'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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Maevelyn Maevelyn

for me what was odd about the Game of Thrones scene was the fact that it isn't her kid and it's not real. The mom breastfeeding on time is kind of funny and cute in an in your face kind of way. Also 3 and 6 are vastly different ages. 

nonmember avatar Cara

I have no idea. But, I can tell you that as my child approached two I was less and less sure of my 'whenever she decides to wean' approach. I wasn't psychologically uncomfortable nursing her, it was just increasingly physically uncomfortable (probably a sign she wasnt really nursing anymore, but more chewing on me) and really tiring. I wanted someone else - say her father - to be able to comfort her and put her to bed. I had surgery last month that forced the issue. I could have kept nursing with some effort, but I was perfectly happy to let her stay at Grandma's put an end to it. And this from someone who loved nursing for the first 18 months or so.

Zyva Zyva

The only image that weirded me out about extended breastfeeding was a 12 year old girl breastfeeding still, and that.. bothered me, a great deal, because then it turns into slightly creepy. 

nonmember avatar Lord K

Been to about a 100 countries, depending on how you count them, I've seen similar scenes around the world. Seen situations where the mother was doing some kind of work where she was just standing, like washing clothes in a barrel or something, and her kid was standing on a stool to breastfeed. Nothing wrong or unnatural in the act.

Still, this photo is in bad taste. Public breastfeeding is one thing, taking family pics is another one thing, but putting the photo on the cover of a national magazine is going over the top. And clearly being used as contraversy to sell more mags.

However, just as bad, are the descriptions of the photo using words like "creepy", "sick", "disgusting". Even worse, are those calling this picture child porn. Seriously, anyone finding this pornographic, is themselves sick and depraved, and says volumes about their character.

Angelica Leroy

Look, I believe that women can and should breastfeed anywhere they want for however  long they want. I'm comfortable with it, and plan to breastfeed all of my kids. My own personal comfort level to nurse with my own kids is 2. After two, they just don't seem like babies to me. But if someone else wants to do it, it's fine. My visceral response to this one is how that kid looks a lot older than three on the cover. I'm sure he'd look different not posed, dressed and lighted like that. I had to realize he was standing on a chair and that was baby fat, not just chubby kid fat to get it. I saw his age and breathed a sigh of relief. Not weird anymore, but it did shock me at first. But I don't see a problem with the shock either, our culture expects preschoolers to be growing up and moving away form things associated with babyhood. Whether that's right or wrong thinking is up to you, but that's why the shock was there. Can't comment on the boy or girl thing.

nonmember avatar anymom

The thing that bothered me way more than the picture was the question, "Are You Mom Enough?" Mom enough for what? I'm mom enough not to subject my child to my own efforts at gratuitous attention-seeking. I don't care how long you want to breast-feed - I breast-fed my three boys ten months, thirteen months, and three months, based on circumstances unique to each and to my family. But don't imply that this particular approach makes you more of a mom. It most certainly does not.

Sierr... SierraLynn

I'm all for breastfeeding. But I don't want to see your preschooler latched to your boob. Pump and give it to them in a cup while in public.

nonmember avatar D

Why? Because it IS weird, and gross.

Natalie Cole Watson

All I gotta say is, GROSS!!  What the hell is going on?    So, now you're a good mom only if you breastfeed your kid until he goes to middle school?  I liked your sentence about the kid being old enough to make himself a sandwich to go along with the drink!  Really?! 

BusyM... BusyMom7789

There's nothing wrong with breastfeeding but I don't want to see another woman's breast hanging all over the place especially when I'm with my own children.  No I don't want you to hide in a bathroom, or go to the roof of the building just a small cover up is nice.  When I was the children section of the book store a woman lifted her shirt and bra then started to breastfeed her child.  Nothing wrong except for about 30 seconds her boob was just hanging out for all the men and small children to see.  Get a wrap or go somewhere private.  I think the magazine cover is just another example of how people are fueling the breestfeed or bottle debate.

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