Time's breastfeeding cover reignites parenting debate
IT'S a cover designed
Even those unaware of the child-rearing philosophy behind it could be guaranteed to have an opinion about what 26-year-old mother Jamie Lynne Grumet was doing to her near-four-year-old son.
Time magazine's confronting photo of Ms Grumet and Aram, under the headline "Are you mom enough", and the photos it carried inside of other mothers breastfeeding their toddlers reignited the debate on attachment parenting.
The controversial philosophy, which promotes extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping with infants as the best way to raise children, splits parents, with some believing it to be nurturing and loving and others dismissing it as anti-women and unrealistic.
"It's really warm. It's like embracing your mother, like a hug. You feel comforted, nurtured and really, really loved. I had so much self-confidence as a child, and I know it's from that."
She adds that Samuel, who is originally from Ethiopia, took to her breast almost instantly.
"Being able to give him that (comfort) with the trauma that he faced was really, really important to me. I didn't realise how much it would help my attachment to him. When his English improved, because the connection was there, he didn't do it as much."
Ms Grumet touches on the reason for running the feature in the first place: women in the US women have a hard time when they try to breastfeed in public, with many being ejected from coffee shops and stores.
"There are people who tell me they're going to call social services on me or that it's child molestation," Ms Grumet tells Time. "People have to realise this is biologically normal. It's not socially normal. The more people see it, the more it'll become normal in our culture."
Ms Grumet has blogged about how much Aram enjoys being breastfed and, according to Mail Online, posted a photo of her holding Aram with the caption: "I've breastfed Aram at the Playboy mansion. I actually felt it was the most appropriate place on earth to do it."
News site Storyfull carried a collection of some of the angry comments the story has provoked; much of the anger was directed at Time, with many women accusing the magazine of making it more difficult to breastfeed in public.
Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: "@Time, no! You missed the mark! You're supposed to be making it easier for breastfeeding moms. Your cover is exploitive and extreme."
Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik took to her Facebook to say: "i am going to bat about this TIME cover photo for all of the amazing women who helped me be the mother i was meant to be. this is for you, La Leche League International and for every lactation consultant and fellow mama warrior who held me while I cried. this is not easy, to try and speak for all of us, but i will do my best to make you proud."
Issue of support
The ABC stirred a similar debate when it aired its adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas' novel The Slap. The TV series featured confronting scenes of Melissa George's character breastfeeding her near-four-year-old son.
The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding a child up until their second birthday "or beyond" but most mothers give up after three months and switch to formula.
Meredith Lavery, spokeswoman for Australian Breastfeeding Association, said Time's cover was "a very powerful image" but said the real issue for Australian mums was support.
"If people are able to get the proper support from the start they are able to go on and choose breastfeeding relationship that they want and is right for their family.
"Obviously, the woman on the front of Time magazine has chosen, with the right support and information, a decision that suits her and her family. I’m not going to comment on what her family’s doing but obviously it’s a decision that her family has made within their family structure."
She said that it was illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers, adding that the law placed no restrictions on the age of the child.
"The reality of people who breastfeed their children past the age of two is that they are usually only feeding their child once or twice a day. And that’s usually when the child's in bed, or has just woken up."
Dr Jennifer James, a senior lecturer in nursing and midwifery at RMIT, said there was nothing unnatural about breastfeeding children to the age of three or five - or even longer.
"Biologically we’re meant to keep breastfeeding until our children are three to five years old, but socially it’s far from that," she said. "We can't even get them exclusively breastfed for six months."
Some studies have found the "natural age of weaning" can be as high as seven years old.