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Is Extended Breastfeeding a Problem or Solution?

"Time" magazine's new issue explores a trend in attachment parenting, including breastfeeding beyond babyhood, but a pediatrician at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore warns against creating codependencies in both parent and child.

Time magazine has glommed onto a trend called attachment parenting, which includes "extended breastfeeding," when a mother breastfeeds her child past infancy, babyhood, and into toddlerdom and older.

The cover of its May 21 issue features a controversial photo of a mother who has one breast partially exposed as she breastfeeds her toddler. And the cover article focuses on Dr. Bill Sears who, along with his wife, Martha, wrote The Baby Book that has spawned a trend in attachment parenting.

The trend includes co-sleeping and "baby wearing"—wearing your baby on your body in a sling, according to a "Behind the Cover" article by Karen Pickert in Time.

"Some parents subscribe to his theory that attachment parenting ... is the best way to raise confident, secure children," Pickert states in the article. "Others think Sears is an antifeminist tyrant, or that his ideas are just totally unrealistic."

One Baltimore pediatrician says there should be no timetables dictating when breastfeeding or co-sleeping should end.

But he warns against developing codependencies for both the parent and child that could stifle independence and healthy relationships.

Dr. Michael Zollicoffer, a pediatrician at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children's Hospital at Sinai Hospital said he watches both the parent and child for signs of what he calls the "Linus Blanket Syndrome"—if they depend on each other or on something too much.

"It's a problem when you go through life and you set these kind of codependencies where you are connected to someone in a way that you have no independence in life: You can't ever start things on your own," he said.

Codependency is a problem no matter how you get there, Zollicoffer said. "Whether it's by holding a pacifier, or sitting down with a favorite bottle, or a breast, something that you can't 'let go of'—that's a negative."

While he often recommends breastfeeding for one or two years, and having a child sleeping alone by age 4 or 5, "there is no end point to me, or a timetable," he said. "As a public, we are looking at limits, and that is an error that we make."

Rather, in his practice he looks at each person—the parent as well as the child—to determine whether they are building healthy relationships.

"If you can't turn it off and you are riding off to college with a kid in the back of a stationwagon in a child seat, that is a problem," he said.

See Time cover mom Jamie Lynne Grumet and her child for yourself in a video from her Today Show interview.

What do you think? Should children sleep in bed with their parent and breastfeed into toddlerhood and beyond? Is it a positive or negative that a mother poses for a cover photo with her child breastfeeding? Can attachment parenting go too far, or is it the path to raising a confident, secure child?

