Attachment Parenting

Extended Breastfeeding (EBF): A Stigmatizing Term

Recently when the Time Magazine sported a front page spread of a young boy standing on stool breastfeeding, the media and public went wild with debate, furry, outrage and reaction over a behavior that some people call “Extended Breastfeeding.”

Since the article’s publication, I’ve been tossing this term around in my head and I realize that I’m not a fan of the term.

Why am I not a fan?

Well, first of all, the term Extended Breastfeeding inherently applies that the breastfeeding is being extended past some arbitrary line that is being drawn in sand that defines the child-breast relationship.

The term extended breastfeeding implies that the mother is breastfeeding her child longer than…longer than….well, longer than something.

Let’s debunk some of these myths.

There is not a point at which a parent “should” stop nursing.

What do we mean by should? Who defines what should is? Who gets to make the ultimate decision on should?

If we listened to the young mothers commenting on mothering forums, as I have, the line would be 15 months. Nursing beyond that age, as one contributor said “is just sick.” I think that sums up the general opinion some women regarding nursing a toddler. This perception needs to change regardless of what another mother chooses for herself and her child.

Nursing into toddlerhood has no negative health effects on the child.

The AmericanAcademyof Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t have a problem with a mother nursing a child past infancy. Because of the clear health benefits the AAP recommends “exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months…with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.” 1 Additionally, they state that “mothers should be encouraged to continue breastfeeding through the first year and beyond as more and varied complementary foods are introduced.” 1

Nursing into toddlerhood is not emotionally detrimental for the child nor is the mother nursing to meet her own emotional needs.

There is no evidence to suggest that breastfeeding past a year or even into later years is emotionally unhealthy for the child.2 The assertion that the mother is breastfeeding her child for her own benefit is ludicrous. First of all, no toddler would participate in breastfeeding if he or she did not want to. For all of you parents out there, I’m sure you remember your 2 to 3 year old child’s favorite word: NO!

Forcing a toddler to do something is not very easy, especially if it requires them to curl up on your lap and hold still.

A mother cannot force a child to breastfeed.

Of course a mother can wean a child, but why wean a child if he or she is not showing signs of readiness?  Children will wean themselves naturally when they no longer need the emotional security of the mother’s breast. Weaning a two year old child before she was ready would be like taking away her security blanket or favorite stuffed animal.

There is a misconception about toddlers and breastfeeding: Toddlers don’t nurse the way that infants do.

It would be the rare toddler who would go to mom for a long, nutritional nursing session at the age of two or three. Most children seek the breast out for comfort or security. By the time a child is in their toddler years most children are only nursing for short periods of time and usually before or after sleep. Even if they were seeking the breast out during the day, the mother is most likely starting to set limits on that behavior as well. It’s a process and one that is not easily controlled or defined by external forces. It varies greatly depending on the child, the mother and on the mother-child relationship.

The general rule of thumb is that nursing can and should continue as long as it is a mutually beneficial relationship.

After a couple of years, there are plenty of mothers who will tell you that the joy of nursing is fading. At that point the nursing relationship is no longer mutually beneficial and a mother may choose to encourage her child to wean. On the flip side, a child may choose to no longer nurse because he is ready to be done even if the mother enjoys that bonding time. However, the child-centered parent will follow her child’s lead and bring an end to the nursing relationship.

Between a combination of baby or toddler-led weaning and a mother’s desire to wean her child, nursing will always come to an end at some point in time.

Given the health benefits of nursing to both mother and child, as a society we should be supportive of any nursing relationship between mother and child.

