TIME to be Shameless

So much has already been said about this week’s Time Magazine cover story. Or is it just the cover? This, despite the fact that it does, in so many ways, leave you speechless.

Guilt is part of what gets us women blabbering. It’s that special legacy from the women’s movement, which left us feeling guilty if we weren’t active workforce members and guilty if we weren’t being supermoms. We’re selfish and immature if we don’t want kids or if we delay having them, but we’re second class on the employment lists if we do have them. And we’re not pulling our weight on the home financial front, like they told us we should be able to do once we were educated and accepted. Whatever choice we make, we’re left with guilt and inadequacy.

But I digress. It was boob we were discussing. Breast is best – that’s what they keep telling us. Hell, they don’t need to tell us, we just know it. If a new mom can survive the social pressure to be out and about as soon as she has slept off the birth and has the strength to yell “grandma”, and if she can duck the onslaught of the generous and motherly folks at the baby formula corporations, and if she is given the basic guidance and the will to survive the learning pains of breastfeeding, she will know she’s doing what she needs to do.

There is unchallenged agreement on the superiority of breast milk. Bonding, immunology, nutrition, digestion, allergies, weight in later life, confidence – the list is seemingly unending. The funny thing is, even when research shows that milk continues to be highly nutritious into the second and third years of life and beyond (Mandel et al., Pediatrics 116 (3): 2005), the popular notion of how inappropriate it is to breastfeed toddlers seems to be winning out.

What is that about, anyway? Why are itsy-bitsy babies who lie quietly behind aprons okay for public consumption, but the toddlers who know how to ask for it considered offensive? Do people feel that once they verbalize (however incoherently it may be) it turns sexual? Ah, the old Madonna/Whore complex. Yawn. A woman can use her boobs in public (or private for that matter) in the service of mothering, as long as she is puffy, sleep-deprived and newly post-partum, making her generally not sexually-attractive.

However, when a woman looks as hot as Jamie Lynne Grumet on the cover, having a real person attached to the boob and not turning your head away from the stares, makes her too much to digest without criticizing the whole world view of AP. This – I say – has nothing to do with Attachment Parenting; if it was all about good parenting then we should be intellectually honest and discuss the ease with which extended breast feeding is dismissed. Why take those who love it so much that they are willing to restrict their own personal freedom to give mother-made health and security to their kids, and make them into the bad girls?

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