Get Real May 12, 2012 at 04:15 AM
This is sick and disturbing on so many levels, it is borderline child abuse.
Kirstin Brzezinski May 12, 2012 at 09:35 AM
I am an advocate of "extended breastfeeding" and "attachment parenting". Apparently, I have practiced them but never really adhered to those terms myself. I have breastfed all 7 of my children to varying ages, depending on the individual child. Most nursed longer than one year but none over age 2. I do have friends who breastfed children age 3 and 4. I don't have a problem with that. Although, I do have a problem with this photo because it is ridiculous and stupid. It's simply not realistic. No one does it that way! This photo was intended to be shocking and portray extended breastfeeding to the extreme. It portrays it as sexual, inappropriate and even, fanatical.. This will not help advocate breastfeeding to a large segment of the American population who are already uncomfortable with the practice. I am very disappointed to say the least. TIME magazine, YOU SUCK!!!
Alicia May 12, 2012 at 10:13 AM
Anyone who thinks "real life" breastfeeding is somehow sexual or inappropriate has their own issues they need to get over. And furthermore whose business is it how long a mother chooses to nurse her child? There are so many atrocities going on in the world today and this is what people chose to get upset about?
Pamela May 12, 2012 at 11:08 AM
This picture is very disturbing and disgusting. This child looks older than a toddler! I think mothers that breastfeed their children beyond the baby stage have issues themselves.
Take Responsibility! May 12, 2012 at 11:23 AM
I'm 45 and I still breast feed...
franking May 12, 2012 at 11:25 AM
The photo is supposed to be controversial, so they used an older child who looks older than he is, but I can't understand why it's accused of being sexual. Is that just because the woman isn't large and matronly "earth mom" looking or just because there is a breast involved? Very few speak out in offense by the constant covers showing unrealistic touched up pictures of women with their breasts falling out of sexy clothing. We're so used to seeing breasts being exposed in their sexual context that we accept the prurient and reject their natural purpose, and apply something dirty to it. It would be like expecting women not to be seen walking on their feet, lest they tempt men with foot fetishes.
lynda maguire May 12, 2012 at 12:58 PM
This is a well written response and I want to thank the writer for their views. You are correct in your thought! I nursed until my child was 24 months in a foreign county. It is excepted everywhere but the USA. I don't know why we have such a controlling country!!!
Dave Williams May 12, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Have any of you seen the comedy, "Grown ups" ? It has a women in it that does just this. Hey,, in Eroupe theve have done this forever,,, they let kids sleep with them till 9 or 10. So one could say its not bad,,, Eroupe doesn't have our social ills,, or near the child killings,, especially child on child.
Kristina May 12, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I say to each his own. You have to do what is right for your family and child. Being a parent and raising a child does not come with a "how to manual". I think the picture is disturbing, but probably not an accurate way of how she nurses her child. As parents, we need to stick together and focus on raising kind, caring, and productive kids.
Sandra Conway May 12, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Time Magazine did exactly what they intended to do... Stir up controversy. If my daughter wouldnt have self weaned at 14 months, id have breastfed 2-3 yrs. Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing to a mother, the connection you get with your child is amazing. The kid in the pic is a bit old.... But really, TO EACH THEIR OWN. The cover portraying bf'ing is silly, but again, it got Time what they wanted- SALES & MORE CONTROVERSY.
Leigh May 12, 2012 at 02:09 PM
My baby's first tooth came in at 3 months. Should I have stopped nursing her then?
Bart May 12, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Good point!
Dee May 12, 2012 at 03:38 PM
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast feeding up to 24 months old. Mother's milk is very healthy for babies. The kid on the cover is not a baby. He is nearly four. Hand him a cup of milk and he will be fine.
Gloria Dietz May 12, 2012 at 03:59 PM
I breastfed my 'baby' not my toddler/young boy. I think it is a bit much. It does look awful
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT May 12, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Two comments. The magazine could have tried to do a piece on the economy, etc. and highlight how we got here and the Democratic and Republican proposals to get us out of our problems. That would take brains by the magazine. Unfortunately, the libs running the magazine can't do this because their advanced degrees are in such challenging majors such as American Studies and Political Science. They will get their day of fame and then go back to decreasing readership. Second - looks like the boy is on a strict breast milk and Papa Johns diet. How is that healthy?
Ali Borkowicz May 12, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Time Magazine is doing 2 things. First, they are trying to sell magazines. How many people would walk past this article and not make a comment. Not many. People would pick up the magazine and begin to read it. The second thing they are doing is giving information. They are giving readers the positive and negatives of the situation. Everyone has their own opinions on how long they want to breastfeed their children for. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It's not for anyone to criticize.
