Mommy Wars: TIME Magazine’s Latest Breastfeeding Cover Sparks A Whole New Controversy

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(UPDATE: See the best Twitter responses to the controversial cover)

Check out this week’s TIME magazine cover (gasp!). Before we delve into its meaning, let’s just acknowledge that the photo is beyond powerful. It sparks a whole range of emotions, most of them along the “Ew, gross!” variety. It’s a brilliant move in terms of sales – people will be talking about this cover for a long time – but when it comes to the so-called Mommy Wars, well, let’s just say it’s left many moms fuming.

I will be honest and say that I have yet to read the story, which I am very anxious to do (as of now, it’s only available online to subscribers). But the debate so far is about the cover itself and all that it implies. There’s the actual photo, of course, but there’s also the provocative coverline, “ARE YOU MOM ENOUGH? Why attachment parenting drives some mothers to extremes—and how Dr. Bill Sears became their guru.” Yikes! (The boy on the cover is 3 years old, by the way, though he appears much older.)

If this doesn’t just scream “Mommy Wars,” then I don’t know what does. Attachment Parenting, a term coined by Dr. Sears himself, is based on eight principles. You can find them here, along with all of the fine details, but to sum it up, most APs subscribe to what Dr. Sears calls the “7 Bs” (birth bonding, breastfeeding, baby wearing, bedding close to baby, belief in the language value of your baby’s cry, beware of baby trainers, and balance). Of course, many moms out there in the real world pick and choose what works for them (for example, they’ll breastfeed their newborn but will Ferberize them at the same time). There are moms who identify as AP, there are those who mock it altogether, and then there are those who fall somewhere in between (i.e., moms who believe in the principles but who only practice some).

I personally fall into the latter category. And, like most moms I know, I didn’t actively decide when my firstborn arrived, “I will be X type of mom.” Instead, I just did what worked for me (imagine that!). And, truth be told, as long as a baby is healthy and happy, it makes no difference to me what parenting style anyone else chooses. I have friends who nursed their babies ’til age 2, and I have friends who never even attempted to breastfeed because it wasn’t for them. This type of “divide,” if we should even be calling it that, applies to almost all areas of childrearing within my own group. And, frankly, I like it that way (it’s indicative of real life, if you ask me).

But back to this TIME cover. It certainly got my attention, but it also angers me because it portrays AP moms as being totally extreme. And in most cases, that couldn’t be further from the truth. All families should be doing what works for them personally, which to me is what feminism is all about (choice, that is). This cover photo is doing nothing but sensationalize what continues to be a very hot topic, and it does so just in time for Mother’s Day (clearly not an accident). From a business perspective, well done, TIME magazine. From a mother’s perspective, not so much…




  1. Gabbie1124

    May 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Another selfish mother. There’s one thing between breastfeeding a baby, but a 3 YEAR OLD!!?? Any mom who is still doing this has some serious issues! Talk about attention seeking much, they just want publicity!

    If your gonna be heading out, there is this thing called a breast pump, just pump it into a bottle!! There is no need to go showing the WHOLE world!!! When I see this photo on TIME Magazine…all I see is child pornography…because this child is clearly way older to be breasfeeding/or the mother is just a sick person who likes it!!!!! Where are the cops!!! This little boy looks old enough to play t-ball.

    I RESPECT mother’s who breastfeed their NEW BORN BABIES & up to 14 months! But 3 yrs old and older is just sick!!

    • CW

      May 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Excuse me??? According to my college anthropology professor, in traditional hunter-gatherer societies, children were nursed up until around age 4. Weaning babies early only developed after the transition to agriculture, a blink in the eye in terms of human history. I personally have chosen to wean my children after a year because frankly I’m too selfish to nurse longer (after a year I want my body back to myself). If I were a less selfish person, I’d do toddler-led weaning as well.

    • T.

      May 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      Hunter-Gathered society had ften not enough food that was good for a toddler.
      They also usually are “married” by age 13/14. Logical, since they rarely live to see their 40th.
      We don’t need neither of those custom anymore, thanks god!