Currently, breastfeeding rates are much lower than the government would like them to be and both the AAP and the Surgeon General are trying to encourage more mothers to breastfeed and for longer periods of time. The Surgeon Generals Healthy People 2020 objectives for the year are “82% ever breastfed, 61% at 6 months, and 34% at 1 year.”3 Although most mothers try to breastfeed upon giving birth, “within only three months after giving birth, more than two-thirds of breastfeeding mothers have already begun using formula. By six months postpartum, more than half of mothers have given up on breastfeeding, and mothers who breastfeed one-year olds or toddlers are a rarity in our society.” 4

By continuing to use the term “extended breastfeeding,” we as a culture, and as a group of informed, conscientious parents, are perpetuating the notion that breastfeeding has some finite, culturally-defined end and that it is the rare mother, the anomaly, the outlier, the “strange mom,” who nurses past this “normal” point. If we wish to change this we might want to be more cognizant of our choice of words. Nursing into toddlerhood is a normal way to nurse and perhaps we should be calling it just that. Nursing. Nursing into toddlerhood. Nursing an older child. Non-infant nursing. Let’s be creative and start talking about it in a way that will normalize the behavior rather than continuing to set ourselves and our healthy parenting behaviors apart from the rest of society.







Extended Breastfeeding and the Law

Extended Breastfeeding and the Law

Elizabeth N. Baldwin

from Breastfeeding Abstracts, February 2001, Volume 20, Number 3, pp. 19-20.

Misinformation about breastfeeding affects everyone in our society, including lawyers, judges, psychologists, and social workers. While there is no harm in breastfeeding past infancy and allowing a child to wean naturally, many professionals in social service agencies and family law courts are quite shocked to learn just how long a child may breastfeed. Lacking accurate information, these officials may overreact and conclude that breastfeeding a child of two, three, or four is somehow improper. As more mothers nurse longer, healthcare and lactation professionals need to be aware of legal issues surrounding extended breastfeeding, so that they can educate their counterparts in the legal and social service systems.

Breastfeeding and the Courts

The issue of extended breastfeeding has been raised numerous times in United States courts, in both social service agency and family law cases. There are older reports of family law cases in which the court’s custody decision was affected by the belief that the child should have been weaned at an earlier age.1 However, a more recent custody case recognized that it was not inappropriate to breastfeed past infancy and discounted the father’s claims that it was detrimental to the child ’s development.2 It is not uncommon for fathers to raise questions about extended breastfeeding to gain leverage in custody decisions, even fathers who were supportive of long-term breastfeeding prior to the divorce. This tactic has been shown to work. After all, what do judges know about breastfeeding!

Social service agencies have looked at the issue of extended breastfeeding numerous times over the past ten years, but not one social service agency has upheld any finding that extended breastfeeding constitutes abuse or neglect, or is in any way harmful to the child. In only two situations has a child been removed from the home. Several years ago, a social service agency in Colorado removed a five-year-old child because the mother was still breastfeeding, but the court ordered the child to be immediately returned to his family. Last year, in Illinois, a child was removed from the mother ’s custody to foster care for over six months because a judge issued an initial finding that the child was at risk of serious emotional harm because of not being weaned. This case received a great deal of publicity. Though the case is still in the process of being resolved, the child has been returned to his mother, and the judge has vacated the finding of neglect.

In 1992, in a highly publicized case in New York State, a mother claimed that she had lost custody of her child for a year because she was breastfeeding at age three. This mother had reported experiences of sexual arousal during breastfeeding, and authorities removed the child from the home, for fear that this mother might sexually abuse this child. Later, the social service agency in New York that took this action issued a formal statement, saying that there was more to this case than could be disclosed to the press, due to confidentiality laws. The statement also added that extended breastfeeding or even arousal during breastfeeding were not reasons for removing a child from a mother’s custody. Over the next few years, other social service agencies have also investigated cases related to extended breastfeeding, but have not removed children from their homes. These cases have been closed once officials received accurate information about extended breastfeeding and natural weaning. Breastfeeding, at any age, is not abuse or neglect.

Information about Weaning

Mothers who allow their child to wean naturally are being responsive to the child’s need. Contrary to the suspicions of those in our society who view breastfeeding as somehow being a sexual act, mothers who nurse older children are not satisfying pathological needs of their own.

Mothers who have breastfed past infancy rarely expected to nurse for so long, but they continue because it is so important to their child. At one time children all over the world were breastfed until they weaned naturally. It is only in our modern society that extended breastfeeding has fallen so far out of fashion that it is viewed as an abnormal act.

