Time Magazine and “Extreme Parenting”

I’ve been sent the Time Magazine cover quite a few times already.

Each time I sigh.

Yes. It is inflammatory. For many reasons.

First. Many people in this country have not seen full term breastfeeding, or if they have seen full term breastfeeding it is because they have done it themselves. But have never seen another mother do it. Full term breastfeeding tends to happen behind closed doors. Not because it is shameful or worthy of hiding but because it tends to become a part of a bedtime or wakeup routine rather than something that happens across the day. When a magazine has a picture of a small bald infant nursing, everyone gets up in arms about that. To suddenly be exposed to a photograph of a three year old child nursing is going to put people on edge. This does not mean that breastfeeding an older child is wrong. It simply means that we don’t see it. Think back to the segregated South and imagine a magazine cover showing an interracial couple. Think back to the 1800’s and imagine a photograph of a woman in a modest (by today’s standards) bikini. Oh the heads that would explode.  Then to top it off, the child’s size is being emphasized. He’s standing on a chair. He’s nursing standing up. Look at how close he is to mom’s height. He will OBVIOUSLY still be nursing once he’s off to college. Honestly, I’m surprised that her breast is still there. I know that I wouldn’t have trusted my three year old nursling to nurse that way with the distraction and allure of shiny cameras all around while a distractable child stood perched precariously on a chair. (I actually love the picture. But that’s beside the point. The headline and sub-header destroy it for me.)

So you have a picture that will put people on edge.

Second. The headline. “Are You Mom Enough?” This title appears to be the words spoken from that weird woman on the cover that is doing this unspeakable thing. Apparently if you don’t nurse your child until the child is PRACTICALLY READY TO GO TO COLLEGE (look at how huge he is) this blonde skinny woman who has her boob whipped out.. Will actually have the nerve to JUDGE YOU for not being mom enough. (!!!)  How dare she? *sigh* Attachment parenting is not about being “mom enough” or “not mom enough”. Just like non-attachment parenting isn’t about abandoning your child on a riverbank in a basket with a hatchet and some matches and seeing if they’re independent enough to survive in the wild. It’s not a competition, folks. It’s a parenting style.

So. You have a headline that makes people feel judged by this very very strange woman that is doing strange things that we quite simply do not see and have not seen. To top it off, it’s coming out right around mother’s day. Let’s question everyone’s motherhood near mother’s day! Awesome idea!

Third. The description of nursing a three year old. “Extreme” parenting. Now. I could see this being extreme if mom was bungee jumping with her child, or… Oh.. Buying breast implant gift certificates for her seven year old daughter. (Which apparently is odd enough to raise an eyebrow at, but I haven’t really seen anyone define it as “extreme parenting”.) Or those parents that like to allow their young female children to dress in “nude” clothing, pretend to be naked and dance seductive dance routines. Yeah, that’s just weird. Possibly objectionable. But it takes an attachment parent to earn that coveted title of “extreme”. We should totally have a television show where you can watch us.. Nurse our children. And OMG the baby wearing. Tucking little tiny babies into pieces of fabric and.. NOT LETTING THEM CRY. The insanity of it all. How can a baby be a baby unless it screams for a few hours while mom teaches it to be independent? We are obviously extreme extreme EXTREME parents. In fact, Time Magazine did us an injustice using only one “extreme” on the cover. It should have been several extremes. In 3D. With 3D glasses for emphasis.

I was briefly tempted to purchase a subscription for a week’s pass so that I could read the actual article. Then I decided that the cover annoyed me enough that I really didn’t want to.

Time Magazine knows exactly what they’re doing. They’re pissing people off. To make money. And I do not appreciate that my parenting style is being thrown under the bus to make them money.

The truth is that Attachment Parenting is really rather dull and is completely and totally misunderstood. It’s not a set of instructions that you Must Follow Or You Are a Very Bad Parent. It’s a set of guidelines that quite honestly frees me up to do exactly what my instincts tell me to do. NOT IGNORE MY CHILD.

So rather than describe the boringness that is my parenting style (like the cute little baby that is asleep in a wrap on my chest in her cloth diaper), I will suggest that you go forth and find one of those books about truly extreme parenting that advocates beating your child with implements of varying thicknesses appropriate to different age groups (starting in infancy so that they learn not to fight back). Or one of the books about letting your baby scream until they puke and then putting a towel over it because obviously being so upset that you vomit is an attempt at manipulation and letting your child fall asleep on clean sheets would be letting that mean manipulative baby human get away with something so very terrible.

