The recent cover photo of TIME Magazine depicting a mother breastfeeding her almost four-year-old son has caused quite the stir all over America (and has been covered in the news in other countries as well). As part of the parenting style “attachment parenting”, a number of women depicted in the magazine have chosen to breastfeed their children longer than most other women in America (and in the rest of the Western world). Breastfeeding has long been a controversial topic in America as some women choose not to breast-feed at all, while others choose to do so for six months, one year, or much longer than that.
What we will be doing is to shortly discuss the benefits of breastfeeding, for both the mother and the child. We will then discuss why we believe this story received so much attention, focusing on the sexualization of women and the supposed sexualization of the mother-child bond, which was the main concern of some individuals who commented on the story.
Breastfeeding is very beneficial for both mother and child. It creates a connection between the two and has health benefits for both people involved. Breast milk strengthens the child’s immune system and promotes growth and well being (among other things). For the mother, breast-feeding can positively impact the levels of hormones in the body and result in less chance of developing breast cancer. In fact, the only real drawbacks of breastfeeding are that most women cannot further reproduce while breast-feeding (although exceptions certainly exists, such as when women are well fed). Secondly, women who face a lack of resources might have to stop breastfeeding in order to preserve energy (Trevathan 2010).
In the US, only a small number of women breastfeed their one year olds. The reasons for this are plenty. Some women do not want to breastfeed (but prefer using formula or pumping), while others are not able to breastfeed for various reasons. Often, the attitudes towards breastfeeding are culturally dependent. We believe that the article in TIME Magazine received so much criticism because it was produced in a Western country. In many non-Western countries women breast-feed their children longer, while breastfeeding older children is considered natural (Trevathan 2010). [Read more...]