Breastfeeding experts do not advocate a specific age for weaning, as this is a personal decision for each mother and child. Authorities do suggest that it is best to let children wean naturally. For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies be breastfed for at least one year, or as long as mutually desirable.3 In support of this recommendation, the AAP’s statement cites a study that discusses the age of weaning among American women who practice extended breastfeeding. Weaning ages in the study extend through age 6.4

Many people are surprised to learn that experts consider 4 or 5 years to be the average age of weaning worldwide.5 Research by Dr. Katherine Dettwyler, anthropologist at Texas A&M University, argues that the natural weaning age for human beings falls between 2.5 and 6 years of age.6 An informal survey conducted by Dr. Dettwyler indicated that many more women in the United States are nursing children past infancy, and she has reports of children as old as ten years old still breastfeeding. So many women are breastfeeding past infancy that two books on the subject have chapters on nursing past age four (MOTHERING YOUR NURSING TODDLER, by Norma Jane Bumgarner, and The Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning, by Kathleen Huggins).7, 8 Many people, however, are not familiar with the idea of extended breastfeeding, since older nursing children do not nurse frequently or urgently, and most mothers nursing an older child do not do so openly in public. They may not even admit to their doctors that they are still breastfeeding. It is ironic that our society does not seem to object to children sucking their fingers, pacifiers, or bottles past infancy, but many are outraged when a child who can walk and talk is still breastfeeding. Because our culture tends to view the breast as sexual, it can be hard for people to realize that breastfeeding is the natural way to nurture children.

More and more experts and professionals are encouraging extended breastfeeding, as there is substantial evidence that health benefits continue and increase the longer the child breastfeeds. The current recommendations of the World Health Organization and UNICEF are for all mothers to breastfeed until age 2 or beyond. Studies have shown that the antibodies and immunities in a mother’s milk are more concentrated the longer she nurses, to make up for the fact that the child does not nurse as often. Recent studies also indicate that extended periods of breastfeeding offer mothers protection against breast cancer.9, 10

Children who nurse past infancy have their own developmental timetables. Many nurse for only a few minutes at bedtime, upon waking, or at nap time. Some may go days or even weeks without asking to nurse. Some wean only to resume nursing when stressful events occur in their lives, such as the birth of a sibling. When little ones get sick, most mothers find that the amount of nursing increases. Breastfeeding is primarily for comfort as children pass their first birthday, and there is nothing wrong with that. Some people may assume that if a child is nursing past infancy, it must be influenced by the mother ’s desires or wishes. To the contrary, the child is the one who determines if breastfeeding is going to continue. It is well known in the field of lactation that it is very difficult to make a child breastfeed.

The Professional’s Responsibility

Health professionals, social service workers, and judges and lawyers in the field of family law need to become informed about extended breastfeeding. The good intentions of a poorly informed professional can result in a false report of abuse, or even a child being placed in foster care needlessly. Personal feelings or beliefs about breastfeeding should not be allowed to affect professional judgment. Unfortunately, women have been reported to social service agencies for extended breastfeeding by the very professionals from whom they sought help. Several years ago in Florida, a mental health professional reported a client to social services for allowing a five-year-old child to try breastfeeding again after he had weaned. The father was attempting to use this incident as a weapon against the mother in a family law situation. The therapist unwittingly went along with the father’s concern, and reported that the mother-child relationship was dysfunctional. When caseworkers at the social service agency learned more about extended breastfeeding and weaning, the case was closed.

If a mother is reported to a social service agency for extended breastfeeding, or if the issue arises in a divorce or family law case, health professionals can assist by providing accurate information about the issue to everyone involved. Most of the time this sharing of information resolves the situation. If it does not, direct testimony from an expert may be needed to resolve the case in the mother’s favor.

Elizabeth N. Baldwin is an attorney, certified family mediator, and La Leche League Leader in Miami, Florida. Her practice concentrates primarily on family law cases where extended breastfeeding and mother-child separation are at issue. Ms. Baldwin is a member of La Leche League’s Professional Advisory Board, Legal Advisory Council.