Because truly. What is more extreme? A happy sleeping content little baby, or a screaming baby laying in a puddle of puke?

And what does it say about this society (and Time Magazine) that a happy well cared for baby is considered “extreme”?

So. Yeah. I sigh.

43 thoughts on “Time Magazine and “Extreme Parenting”

  1. I love every word of this. I am definitely sighing instead of cheering at Time’s image of full-term breastfeeding, because it will make just living my life with my little girl that.much.harder.

  2. I am sighing along with you. I saw a video of the author talking about meeting all of these attached parents and Dr. Sears and she made it seem like we are killing ourselves.

  3. Well said. I’ll probably read the article to see the tone, but my DH already subscribes to it anyways. I usually don’t read it. My magazine time is spent reading Health, Baby Talk, and other baby related stuff.

    And ya, pumping for my 3 month old while reading this on my way to my min goal of a year.

  4. Amen! As a FTM I’m still discovering my parenting style with my husband. This article would totally turn me off to attachment parenting if I’d had no other information before seeing it. I hate the title the most. As if breastfeeding is some burden we taken on, all boob-baring martyrs. It ain’t that bad folks, in fact, its wonderful :)

  5. Sarah,
    I’ve just recently discovered your blog, and I’m hooked. I have an 11 month old girl and have been aided many a time by the tenets of attachment parenting. Your post above, beautifully and poignantly written, has me thinking about how mainstream many “non-instinctual” parenting aspects have become; how, for me at least, they’ve infiltrated my psyche to the point where I often find myself feeling guilty for holding and comforting my baby to sleep, even when she wakes several times at night (damned teething!) – how “extreme”! I breastfeed and am in no rush to eliminate the morning/night feeds, although returning to work has necessitated eliminating daytime nursing. I too have been inundated by emails of the Time cover, as if to imply: “Look what could happen to you! Oh the horror.” In the end, I guess I’m saddened by the misconceptions and fear, but ultimately do see positive progress in the way breastfeeding is perceived – let’s hope this photo doesn’t set things back too far.

  6. So, here’s my problem with what YOU wrote. You go to great lengths to tell people that it’s just a parenting style and nothing to be judged on. Then, you imply that not doing it YOUR way means that other mothers are simply “ignoring” their children. You think that those of us who are unable to breastfeed don’t get glares and accusations of being bad mothers from the La Leche League folks?

    1. No. I judge parents that beat their children (I don’t judge spankings even though I’m not a spanker), and that let their children sleep in vomit to avoid being “manipulated” and the other extreme examples that I mentioned. Not “mainstream” but the “other extreme” on the far side of attachment parenting. THOSE extremes are often accepted by pop culture as more normal than attachment parenting.

      I see nothing wrong with mainstream parenting. I am offended that AP is made out to be kooky.

  7. Yeah, you aren’t judgmental at all. While you won’t dare let someone misconstrue or misrepresent attachment parenting you gleefully make fun of and misrepresent other parenting methods. AWESOME! Good for you. This is exactly why there is an article like this. It’s nothing more than a competition for to see who can out mother who. Congrats on joining right in.

    1. No. I judge parents that beat their children (I don’t judge spankings even though I’m not a spanker), and that let their children sleep in vomit to avoid being “manipulated” and the other extreme examples that I mentioned. Not “mainstream” but the “other extreme” on the far side of attachment parenting. THOSE extremes are often accepted by pop culture as more normal than attachment parenting.

      I see nothing wrong with mainstream parenting. I am offended that AP is made out to be kooky. (copied & pasted response to another poster that said same thing)

      1. So why only the extreme examples of the other side to play off you very sane examples of the other? I can do that too:

        Because truly. What is more extreme? A happy sleeping content little child in their own bed, or a guilt-ridden child laying next to an overly needy mother who manipulates them into staying in the family bed longer than they want.

        (True story btw! I know people who have done just that!)

        1. That’s not attachment parenting. AP is about responding to your child’s needs.

          My oldest slept with me until 2.5, my middle child was in his crib from the beginning and slept swaddled because he liked that. My oldest nursed until 3, my middle child for 19 months. Because they chose that. AP is not about the needs of the parent, and that is the point.

