Column: Nursing mother is what the hype doctor orderedDETROIT — When I first saw the new Time magazine cover of a nearly 4-year-old boy nursing on his mother’s exposed breast, I must admit it made me nostalgic: For a time when they wrapped magazines in brown paper.
By: Mitch Albom, Worthington Daily Globe
DETROIT — When I first saw the new Time magazine cover of a nearly 4-year-old boy nursing on his mother’s exposed breast, I must admit it made me nostalgic:
For a time when they wrapped magazines in brown paper.
I’m no mothering expert, but I do believe, as a general rule, that if you are standing up and wearing long pants, your breastfeeding days are over.
But what do I know? Using the headline “Are You Mom Enough?” Time has gotten tons of attention for its cover shot of 26-year-old Jamie Lynne Grumet yanking down one side of her tank top for her son Aram who breastfeeds while standing on a stool and wearing — I’m not kidding here — sneakers and camouflage pants.
Grumet is a devotee of “attachment parenting” — the subject of the cover story — and, I admit, she and her boy do look attached. Very attached. Although I wonder how hungry that poor kid must have been. I’ve been to photo shoots. They can take hours.
Then again, why would the boy want to move? In their famous “The 2000 Year Old Man” routines, Mel Brooks tells Carl Reiner that the key to his long life was doing things slowly: “I breastfed for 200 years.” He quickly adds, “I look back at that as the happiest part of my life.”
But Brooks was making a comedy album.
Time is trying to make a statement.
Well, I take that back. First, Time is trying to make a splash. Then make money. Then make a statement.
Why else do this cover? It’s 10 percent substance and 90 percent shock value. Yes, Grumet actually breastfeeds her son in real life (and I feel sorry for that kid when he hits school, now that the whole world has downloaded that image). But I doubt Grumet earned the cover with her story.
Would the magazine have used her if she were 50 pounds overweight, had a funny nose and frizzy hair? The fact that she is attractive and stands pitched in a slightly sexy pose — wearing skinny jeans, her shoulders bare, hand on hip — should tell you what Time most wants from this whole thing: buzz.
And yes, we are helping the magazine achieve that by writing about it. But the image is too omnipresent to ignore. And it has, for a few days (which is as long as anything lasts in America now), sparked another discussion over what makes a good parent.
Attachment parenting was started by Dr. Bill Sears 20 years ago with a bestseller called “The Baby Book.” Sears suggests long-term breastfeeding, sleeping in the same bed as the child and wearing the little one in a sling against your body.
Personally, had I been raised in such a system, I would never have learned to walk. Why bother? I’m riding shotgun and sleeping next to my food source.
Anyhow, why are we so fascinated by parenting techniques? Not long ago, it was the Tiger Mom. Even more recently was pre-chewing your child’s food. Every five minutes, there seems to be a new, better way to bring up your kids. You wonder how adults ever managed for millions of years before Time needed to sell a copy.
And, as with other “lifestyle” magazine stories, you wonder how many people are really living the trend, and how many are just gaping at the cover. Sears’ book has sold in excess of a million copies over the last 20 years, but in a nation of more than 300 million, that’s not big penetration. According to Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “only 12 percent of American mothers exclusively breastfeed even for the first six months.” It goes down after that.
Breastfeeding has many benefits, and should be celebrated, but ask yourself, really, how many people do you know who still are nursing their 4-year-olds? Is this really a national issue, or, like that famous picture of a naked, pregnant Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair, just a great way to boost newsstand sales?
The truth is, as enlightened as we think we are, many Americans still get worked up over seeing an attractive woman’s naked breast on a magazine cover. To us, it’s a big story; to a baby, it’s breakfast.
Makes you wonder who’s the mature one here.
Mitch Albom is a Detroit Free Press columnist.