1. Shunk v. Walker, 589 A. 2d 1303 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1991); Friendshuh v. Headlough, 504 N. W. 2d 104 (S. D. 1993); In the Matter of the Marriage of Holcomb, 888 P. 2d 1046 (Or. Ct. App. 1995).

2. Hoplamazian v. Hoplamazian, 740 So. 2d 1100 (Ala. App. 1999)

3. American Academy of Pediatrics Work Group on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics 1997; 1000:1035-39.

4. Sugarman, M. and K. A. Kendall-Tackett. Weaning ages in a sample of American women who practice extended breastfeeding. Clin Pediatr 1995; 34:642-47.

5. Lawrence, R. A. and R. M. Lawrence. Breastfeeding:A Guide for the Medical Profession. St. Louis: Mosby, 1999.

6. Dettwyler, K. A. A time to wean. BREASTFEEDING ABSTRACTS 1994; 14:3-4.

7. Bumgarner, N. J. MOTHERING YOUR NURSING TODDLER. Schaumburg: La Leche League International, 2000.

8. Huggins, K. and L. Ziedrich. The Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning. Boston: Harvard Common Press, 1994.

9. Layde, P. M. et al. The independent associations of parity, age at first full- term pregnancy, and duration of breastfeeding with the risk of breast cancer. J Clin Epidemiol 1989; 42:966-72.

10. Newcomb, P. A. et al. Lactation and a reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer. New Engl J Med 1994; 332:81-87.

Page last edited 2007-10-14 09:32:41 UTC.

GUEST POST: Demystifying Attachment Parenting: It’s About Meeting Your Child’s Needs

Written by Sheryl Senkiw

I am a mother of a wonderful, energetic three year old boy.  When he was a year old, I found a useful tool, a philosophy of child rearing called “Attachment Parenting.”

To this day, my husband has never heard of “Attachment Parenting.”  He has gone with me to gatherings in a room full of parents who follow, to some degree or another, the Attachment Parenting philosophy.  All he saw was families. There was no special label on them.  Yet, surprisingly, it was my husband who led me to find Attachment Parenting.

When our son was about a year old, I was advised by a family member of how to get him to sleep through the night in his crib.  Put him in his crib, close the door, and make no contact with him until morning.  No matter how much he cries, do not communicate with him.  I fully intended to try it.  But my husband said “No.”  He heard our son’s cries, and said, “Don’t let him cry like that; you are traumatizing him.”  Thanks to my husband, I found an approach that felt better to me.”

I did some online reading, spoke with other parents, and found that there was a style of parenting that was different that what my family member and TV nannies had been teaching. It was called “Attachment Parenting.”

Attachment Parenting is a parenting philosophy.  Dr William Sears, a pediatrician, father, and parent educator came up with the term “Attachment Parenting.” It is meant to be a style of parenting that focuses on doing something parents naturally want to do: be responsive to the needs of your child. It is a way we can think about and look at how we raise our children, and make choices about how we interact within our families each day.

Attachment Parenting International ( is an organization that “promotes parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents.”

There are 8 basic principles as outlined by the Attachment Parenting International (  I am listing their principles, and giving my own examples of what the principles mean to me.

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

Before your baby is born, and if possible before you get pregnant, read a book or go to a class.  Inform yourself about good nutrition for mom and baby.  Find out about different birth options.  Read about breastfeeding, or better yet, find a friend who is breastfeeding and watch how it is done.  Get different viewpoints about raising children, and know that regardless of how you go about it, it will be challenging.

Hold your baby as soon as possible after birth, talk to your baby, connect with your baby, and learn how your baby communicates with you.

Feed with Love and Respect

Breastfeed if possible. Breastfeeding is nutritionally better for the baby, and can have hormonal benefits for mother and baby.  Whether you breastfeed or formula feed, feed your baby when he or she is hungry. Hold your baby and interact with him or her while feeding.

Respond with Sensitivity

From the first day of life, your baby is learning about the world.  You want your baby to be able to trust you, so it is important to respond to your babies needs.  As your child grows older, this means responding to your child, treating him or her with respect, and treating him or her as you would like to be treated.