          A clingy parent ignoring a child’s wish to be independent is not an attachment parent.

          1. YOU might not call that attachment parenting, but they sure do! I don’t think it’s right, you don’t think it’s right…but it’s been done. This is an extreme example that doesn’t accurately express your point of view right? So why do that to others?

            (BTW, there is a faction of attachment parents out there that believes the parent has as much right to the “attachment” as the child does. Gross huh?)

      2. You might be the better person on that one. I judge spankers. What right does an adult have to physically harm a small child, especially one who trusts them above all others?

        1. In Norway spanking a child is against the law and has been since the late 70’s.

          Is physical punishment of children actually allowed in the States? That strikes me as odd and really old-fashioned.

          1. Hilde,

            Yep. There are states that specify what types of punishment can be used, and there are others that say that as long as the physical punishment does not leave marks it is allowed.


  8. yeah, I’m gonna have to agree that I feel pretty judged. I breastfed my babies until 15 and 13 months which is a perfectly respectable amount of time, but now I feel judged for not continuing until they go to kindergarten. I also let my children cry-it-out, but guess what, they never vomited. They just cried for less than an hour on one or two nights of their LIVES, and now they fall asleep great, completely on their own, every night. And they still know I love them.

    1. You’re free to feel judged, but you’re making the choice to feel badly about something that is not based on what I said. I did not attack CIO, I did not attack formula feeding or stroller users or any other tenents of “mainstream”. I pointed out extreme examples of commonly accepted mainstream parenting that could have easily been used for an article on “extreme” parenting. (As there are actual movements supporting these things). This is not an attack on mainstream parenting. Unless the puke example is mainstream. I prefer to think it’s not).

      Attachment parenting “taken too far” would NOT be a parent ignoring their child’s needs by breastfeeding or cosleeping with a reluctant child. That is narcissistic parenting. AP is about listening to the child.

      Taking it tooo far would be a parent that refused life saving treatment that would require that they wean, thus putting their child’s need to nurse above their own lives, or becoming homeless rather than place their child in daycare. NOT forcing the child to breastfeed.

      1. So a kid crying hard enough to puke is EXTREME TO THE MAX! But -forcing- a kid to breastfeed is merely narcissistic. And -forcing- a kid to sleep by you is merely selfish.

        Your views are not skewed at all I see.

        My real problem is that attachment parents don’t think their views should even be discussed in anything but a flattering way. If anyone even wants to talk about it it is a vicious personal attack. There is a trend out there…what mommy can be the most mommy of all the mommies. And it appears to me that THAT is what this article is about. So unless you are taking part in this mommy contest of who can be the most baby draped, milk soaked, needed and needy woman in the neighborhood why be offended?

        1. Forcing a child to nurse is extreme too. But it not extreme attachment parenting because the main concept of attachment parenting is that it is NOT about the parent’s wishes.

          Perhaps there is some “main concept” of CIO parents that prevents there from being a gradient between lesser forms of CIO and “crying until you puke” CIO. (Other than one parent being gentle and the other parent being extreme).

          Attachment Parenting can absolutely be taken too far, but not in the ways you mentioned, because that abandons the core concept of AP.

          The reason that I’m offended is because the article is NOT about mommy wars. It’s about attachment parenting and it is portraying it as extreme and as a mommy war. It is marginalizing something by making it out to be something other than what it is.

          If it was an article about mommy wars and oneupping each other I’d appreciate that type of article. But it’s not. It’s an article making AP moms out to be “more mom than you” and nutty little whackjobs. Not the extreme end of AP, but NORMAL AP.

          Again, this would be like taking a normal basic loving mainstream practice, slapping it with the sensationalist title “EXTREME” and calling it abuse and neglect. I’d find that offensive as well even though it would have nothing to do with me.

          An article about CIO THAT SAYS ferber invented CIO, pictured an infant laying in a puddle of vomit, and then went on to talk about ALL of CIO as though it is that extreme.