    • CJO

      May 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      Hate to tell you this but I’ve been pumping for three months now (because my baby died after premature birth so I donate my milk to an adopted baby of a friend) and it is my opinion that you show less boob breastfeeding than pumping in public. The need to expose a boob (or two) and hook it up to a clear cone while I sit still (because I have to have a power source) is shown less respect than a breastfeeding mom is granted (which still isn’t much) in public areas. Try going to a place that should be mommy-friendly like a hospital and ask for a place to pump and they look at you like you are crazy. A bathroom rarely has a chair for a breastfeeding mom to sit and hold her baby while he nurses much less a place to set a pump and provide power for the pump. My pump isn’t a baby that can find my nipple so I have to be able to see the nipple and have it exposed to hook up. I can’t just toss a blanket over me and point a chubby little face in the right direction. I also have to look at the pump to see when my breasts have stopped emptying or need a squeeze to coax the milk out because there is no baby there to give me indications. I can’t imagine a person that would not care that I was sitting on a bench in a shopping center hooked up to my pump. All of the top and bottom flesh of my nipples would be exposed and the areolas and nipples would be visible through the clear breast shields. So don’t tell a mom to pump when she is out and about and certainly don’t pretend that a baby would not be confused by a bottle when the suction and style of feeding is quite different from a mother’s breast.

    • Sarah

      May 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      You are the one with issues. Clearly you were either sexually abused as a child or you have those tenancies toward children. Comparing the natural act of breastfeeding to child pornography is immature, childish and ignorant.

      Think pure and basic biology here – why should she have to pump? If her body is made to make milk for her son, why shouldn’t she give it to him? Breast pumps are a new invention. Do you think boobs should just shut off at 14 months? What a strange age to pull out of thin air!

    • N.I

      May 10, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      Yes, there are immature aspects to Gabbie1124’s argument, but it’s just as immature of you to say, “Clearly you were sexually abused as a child or you have those tenancies toward children.” In no way is that an appropriate response.

      Let’s be civil on this website.

    • sarah

      May 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      I was using Gabbie’s own ridiculous argument against her. I think Gabbie started the completely inappropriate responses when she called the mother (and anyone else who breastfeeds past “14 months”) a sick person. SHE is the one who made the first comment that was not civil – I simply reiterated her “argument” because I see things the opposite way she does.

  2. Andrea

    May 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    I think 1st of all, the picture is gross, but I agree with you that it was a pretty brilliant move on the part of Time Magazine’s marketing department.

    But 2nd of all, what Dr Sears calls the “7Bs”, I call it the seven BS too. For bullshit.

  3. Laura

    May 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    What bothers me is the perception of “Are You Mom Enough” which implies that if you don’t practice AP and all that it entails that you are inherently NOT “Mom Enough” to be mothering your own child. The picture and the lifestyle are none of my concern – do whatcha wanna do mommas. But the title is the most concerning to me.

    • SJP

      May 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      I agree with you completely – I’m more concerned about this stance lately that if you don’t stay home, breastfeed, sleep with your baby, etc then you are not as devoted, loving, or bonded to your child. That’s what riles my feathers the most in these discussions.

    • Laura

      May 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      Yup. The problem with Attachment Parenting rests solely in the name. If you don’t follow the practices are you practicing UNattached Parenting and your child will suffer as a result? That seems to be the insinuation.

      In my opinion, it all matters on the kiddo. My daughter HATES cuddling and wants to be on the move….on her own….constantly. I’d have to get a lasso and a papoose in order to Attachment Parent her.

    • Katie

      May 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      It also gets referenced as “positive parenting”

      Okay, im a negative, un-attached mother then, because I stopped breastfeeding at 1yr, my daughter always slept in her own bed and I have to work in order for us to afford a roof over our heads. Cool beans. Thanks for that one society.

  4. Lastango

    May 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I wanna see Time’s income statement and balance sheet. They look more and more desperate.

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  7. Lilac

    May 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    She looks so sad and so upset. Not like someone who is happy to be sharing her parenting thoughts with TIME magazine more like someone being forced to take a picture. She looks, sad, worried and anxious. I pity her.

    • Laura

      May 11, 2012 at 11:20 am

      I thought more defiant and self-righteous.

  8. Sarah

    May 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    CJO – Wow. I am so sorry for your loss. May God bless you for your sacrifice. You sound like an amazing woman.

    • CJO

      May 10, 2012 at 11:49 pm

      Thanks Sarah.

  9. Michy

    May 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    All these posts are exactly why there are so-called mommie wars. Western society devalues women and encourages intense criticism of any of our choices. So rather than fight this absurd practice, we, 51% of the population, go after each other seeking blood. These comments prove on a micro-level that this is still very much alive and well. Kudos to Shawna for saying in her piece it is a bit a person’s right to choose. I have my own opinions on the subject – but they are just that – mine and so I apply them to me!