Use Nurturing Touch

Hold your baby frequently.  Wearing the baby in a carrier is one way of doing that, and can make it easier to go through your day with the baby close.  Give your older child hugs.  Physical contact is good for children.

Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally

Keep your baby within arms reach at night.  This may mean a crib next to your bed. Respond to your baby’s needs to be fed and soothed during the night.   For an older child, continue to pay attention to their needs, even at night time.  Crying it Out, which means having them cry alone in a room until they fall asleep from sadness, fear, and exhaustion, is discouraged.

Provide Consistent and Loving Care

Make sure there is always a trusted, loving person taking care of your child.  If it can be one of the parents, that is best. However, children will attach to other adults and substitute caregivers that a child feels close to can serve as another trusted, loving person.

Practice Positive Discipline

Learn about gentle ways of disciplining your child that don’t involve hitting.

Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

Know that the physical and mental health of everyone is important.  Ask for help from friends and family members, house cleaners, babysitters…Try to get enough sleep.

Pretty simple, basic stuff, right?  I think so.

The Attachment Parenting philosophy is a tool.  It is something parents can use as a guide for making daily decisions about how to raise their children.  There is a lot of good science behind some of the soecific practices, and a lot of loving, nurturing ideas.  The Eight Principles are pretty basic, and many families already use them, without knowing they are part of the Attachment Parenting philosophy.  Take from the toolbox what works for your family.

Breastfeeding is Universal

Breastfeeding is Universal

“Love is food: food for the soul. When a child sucks at his mother’s breast for the first time, he is sucking two things, not only milk — milk is going into his body and love is going into his soul. Love is invisible, just as the soul is invisible; milk is visible just as body is visible. If you have eyes to see, you can see two things together dripping into the child’s being from the mother’s breast. Milk is just the visible part of love; love is the invisible part of milk — the warmth, the love, the compassion, the blessing.” ~ Osho

A friend suggested that perhaps this could have been the Time Magazine cover photo.

Attachment Parenting is Not a Four Letter Word


When you hear the term Attachment Parenting probably the first thing that comes to mind is a zealot, hippie parent who breastfeeds their child until five, who only uses cloth diapers and who carries their baby in a sling 100% of the time. Although these behaviors are true to some degree, yet different for each parent, the overall image in a stereotype and not to be believed. Nor should it deter you from learning about Attachment Parenting.

The term Attachment Parenting (AP) was recently coined by author Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician and parent of eight children. The basic thrust of his parenting style is that the connection or attachment between parent and child is the most important component of child rearing. According to Dr. Sears’ website, Attachment Parenting is simply “a style of caring for your infant that brings out the best in the baby and the best in the parents.” It “implies…opening your mind and heart to the individual needs of your baby, and… develop[ing] the wisdom on how to make on-the-spot decisions on what works best for both you and your baby.” Parenting behaviors that are typically encouraged with Attachment Parenting include co-sleeping, baby-wearing, extended breastfeeding and baby-led weaning.

Dr. Sears’ ideas about Attachment Parenting are based in part on Attachment Theory which began in the 1950’s when John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth studied the attachment styles of babies to their caregivers. In their study they observed babies who were briefly separated from their mothers and were left in a room with a stranger for a brief period of time. They filmed the babies while their mothers were gone and when they returned. They later categorized the babies as either securely attached or insecurely attached based on the baby’s behavior when their mom returned. They found that the securely attached babies responded appropriately when they were reunited with their mothers. The insecure babies did not respond well. Some babies became angry at their mothers and others rejected them. The researchers determined that the securely attached babies were ones that were being raised by caregivers who consistently and reliably responded to their babies needs. The researchers learned that it was very important for babies to be responded to on a very consistent basis during the early months of their lives.

Other components of AP parenting came about as a result of Dr. Sears observing his wife co-sleeping with one of their newborns. He noticed that his wife’s and baby’s breathing patterns became synchronized while sleeping closely to each other. Dr. Sears began to hypothesize that co-sleeping was beneficial to the baby for several reasons: 1) the mother is immediately available to meet her baby’s needs; 2) the baby’s breathing patterns improve when sleeping with the mother and 3) the sleep patterns of the baby are better when sleeping close to mother.

