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.
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?"