'Time' Magazine Taps Into America's Discomfort With Extended Breastfeeding

You've seen the Time magazine cover that's been burning up the Internet, right? I'll admit it, my first reaction was to recoil from the image. It seemed deliberately provocative and shocking, and I chalked it up to a clever marketing technique to sell more magazines.

Of course, plenty of people don't think it's shocking at all, and in fact, they're pretty offended that ANYONE would be taken aback by the photo. So then I started feeling like maybe I was a bad person for raising an eyebrow at an innocent image of a mother and child … but then I remembered a somewhat similar nursing scene from Games of Thrones that everyone agreed was shocking.

So: extended breastfeeding! Why are we so disturbed by it?


Speaking personally, I find it nearly impossible to look at an older nursing child in the same way I might observe a nursing baby. I'm not saying it's right, but to me breastfeeding just looks very, very different when a child is old enough to make himself a sandwich to go with that drink. The bigger a child is, the more it can start to look cringe-y and awkward.

The Time cover seems like it was set up to exploit the things about extended breastfeeding that make us uncomfortable—the boy is standing on a chair, which makes him appear even taller, and he's wearing a little tough-guy outfit that highlights his age. Meanwhile, Mom is showing off her attractive figure while staring down the camera lens, and can we talk about the airbrush treatment she got on that underarm of hers? No one's armpit is that smooth, people!

Photoshoppery aside, the image is clearly intended to evoke the "extreme attachment parenting" concept of the article tease, and if it was meant to create buzz and ultimately drive more web traffic and magazine sales, well, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

In reading all the chatter about the Time photo today, I thought of a particular scene from last season's Game of Thrones. Check it out:

I'm not saying this is an apples to apples comparison, because, well, there's a bunch of craziness going on with the Lysa Tully character and her son is a dangerously spoiled little shitweasel. Still, the visual impact of a 6-year-old nursing is obviously freaky. I mean, even the other characters in the scene are like, uh, whoah.

So is this just a cultural thing? Is it horribly close-minded to be a little ooked out by older kids who breastfeed? Is it okay for a 4-year-old but less okay for a 6-year-old? (Because I sure don't remember anyone defending that Game of Thrones scene as depicting a perfectly normal feeding activity.) And do you think the response to the Time cover would have been any different if that child was a little girl?

Why do you think some people are weirded out by images of older kids breastfeeding?

Image via Time

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