like a pacifier. Plain old ordinary *life* gets in the way of nursing, and babies give it up because they want to get on with life and can’t be bothered with all this sitting still on mom’s lap stuff.My 5 year old still had a need to suckle. If I refused her (1 time a day, for the count of ten) I would find her huddling in a corner, sucking her thumb when she thought I wasn’t looking. That was the exchange I made. Ten seconds, versus her  not acquiring a hard-to-break habit, and me not needing to inflict punishment on her, or shame her for something that was very clearly a *need*. Somewhere after the age of 5, she just began forgetting to ask. And I didn’t remind her. No pain, no need to prove that I was the adult with all the power over her, no need to force her to give up something that was very important to her, no need to do to her what my in-laws did to my nephew with his pacifier at 3, which involved shaming the hell out of him every time he wanted it for comfort, and reminding him that he’d AGREED to give it up, while he sobbed and grieved. That sucked. He got over it, sure. Eventually. My kid just drifted away, and that was the end. Wrong for your child? Fine. But not wrong for me or mine.

        I did not enjoy nursing toddlers, but it didn’t *hurt* me, and it still provided them with benefits; therefore I was willing to continue until they were done. My youngest was done at 2. She couldn’t be bothered to sit in my lap, and that was that.

    • cait
  • yourmom

    Yes. I am EXTREMELY jealous of the 3 yr old boy. DAMNNNNN….

  • Ashleybbriggs

    Attachment Parenting folks tend to be a little aggressive about their beliefs. Maybe that’s what the photo is attempting to depict? Like every theory of parenting, they have some points but I’ll never not have a stroller for my little ones.

    • Chris Wage

      If I ever have kids, I’d probably just use a potato sack. But that’s because if I ever had kids, they’d probably be being held for ransom. Don’t worry! I’d poke in some breathing holes.

    • Chotiius

      The most important aspect of ‘Attachment Parenting’ that has stayed with me has good solid scientific background. APers don’t leave their kids to “cry it out no matter how distressed they get.” A baby who is crying because he’s crying, who has forgotten why he began crying and is now genuinely freaked out beyond any ability to cope, is absolutely pumped full of stress hormones and chemicals. Not a state you want to leave somebody in if you can help them. Not a state a baby should ever get into, if it can be avoided. You might do it to your worst enemy, maybe. After a certain point, it’s the chemical equivalent of a panic attack, complete with full-on cortisol and adrenaline dump. My kids certainly cried, but I never let them cry to that point. 

      There are schools of thought out there teach adults to enforce their will, and if the kid throws up because he’s that upset, you go in, clean it up, and leave again. I think that’s beyond cruelty. 

      I used a stroller. My kids cried sometimes.I nursed them until they were done – within the limits I could tolerate (such as, a count of ten). There are lots of middle grounds between ‘becoming an utter martyr’ and ‘being an authoritarian dictator’

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  • Colin

    The kid in the photo seems to have attached pretty well.

  • Juanvegas

    It confirms my theory that women rule the world.