Extreme Breastfeeding: I Don’t Think We’re Mom Enough

By Malkia Charlee NoCry
Feminist Philosophy Editor
14 May 2012, 20:53 GMT

It seems like we’ve finally reached the zenith of our feminine history where even in motherhood, vulgar sexual overtures and shocking behaviour is essential if a woman is to be visible on the cover of a gender neutral news-mag.

The Time Magazine cover article entitled “Are You Mom Enough?” immediately sparked the mental image of a blond in an Uncle Sam bikini with a rolling-pin in one hand and a gun in the other. Pretty bad. But nothing could have prepared me for the reality of bleach blond-blogger Jamie Lynne Grumet with a three-year-old in army-fatigues sucking at her breast as it protruded from a grey tank-tee.

Setting aside my personal emotion and gut reaction, I stopped to think about the possible motives (in an unbiased manner) Time would have to put such lewdness on its cover. I began scanning my physiology and immunological biology lessons from university, attempting to uncover why breastfeeding became a battle of the wills, not a crucial developmental step for which you pass maternal immunity and nutrients to your newly-born child. Breastmilk includes IgA and IgG which are proteins involved in bacterial and viral immunity, in addition to calcium, potassium, phosphorus and fatty acids. To top off the constituents, The World Health Organisation suggests that you exclusively breastfeed for 6 months with supplemental breastfeeding for up to 2 years. Is that what Time wanted women to know? And as a Femficatio Feminist, the fact that only 20% of Black women breastfeed due to social stigma is absolutely alarming, noting that this lack of breastfeeding is playing a distinct role in the high infant mortality, obesity, and diabetes rates within the Black community. Is Time trying to make it chic? But I couldn’t have said it better than Alyssa Milano’s tweet “@Time, no! You missed the mark! You’re supposed to be making it easier for breastfeeding moms. Your cover is exploitive & extreme.”

So how did we arrive at a kid standing on a chair with a made-up blond’s breast in his mouth? Apparently, this has something to do with “The Baby Book” by Dr Bill and Martha Sears, written in 1992. Of course… Time wasn’t trying to encourage breastfeeding among women, I should have known. Rather, as women serve societies freakish pleasures for low-brow entertainment, Time has aptly taken this opportunity to exploit a strange and questionable sub-culture within the extended breastfeeding population, mostly in my opinion, to poke fun at motherhood so closely following US Mother’s Day.

Attachment parenting“, the method of parenting proposed by the Sears’ is the simple concept of staying as physically attached to your child as long and as often as humanly possible. Breastfeeding is mostly for bonding, as the site askdrsears.com only passively mentioned the studies around immunological and neurological health benefits. For a fussy child, the Sears’ suggest that “close physical contact and touching” is a proven calmative method. I shudder at the thought of what the Sears’ consider calming “touching” if it birthed a cover like that.

This form of parenting isn’t particular to just the “hippie”, middle-class, white or southern California community either; we have our share of Black and accessible celebrities who parent in this way – Mayim Bialik (Blossom) spent 3-4 years breastfeeding along with the other attachment parenting techniques. Erykah Badu and Holly Robinson Pete both breastfed their children for 3 years, yet they have never officially subscribed (to my knowledge or googles knowledge) to attachment parenting. It seems their extended breastfeeding was for the health benefits I described earlier. Although, Holly does add to her parenting repertoire the very strange sucking of snot out of her congested children’s noses when they were babies… Which is more obsessive parenting than attachment.

“Maternal behaviors, especially breastfeeding, result in an outpouring of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin. These ‘mothering hormones’ act as
biological helpers, giving moms
motherly feelings”. AskDrSears.com

That’s true (though ‘motherly feelings’ is a bit vague for my taste) as breastfeeding facilitates bonding between mother and child, particularly due to Oxytocin. Prolactin (PRL), or as I studied it, Luteotropic Hormone (LTH), activates the mammary glands. LTH additionally works to give you that satisfied, euphoric effect after sex and is important for sexual arousal. Oxytocin, along with giving you the let-down of milk, aids in wound healing, decreases stress, works in supporting a “bonding reflex”, and is present during orgasm (though its function during that process is unknown). So these are definitely the sex hormones, and along with their function in sustaining an infants life, they facilitate a desire to have more children.

There’s nothing bad about breastfeeding. I don’t support a camp that believes in the necessity of breastfeeding past 2 years, and at the 6-9 month exclusivity period I actually think its important to wean to pumped milk supplementing a healthy diet – otherwise, we could be potentially limiting the child’s ability to develop their own immune system relevant to the germs they are in contact with and possibly prolonging a child’s contact with undesirables within your system. And as we have been exposed to a great many toxins and antibiotic use as adult women, I think it could be detrimental to create a dependent immune system within a child. That’s my theory anyway.

As for bonding… We all know what we saw in that cover photograph was not bonding. It was exploitation of a child and subjugation. The very image with her standing and the male-child being only tall enough to reach her breast, her hand on her hip as to “Yeah, what, say something about it” was neither maternal or healthy. Attachment parenting assumes women (and fathers) can only bond with their children by constant interference, instead of building trust and supporting children as they grow older. Breastfeeding comes with some perks for both the mother and child, but should not be abused as a means to make one feel as though they are a more dedicated parent. It is designed, not to bond solely, but to ensure your children can get a head-start on health – in the same way teaching them their alphabet before pre-school ensures better grades in the future.

Its nice the women who say “its our time” or “I feel closer”. But what’s more important is the selfless quality of motherhood – whether you felt closer or better, knowing your doing the right thing for your kid is bonding enough.


3 thoughts on “Extreme Breastfeeding: I Don’t Think We’re Mom Enough

  1. Hi Kayla

    A few points:

    1. Mixed race has nothing to do with the cover image portraying a Caucasian (looking) woman with a child standing on a chair with a nipple in his mouth.

    2. Raising children in Africa does not make a parent de facto “fit”.

    3. I have no issues with breastfeeding. As I mentioned, breastfeeding provides newborns and children up to age 3 with key vitamins and nutrients that will not only benefit them as a child but would aid in health through adulthood.

    4. Beautiful people (yes this is my opinion now) do not sexually objectify their children to make cultural points.

    Many thanks for commenting.

    M Charlee

  2. You clearly did not do your research before you spouted off such bigoted remarks about Grumet. She is mixed race and is raising her kids half of the year in Africa. She is a beautiful person. You clearly are distorting the cover with your own issues of breastfeeding and sexuality.

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