On the Natch

Baby Boomer, Grrrrandma, Urban Goddess
MAY 10, 2012 4:40PM

Who's Suckling Whom?

Rate: 8 Flag

Salon's always excellent Mary Elizabeth Williams has a blog today on Time Magazine's provocative new cover article, Are You Mom Enough? which is, as Williams points out,"accompanied, by the way, by a picture of a hot blonde and her 3-year-old son standing on a chair to suckle her breast. " (Partial image below). The article is one salvo in a flurry of what seem to be recent competing essays on "attachment parenting," and is the latest battle in the so-called "Mommy Wars." Sigh.



She's not the babysitter.


The question that always arises for me in discussions of "trends" in parenting is this: Whose need gets met? Parents have the power in the relationship, and too often it's their needs that are being met.  
Disclaimer: I am a grandmother now, but the first time I put my first son to my breast, I had a sexual thrill as if a hot wire had been run from my nipple to my clitoris and the switch turned full ON. To "eleven." I despaired of ever being able to tolerate such an intensely sexual feeling every time my son needed to be fed, but thankfully it faded to a bearably pleasant sensation rather quickly. I know how good breastfeeding feels, and how profoundly it is entwined with sex. I also know how good it is for infants. I breastfed all three of my sons. 
As a young mother, I had a friend whose son was the same age as mine; we were both breastfeeding and happy about it, but I felt uncomfortable when, in the playground or in a department store, she would pull up her shirt and ask her already ambulatory son, "Craig-y . . . wanna suck?" Especially when there were young men nearby in the playground shooting hoops, or male salespeople in the store turning bright red . . . I remember asking myself "Who is nursing whom?"  
I agree with Hanna Roisin that the cult of attachment parenting is creepy, as is the extension of breastfeeding into the toddler years. I was as hip and crunchy as it was possible to be in the 70s, with my Lamaze classes, my Earth shoes, and my hand-cranked baby-food mill. But attachment parenting reminds me of that awful young mother I knew back in those days, and I wonder once again, "who's nursing whom? Whose needs are getting met?"

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I am fairly confident my sis still suckles her son at night (he's almost 3). It seems to work for them *shrug*
I also remember reading an article of a 5 yo that still reluctantly breastfed and being completely creeped out by it. I think it's the reluctantly part that makes it not good.
"Craig-y . . . wanna suck?" ok now that would creep me out. While I did have a mid-wife friend who breastfeed her kids until they were 4ish, it did seem much more discreet than your friend. I too have always wondered about this practice, who does it serve? Personally I wanted my boobs back.

As for Time mag, they may have gained temporarily by sensationalizing something as natural and organic as breastfeeding but long term, I hope their bottom line suffers big time.
In Asia less than 100 years ago, kids breastfed until age 7. In our culture, it somehow doesn't go with Little Einstein, early reading, toddler sports, and day care. We're making our kids independent and bright, and they don't need to be sucking our breasts to feel secure, loved and close to us, if we treat them well and stay available emotionally. I think it's kind of abusive and weird to breastfeed once a child is toiled-trained and talking. It's like overfeeding and helping them become obese because we think they'll love all that food. Sick.
Havlin,a great work here..you voiced an issue that brings me in a difficult situation...And the bottom line is as you wisely understood and stated "But attachment parenting reminds me of that awful young mother I knew back in those days, and I wonder once again, "who's nursing whom? Whose needs are getting met?""".Sometimes I think that for some women the role of the women can not stoρ even when their role is to be good mothers..and I do not mean that she must forget her sex..this is imρossible anyway..it is all about ρriorities and having your child as your self even before yourself!!!Well,lets face it some time..some women must understand that breast..means breastfeeding in some time and not "the sillicon valley".Rated!!!
I worry for both people on Time's cover, really.

I think Time's needs got met here.
Mayim Bialik, the actress who played "Blossom" on TV in the early '90s (and now has a Ph.D.) made some very non-sensationalist comments about attachment parenting on CNN when this story first broke. I'd add the link, but OS won't let me. If you go to the CNN website and search for "Mayim Bialik" you should get the video. My views on attachment parenting were very well informed by her intelligent, reasoned comments.
Another thing: I stopped my Time subscription years ago because of their sensationalist, one-sided reporting on a variety of issues. Their cover story on immigration was one of the most hateful, one-sided and inflammatory stories I've ever read by a supposed product of "journalists."
Thank you to all who commented so thoughtfully:

hyblaean-julie; I agree that the reluctance makes in creepy.
asia rein, I agree with you re. Time, as well. Thanks for comment.
Thanks for the kind words, Stathi.
old new lefty; thanks for the chuckle.
Kim Gamble; amen.
Deborah, I think you have the right idea.