Integrative Nutrition Blog

Do Breastfeeding and Co-Sleeping Make You a Better Mother?

May 16, 2012

The latest issue of Time magazine, featuring a provocative cover photo of a mother breastfeeding her nearly four-year-old son, has sparked a media craze with everyone from U.S. congresswomen to Saturday Night Live weighing in.

What’s all the fuss all about? The photo, and the accompanying article about the attachment parenting philosophy championed by pediatrician William Sears, is generating controversy about everything from the sexualization of breastfeeding to the more fundamental question of what it means to be a good parent.

Much of the criticism is directed towards Jamie Lynne Grumet, the beautiful 26-year-old California mom posing seductively in the photo as her child awkwardly feeds from her breast. Critics argue that the image portrays extended breastfeeding as an extreme and even perverted practice and is a purely exploitative move designed by Time to sell magazines.

time magazine breastfeedingThe controversy extends even further into the emotional ground of what constitutes proper mothering. Dr. Sears, author of the hugely influential The Baby Book, advocates attachment parenting and its three basic tenets: breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and “baby wearing.” Simply put, the more time babies spend in their mothers’ arms, the healthier and happier they’ll be as children.

With many scientists refuting Dr. Sears’ claims and anxious moms feeling guilty about any time spent away from their children, debate continues to rage within the parenting community.

IIN’s Facebook community was sharply divided on the issue. We asked some of the moms who work at IIN to weigh in on the matter, and while each had her own unique viewpoint, they all agreed: parenting, just like eating, is defined by bio-individuality: what works for one family may not work for the next, and it’s important to be tolerant of others’ choices.

“My mother died with I was 6 months old. I always thought I’d missed out on a huge part of life not having her with me. It wasn’t until after I had my son and breastfed into toddlerhood and went the attachment parenting route that I realized there was no other way I could have mothered my child. Another mother may have made a different choice, as would be her right.

-       Aisha D., Student Services

“I think too much attachment could lead to emotional dependencies that could thwart a child’s exploration of independence. Like most things in life, balance is key. I take cues from my child and try to give him what he needs – sometimes it’s comfort and love, and other times it’s teaching him to how to do things by himself and standing back to watch him navigate the world on his own. I have a feeling he’ll be just fine!”

-       Diana C., Referrals

“I exclusively breastfed my daughter for 22 months, we co-slept for six months, and I wore her until she was four years old. She is a well-adjusted kid, but is that solely because of attachment parenting? There is so much more to consider. Mothers should end judgment, competition, and feeling guilt and anxiety about every detail of child rearing, and provide genuine support and encouragement throughout these precious years.”

-       Laura D., Marketing

For more information about breastfeeding and how to make the choice that’s right for you, check out our webinar with non-profit organization Best for Babes!

What do you think of attachment parenting?

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