  10. Ewa

    May 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    This boy will not have a life in school. Period.

    • Andrea

      May 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      I wouldn’t worry about it. Those types tend towards homeschooling.

    • Ewa

      May 11, 2012 at 2:02 am

      Good point, Andrea. Good point:)

    • Andrea

      May 12, 2012 at 11:38 am

      Ewa: I was right. The recent article here on Mommyish about her says that she homeschools.

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  13. Tim

    May 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    My god people, what ever happened to the idea of live and let live. If people want to breastfeed and ap their children, what business is it of yours. If they’re doing it in public and it offends you, your neck and eyes swivel, look away. If you can’t seem to look away, then you’re the one with issues, not the mom and her child. Get over yourselves. You don’t know what’s good or right any better than anyone else. Mothers were given breasts and milk for one purpose and that purpose is to feed their children. It’s good for them, move on.

    • NotThumper

      May 10, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      I agree with you Tim, however, putting a photograph on the cover of a magazine with a child of questionable age (really, 3?! wow) solely to spark more controversy is completely unnecessary. Adding the headline they have is even worse.
      I’m sorry, I am not like this woman and I AM mom enough. Like hell I’d let any magazine (or anyone for the matter) make me feel otherwise.

    • Andrea

      May 10, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      Look away??? This is the cover of TIME magazine?? Did she really expect she wouldn’t be judged every which way??

      In my opinion, once you willingly pose for the cover of a national magazine you lose all privacy and the right not to be judged. I hope that at least she got paid well and will use that money for that boy’s college (or therapy)

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  17. Sarah

    May 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I was using Gabbie’s own ridiculous argument against her. I think Gabbie started the completely inappropriate responses when she called the mother (and anyone else who breastfeeds past “14 months”) a sick person. SHE is the one who made the first comment that was not civil – I simply reiterated her “argument” because I see things the opposite way she does.

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  20. john

    May 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    “Think pure and basic biology here – why should she have to pump? If her body is made to make milk for her son, why shouldn’t she give it to him? Breast pumps are a new invention. Do you think boobs should just shut off at 14 months? What a strange age to pull out of thin air!”

    Sarah, actually this argument is painfully stupid. You do realize… milk supply doesn’t shut off ever, if it is continuously being used (i.e. the body will produce it for 10 years, 20 years, as long as it is being used.) So…. yeah…. according to your theory, a mother should breastfeed as long as she produces milk, and if she continues to breastfeed, she WILL produce milk… in perpetuity… therefore, according to you, she should breastfeed for… eternity. right? ugh… go back to school. you may think a particular age is arbitrary, but once a kid has teeth, science and millions of years of evolution dictates for all species that it is to move onto solid food. so if you have some weird attachment to breastfeeding that stands in opposition to evolution and science, you should talk to someone about that, a psychologist. when your kid has teeth, like you do i hope, it no longer needs your teat. anything past that is you trying to convince yourself and others that something is normal when it is not. if you lived in a developing country where clean water and food is scarce, perhaps nursing is the better option, but you don’t, so quit using that as a justification

    • CW

      May 11, 2012 at 9:01 pm

      Actually, it’s *NOT* “millions of years” at all. It wasn’t until agriculture developed, which is VERY recent in terms of evolution. Traditional hunter-gatherer societies nursed children until around age 4. Clearly you don’t have the slightest clue what you are talking about…

    • johns

      May 15, 2012 at 5:37 pm

      Ugh, ever hear of hyperbole? Get a life. That’s all you have to say in response? Derrr well actually it’s not exactly MILLIONS.. derr

      Shut up…

  21. rr

    May 11, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    I “get” the whole “attachment” thing. I breastfed my 2 babies. It was my personal choice to stop at 9 months (when the teeth started coming in) and I started them on foods. But here is what I don’t “get.”- Since “Attachment Parenting is about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children…… treat our children with kindness, respect and dignity…..” I just cannot understand how breastfeeding a 3 year old in public and placing his photo on the cover of a national magazine, knowing full well that it was going to generate this controversy is in line with the principles of “attachment parenting.” Do you really think that this child is not going to be teased, embarrassed, and emotionally damaged because of this? How was this for the benefit of the child??

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