          1. You can’t really force a child to nurse – they’re the ones who have to latch on and suckle.

    2. Same with my child Bonnie. My poor poor child will need therapy because I didn’t sacrifice my own need to get a few precious hours of sleep for her “need” to kick me in the ribs and pull my hair all night long. I’m a jerk and she’s positively ruined because of it. No vomit here either…just a wee bit of crying. Now the whole house can sleep at night. IT IS JUST TERRIBLE!

      1. Unless you allowed your child to cry until puking, I have not judged you. So since you say “no vomit”, you remain unjudged and you’re creating judgement where there is none.

        1. If you really don’t want to appear judgmental about those mothers who mother differently than you, then don’t choose a classic, old as water EXTREME example and compare it to your primed and perfect example.

          It’s inflammatory. I was with you until that last part.

          1. … The Time Magazine cover is talking about EXTREME parenting. I am not talking about mothers parenting differently than I am. I’m talking about EXTREME parenting. I did not talk about what you do. I talked about EXTREME parenting. Which neither you nor I do.

            If I had chosen a non-extreme example and said “Time Magazine should have done their EXTREME parenting article on mothers that lovingly allow their child to cry to learn to soothe themselves to sleep”, that would be attacking you. That would be calling you extreme. I didn’t. I said that if they wanted to do an article on EXTREME parenting they should do an article on extremes. Not your loving (but different from mine) parenting style, and not my loving (but different from yours) parenting style. Actual extremes.

            Instead Time Parenting chose to call a non-extreme loving parenting method (which happens to be my parenting method) EXTREME in order to sell more copies of their magazine. If they did an article on EXTREME parenting that attacked parents for formula feeding or crying-it-out, I’d be up in arms against that as well.

  9. I have another also:

    Because truly. What is more extreme? A happy baby who is drinking from a bottle, or a toddler who no longer wants to nurse being awkwardly forced to do so, so her mother can take part in breastfeeding events and fit in with her friends?

    Another true story!

    1. Exactly how do you force a toddler to nurse? I doubt the veracity of that story. Toddlers have teeth and are very eager to bite. The way to keep a toddler from biting your breast is to refuse to nurse for a few minutes. If you were to attempt to force a toddler to nurse you’d be bitten SO fast. And hard.

      Regardless, you’re missing the point.

      I did not attack mainstream parenting. Time Magazine attacked AP.

      Imagine a picture of a baby with a bottle full of Pepsi on the cover of Time Magazine with the heading “Extreme Parenting, the neglectful nature of mainstream parents” that then went on to talk about formula feeding, CIO, strollers, etc. That would be wrong. And this cover is wrong.

      1. Bribing and begging and threatening mostly. That’s how you get children to do a lot of things they don’t want to do.

        You are a bit naive if you really believe that you cant get a toddler to do exactly what you want them to do with the offer of a new shiny toy, or threatening to take one away.

        And YOU are missing MY point. It doesn’t feel good to have an extreme example of your point of view used against a sane example of an opposing point of view does it?

      2. I must have missed this newest event in the mommy olympics. What is wrong with strollers? Motherhood isn’t a competition or hobby I do so others will praise me…so I don’t keep up on the latest trends.

  10. I wanted to cry reading the part about babies lying in their own vomit. I wanted to pick them up and comfort them and tell them it would be okay. Thanks for your blog.

  11. Blane, your argument is completely illogical. You aren’t addressing sarah’s argument. You’re just citing examples of creepy people you know. Sarah is talking about the parenting style in the article not being extreme and giving crazy examples of things that are extreme. She’s not bashing you or questioning your obvious love for your child.

  12. While I don’t agree with Blane’s attacks, I do agree the tone of your post is such that I get the sense you think anyone who lets their child learn to self soothe is basically a terrible parent. Maybe that’s not your intention, but that’s how it comes across. And why do we have to call it cry it out, as if that’s the only thing it’s about. I also dislike that your parenting style is called attachment parenting, as though others who parent differently will have kids who aren’t securely attached. But I mostly hate all the judgment between moms. As a pediatrician, I try to instill in parents to do what feels right to them and to listen to their babies’ needs. For some, that means following your parenting style, but for others, it means letting their children “cry it out”. So why is only one of those styles called attachment parenting if they’re both following the basic principles you list above? In general, I think there needs to be less competition & more support between moms. Don’t we all have the same goal to raise kids who feel safe, secure, & loved?

