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Breastfeeding Debate: Mothers at War After Time Magazine Controversy

Posted on the 22 May 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Breastfeeding debate: Mothers at war after Time magazine controversy

Extended breastfeeding sparks controversy

The background

A Time magazine cover photo of a woman breastfeeding her three-year-old son provoked a storm of controversy – and the debate shows no sign of ending.

The much-discussed shot was promoting an article on attachment parenting, which includes extended breastfeeding. Singer Alanis Morrissette recently entered the fray, insisting she would breastfeed her son until he wanted to stop.

Some commentators have hailed the cover as opening a debate about the taboos surrounding breastfeeding. Others, however, have argued that the provocative coverline, Are You Mom Enough?, sets up an unnecessary divide between mothers based on their parenting choices – another salvo in the ‘Mummy Wars’ (or ‘Mommy Wars’ if you’re in the US).

Read all about the Time magazine cover debate at The Periscope Post.

Refusing to fight in the parenting wars

“Breastfeeding is not a macho test of motherhood, with the winner being the one who nurses the longest,” wrote Lisa Belkin at The Huffington Post, insisting she would not be drawn into condemning other parents for their child-rearing choices. “Motherhood is – should be – a village, where we explore each other’s choices, learn from them, respect them, and then go off and make our own,” Belkin said.

Parenting tensions already exist

Some commentators may insist that Time is “inciting a culture war” between parents, said Nancy McDermott at Spiked. But these tensions are already part of our society, and that isn’t due to magazine covers: “Whether they take the form of a clash over a particular parenting practice, like breastfeeding, or simply manifest themselves among parents as a vague feeling of being judged all the time, there is an undercurrent of apprehensiveness that accompanies everything moms and dads do.”

We need more breastfeeding, not less

“I’ve spent enough of my life in playgroups, and I’ve yet to witness a three or four year old dragging a stool over to his mother and disappearing up her jumper — but if it’s happening, it can only be a good thing,” said Anna Moore in The Times (£). The problem with breastfeeding in the UK is not that women are doing it for too long, wrote Moore; rather, “we’re not doing it enough. Take up levels are high at birth but plummet very soon.”

Attachment parenting isn’t necessarily ‘natural’

“Many advocates of attachment parenting argue that modern culture has interfered with our evolutionarily designed, optimal, instinctive style of care,” wrote Dr Charlotte Faircloth in The Independent. But this argument isn’t based on fact: “Those hunter-gatherer societies that apparently did, or do, breastfeed for extended periods tell us more about the conditions they were living under at the time, rather than the ‘ideal state’ for all humans.”

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