The new cover story in TIME Magazine appears to portray mothers who practice attachment parenting, and specifically those who nurse past infancy, as extreme. The headline "Are You Mom Enough?" only serves to add fuel to the "mommy wars" that I work so hard to avoid.
Despite the controversy (which is surely designed to drive sales and buzz), I am proud to have taken part in the photo shoot for the cover. Why? Because I want to normalize breastfeeding past infancy.
Flip to picture #3 on TIME"s Photo blog. That's me, tandem nursing my 5-month-old daughter and 4-year-old son. And I do not feel any more extreme or "mom'ish enough" than you, reader.
I am not "extreme" because many of the natural parenting values work for our family. Attachment parenting in general has not been extreme or difficult for us. We co-sleep to keep our children close, and it is less stressful and more restful for me to have my baby right next to me than it would be to get up and walk to a crib. We use safe baby carriers because it allows us to interact with our little ones in a way that feels good to us, and we can be hands-free while holding them. I breastfeed and practice child-led weaning because I believe in the benefits of continued nursing and gentle weaning. We practice gentle discipline and respond to our children with sensitivity because it is important to us to nurture peaceful, respectful relationships with them.
I do not consider myself to be "more mom" than the mother who weaned her child at 3 months (or, for that matter, than the mother who never breastfed at all). In our experience, breastfeeding has not been extreme in the least. As a child starts getting more nutrition from food and less from breast milk, the amount of time she nurses decreases. I'm not nursing my 4-year-old multiple times a day. Heck, he rarely nurses multiple times a week -- he might ask to nurse for a few minutes at bedtime once every week or two.
My son is no more dependent on me because he has nursed for four years than the child who never breastfed. He does not view my breasts in a sexual light; there is nothing perverse about him nursing. He does not nurse for nutrition, so there is no point in me pumping and giving him milk in a cup.
Nursing past infancy is part of our healthy, loving relationship. As my friend and co-founder of Natural Parents Network, Lauren of Hobo Mama wrote: "You breastfeed day by day, not a year's leap at a time. Nursing [my son] today, at 3-years-old, is different from breastfeeding him at 2-years-old by only one day, one moment. He didn't become a gangly toddler overnight, so I had plenty of gradual time to adjust my vision of what a nursling looks like, each day."
So you see, nursing past infancy simply does not feel extreme to us. Why does my son still nurse?
He nurses because I am his warm, safe place.
This is what works for us. You may do things differently. Neither of us is more extreme or better than the other.
Did you breastfeed past one year? Why or why not?
WATCH: Video Of Me Breasteeding