    1. I don’t judge parents that CIO, I choose not to do it. In making my choices to not do it, I obviously judge it as “not for my kids”. But list your reasons for CIO and you may find some that seem judgemental of those who don’t do it. :) Like “I want my child to be able to self soothe” could be spun to say that my children will not self soothe because I don’t CIO and wow, that’s judgey.

      Children are attached to their parents no matter what parenting style is used. Short of attachment disorders that stem from severe neglect and abuse, kids love their parents and would not trade them for anything.

      The reason why attachment parenting is called attachment parenting is not because other methods promote detachment on the child’s part. It is because attachment parenting allows the attachment to just be as is without having to push an infant or toddler into independence through CIO and other methods.

      I choose the parenting style called “attachment parenting” because my mother shared a memory with me of her being very young and crying in a crib. She later broke her colllarbone trying to climb out of the crib to be with her parents. I know for a fact that my kids learn independence and self soothing in other ways on other schedules. For me, personally, CIO feels like I’m pushing my child away when the child wants to be close.

      All kids and families are different though. We come from different genes, different backgrounds, we respond to different things and feel/know different things. Integrating a small single aspect of another successful parenting plan into my own parenting plan can either work or create uncomfortable chaos. Same with my way of parenting. My way works because of everything that I do. Yours works because of everything you do.

      To say that everyone needs to do everything exactly the way I do it would be nutsy, unfair, and impractical. When our third child was born the balance of our lives changed and our parenting adapted to the addition of a single small child. I’m not even sure how I could go about telling another person how to manage their family. Nor would I want to.

      So to make it clear: Yes. I judge CIO in the process of deciding that it is not for me. But judging your choice is beyond my abilities. I can’t even foresee what changes I would need to make within my own family if we have a fourth child. Those changes come from experience with the family that I would have at that point. You can’t copy and paste a parenting method onto another family with different people. It would be silly.

  13. Blane, it seems to me that you are insecure about how you raised your own daughter, but instead of taking your misguided anger out on yourself you are directing it at us.
    If you really have friends who force their children to nurse and sleep with them against their will, perhaps you should directed your aggravation at them instead of us.
    I am an AP parent. Personally, I have never forced my breast on my children or forced them to sleep with me. I nurse my children until they no longer want anything to do with it, and with the exception of my 4 month old who sleeps with me full-time…my other children only climb in my bed when they are scared. None of my children have ever told me they feel compelled to sleep with me because of some guilt I cause them to have. The good news is that the majority of AP parents are like myself and Sarah, and not like your friends. Which, means you can give up your full-time job of judging us, and can get a life. Something tells me that you do not have much in the line of a life or friends if you can spend all your time on here ranting, raving, and lecturing us on your superior parenting skills.
    By-the-way, you can dilute yourself into believing that leaving your child in her crib to cry and self soothe was the very best thing for her, and now your house is quiet and everyone sleeps. But, in reality what you really taught your daughter is that you come first no matter what, and that when she needs you…you won’t come. Because after all that is what happened right? She cried for you, and you did not go to her?!? She may not of needed to be changed or fed, but she was in need of you! Whether, she only needed a hug and a kiss, she cried for you, and ignored her cries. Instead, you chose to let her “self soothe”. I can’t help, but think of my 4 month old daughter who has seizures, and what would happen if ignored her, and left her to cry, and self soothe? She frequently cries, inconsolably, prior to having a seizure. Because, after- all that is the point of them crying isn’t it? Because, they can’t speak, they can’t talk, so they cry to get attention, and in some cases like my daughter to let me know something is wrong. I only hope that one day you are not lying somewhere, like a nursing home, in need of help or maybe just a friendly face, and your cries go unanswered. Just thinking of MY baby lying by herself in a cold, empty, crib in a dark room, crying with no one responding makes me want to cry. It’s not the kind of parenting I want for my children. You asked, “What right does an adult have to physically harm a small child, especially one who trusts them above all others?” I want to know what kind of adult, who’s baby trusts them above all others, can hear that baby scream, and leave them to self soothe? Isn’t that harm?
    Whatever it is is just sad. Karma is a bitch my friend. I hope it doesn’t get you!

  14. P.S. Sarah- I have 5 kids and I have attachment parented each one. If you had a 4th, , and you would be able to breastfeed and attachment parent just as you do now. Believe me it would work itself out. It always does!

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