As a parent of a three year old, I engage in what some would consider practices of Attachment Parenting. I carried my baby around in a carrier when she was young, I co-sleep, and I breastfed until my baby was pretty much ready to give it up. However, these parenting choices were based on my own observations of nature. I looked at the animal kingdom and at primates in particular. Does an orangutan mother ask her baby orangutan to sleep in a neighboring tree, I asked myself? Of course not. And why not? Because babies are dependent on their caregivers and form attachments with them in order to survive. Primate mothers also carry their babies on their backs and hold them close to them most of the time. Why? For protection and for comfort. (For a good research article on the biological importance of co-sleeping read Kathy Dettwyler’s “Sleeping Through the Night.”)

Although I practice the behaviors of a self-identified AP parent and I belong to an online AP parenting group, I do not tell people that I am an AP parent nor do I identify as such. For me, the term Attachment Parenting is a new word for an old concept. Other cultures have been practicing the behaviors defined under Attachment Parenting for thousands of years. Look to any culture other than the U.S. or Europe and you will find mothers carrying babies on their backs, families sleeping together and toddlers nursing—perhaps even from a woman who is not her own mother. Breastfeeding past the age of three is common in many places around the world.

It is also only in the U.S. that babies are encouraged to sleep through the night at an early age or to sleep in a separate room from his or her mother. Few societies have houses large enough for each child to have their own room. It’s only been in the past 100 years and in the more “developed” countries that every child having their own room starting at birth has become the norm. It is the way that we have socialized our children in response to wealth and an individualistic society versus a collectivistic society.

The one place that Attachment Parenting practices differ most radically is from the socially accepted practice of sleep training or Cry it Out (CIO). Attachment Parenting does not support letting a newborn or young baby cry themselves to sleep because it does not fall under the behavior of meeting their newborns needs repeatedly and consistently.

In my opinion, “teaching” a baby to sleep independently is a behavior that we as a western culture have imposed upon our children for the sake of convenience. The individualistic society that we live in socializes children to become independent more quickly and for mothers to separate from their babies and toddlers sooner than is biological or developmentally appropriate. In today’s Euro-American society, parenting has changed to fit the lifestyles of people who work, who want independence from their babies earlier, and who own homes with multiple rooms.

If you think about it, the practices associated with Attachment Parenting are probably not that much different than what you are already doing if you are caring for an infant or young child. Most parents admit that they end up sleeping with their babies even if they have a crib set up in the next room. It’s very common to see moms and dads carrying babies in front carriers these days. Even so, it’s not mandatory that you do any of these things. You can be a member of an attachment parenting group just to have solidarity with other parents who want what is best for their baby. The most important thing is that you value the physical and emotional connection that you have with your baby and that you do what is best to meet your baby’s needs.

The goals of the Attachment Parenting International (API) are “to educate and support all parents in raising secure, joyful and empathic children in order to strengthen families and create a more compassionate world.”  It is like anything else – there are extremists, moderates and conservatives. This holds true even in AP world as well. So don’t be afraid. Being part of an Attachment Parenting group can give a parent a sense of identity in terms of parenting choices or it can be just another tool in your toolbox. Basically, Attachment Parenting is just a more elaborate way of saying let your baby be a baby and give her the attention she deserves by responding to her needs. It’s okay. You can be an AP parent. I won’t tell anyone…


Baby-Led Weaning

A short little nursing session around 2 1/2.

Here’s a beautifully written “letter” from mother to baby about the early days of breastfeeding and the baby-led weaning to come. It really does sum up the idea that nature will take its course and that deciding when to stop breastfeeding has little (or nothing to do) with how big a child is, how many teeth he has or what types of food she is eating.

Read it and see what you think.

The Shaming of Motherhood: Breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting in Time Magazine


This picture does cause your jaw to drop, doesn’t it? Time Magazine has successfully sensationalized breastfeeding and likely set a movement back for society’s acceptance of extended breastfeeding by years.