Kirstin Brzezinski May 12, 2012 at 10:30 PM
That may be so, Alicia, but the sad truth is that most people in American society view the female breasts as sexual. I am not saying that they should. I certainly do not, but it is obvious that this photo incites sexual thoughts when people are commenting that it is child porn! That is ridiculous and disgusting but it is the way our society is conditioned to view the female breasts. Please don't misunderstand me, I have breastfed 7 children, so I know what breasts are for! I only meant to say that his type of photo exasperates the misconception that so many people have of of the purpose of breasts . It is not prtraying breastfeeding as nurturing at all. Look at the mother's stance and the child's as well. There is something very odd about them, aside from what they are doing. It is not typical or characteristic of "real life" breastfeeding! I speak from experience. If TIME had chosen a more nurturing looking photo where the mother and child involved didn't appear so ridiculous, maybe the reaction would have been different. Maybe not. Anyway, I do believe it was only meant to shock and sell magazines. TIME should be focusing on more important issues. But of course, I see phhotos and articles like this as a tactic the media has of distracting people from what is really happening in the world. That's why.... they suck.
Resident May 13, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Ours is quite literally THE ONLY CULTURE ON PLANET EARTH that has a problem with breastfeeding past infancy. It is the norm to breastfeed in many countries/cultures to 4. 5, 6 years old. Sexualizing breastfeeding or thinking it is "inappropriate" for a certain age that is well within the norm anywhere else on the planet is a sad representation of the strange and disturbing relationship Americans have with their own bodies and with sex. I find some of the comments on here pretty terrifying. The ones with the real issues are those who CHOOSE to see sex or disgust over nature and nurture. Pretty sick.
Suzanne May 13, 2012 at 02:28 PM
That's deplorable that they put this on the cover of the magazine! My daughter "weaned" herself at age 9 months.
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT May 13, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Resident - what cultures? Do you mean third world cultures? The libs may want to - but I don't believe Americans want to become a third world country. Let's give back running water and electricity also.
Paul Amirault May 13, 2012 at 05:11 PM
RMI, please stop the "libs"stuff, it is old. That said; American Academy of Family Physicians:  “Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired. If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.” American Academy of Pediatrics:  “It is recommended that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired  World Health Organization:  “two years of age or beyond”         http://www.who.int/nut/documents/gs_infant_feeding_text_eng.pdf That said, the article was sensationalism. When all you know is what lives in your little pond, you incorrectly assume all little ponds are alike.
MG42 May 13, 2012 at 07:18 PM
This woman is unrealistically attractive for a mom. Rarely do you see American moms that have held up that well.
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT May 13, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Paul: Sorry - I meant Progressives.
Karen Wallace Lutz May 13, 2012 at 09:15 PM
LEIGH, if your 3 month old could stand on a step stool to feed and could tell you what he wanted to eat, then yes!! that's time to stop....just my opinion
Leigh May 13, 2012 at 09:56 PM
So you apparently have trouble with a woman breastfeeding a child who can stand on a step stool and indicate hunger. I've known 9 mos olds who could do that. So when is the magical time a woman must stop nursing? 3 mos to avoid teeth? 9 mos to avoid a child being able to stand? Most importantly, how are these skills related to a child not needing to breastfeed?
Elizabeth Janney (Editor) May 13, 2012 at 11:22 PM
We've deleted some comments that were attacks on other users. Please stay on topic.
Karen Wallace Lutz May 14, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Leigh. What people do in their own homes is their own business. But seriously, why put on a magazine like that? like someone else said, what is the boy going to think when he gets to his teens?...assuming he's done breast feeding by then.
S Walsh May 14, 2012 at 02:38 PM
People fail to realize the health benefits for both mother and child. The longer a mother breastfeeds, the lower her risk for developing breast cancer. Also, the mother's body continues to make antibodies that help the child fight illness. My daughter is almost 19 months old, and we are still nursing at night. She has had a total of 3 colds and they were minor sniffles. She has never had a fever or infection and has never been on antibiotics.
Aaron from Baltimore May 15, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Must be nice having this kind of time to kill!
Becky D, RN May 16, 2012 at 08:46 PM
I couldn't have said it better! Well done! I for one am sick of hearing about extended breastfeeding. It is just what it is, extended past what is recommended. Parenting is about setting limits and boundaries. How backwards to let the child decide. Shame on you TIME for exploiting breastfeeding like this! Breast milk is for babies. NOT children.!

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