A friend on Facebook commented: “I think the shock value of the photo is not really a clear depiction of breastfeeding…it’s like they dressed the woman up all sexy, then dressed the boy like a little man to make it have a sexual context…when in reality, breastfeeding is not like that at all…but really, nature made us that way.”

My about-to-be-three year old daughter has gradually weaned herself over the past 6 months and it’s been a very natural and easy transition. (And I have to admit there were a few times when she did stand on a chair because she wanted a few moments of mama time and mama was busy folding the laundry.) I usually politely explained to her that we would save that for later. It also became a bit embarrassing while changing out of our swim suits at the Y after swim lessons and she was standing on the bench reaching for me!

I am familiar with Dr. Sears and I understand the theories behind “Attachment Parenting” and I engage in what some would consider to be practices of Attachment Parenting. But for me, however, the term Attachment Parenting is a new word for an old concept and I don’t feel the need to label my parenting as such.  I didn’t need a theory of parenting to tell me that an infant will want to breastfeed, possibly into the toddler years. I didn’t need a theory to tell me that an infant will want to sleep close to her mother or be carried by her mother or other caregivers. (Co-sleeping and “baby-wearing” are behaviors that people who align themselves with Attachment Parenting see as being outside the range of normal parenting practices and thus fall under a term that defines new behaviors.)

For me, parenting has been an intuitive process. I look at the animal kingdom and at primates in particular. Does an orangutan mother ask her baby orangutan to sleep in a neighboring tree? No. And why not? Because babies are dependent on their caregivers and form attachments with them in order to survive. “Teaching” a baby to sleep independently is a behavior that we as a western culture have imposed upon our children for the sake of convenience. The individualistic society that we live in socializes children to become independent more quickly and for mothers to separate from their babies and toddlers sooner than is biological or developmentally appropriate.

Other cultures have been practicing the behaviors defined under Attachment Parenting for thousands of years. Look to any culture other than the U.S. or Europeand you will find mothers carrying babies on their backs, families sleeping together and toddlers nursing—perhaps even from a woman who is not her mother. Few societies have houses large enough for each child to have their own room. It’s only been in the past 100 years and in the more “developed” countries that every child having their own room starting at birth has become the norm. It is the way that we have socialized our children in response to wealth and an individualistic society versus a collectivistic society.

Breastfeeding past the age of three is not uncommon in many places around the world. It’s only in the U.S.that babies are encouraged to sleep through the night at an early age or to sleep in a separate room from his or her mother. (For a good research article on the biological importance of co-sleeping read Kathy Dettwyler’s research in this area.) In today’s Euro-American society, parenting has changed to fit the lifestyles of people who work, who want independence from their babies earlier, and who own homes with multiple rooms.

Finally, in a related post on baby led weaning, there is a photo taken of my child nursing during her weaning months. It’s a natural act. I neither promoted her nursing nor rejected it. In one comment about this post a woman writes:

“A sweet, relaxed photo. This is the one that should’ve been on the cover of Time!”

I take that as a complement because it says that this is the type of behavior that should be depicted for the world to see, not an overblown image that does not depict reality and which will ultimately do what the media generally does: Alter one’s perception of reality and distort it in a way so as to negatively affect one’s opinion about a social issue (such as relationships, body image, etc.). I mean really? How many super-thin, hot women are standing around breastfeeding while their toddlers stand on short chairs? Breastfeeding at that age is usually reserved for soothing a fussy, hurt, tired or tantruming child. It is also used as a nightly ritual for calming and connecting to one’s child. But how many people who view the image but don’t read the article are going to understand that extended breastfeeding (with “extended” being culturally defined) is becoming more accepted rather than less? None.

Shame on you Time Magazine.

I hope Time Magazine’s depiction of extended breastfeeding has not marred the general public’s opinion of something which is normal and natural. In addition, I am more than slightly appalled at Time Magazine’s tongue-in-cheek byline of “Good Enough Mother.” Breastfeeding is not a competition. It’s an individual choice as to how long one breastfeeds, under what circumstances and for what reasons. It’s shaming to those mothers and fathers who are rearing their babies in a manner that may be well thought out and who have solid justifications for their choices.