The internet it all abuzz today about a new TIME magazine cover story about extreme attachment parenting. I’d link to the story, but the penny-pinchers at TIME require a subscription to view it. Screw ’em.
As a parent with two children who were both breastfed, I know how important breastfeeding is. The National Institute of Health has found there are many benefits to breastfeeding an infant, including fewer illnesses, a stronger immune system and healthy brain development. There’s lots of great things in breast milk that can help a baby grow into a vibrant toddler. Some women can’t breastfeed, that’s OK and nothing to be ashamed of.
It’s a very personal choice, but obviously a right that every mother should have the ability to breastfeed. The question that arose from the (dramatic and extremist) TIME cover was, “How long should a mother breastfeed?”
The simple answer: As long as she wants.
And then there’s the “opinions are like a-holes” category, which I’ll dance around for a minute.
The NIH studies say great things about breastfeeding for an infant to a toddler, but what about after that? Do the nutritional needs of a toddler change enough that breast milk doesn’t provide everything? I don’t have the answers to that, but the question is one that should be asked: “Is breast milk sufficient for the needs of a toddler? What about preschool age? Kindergarten? Grade school?”
Without hard data, it’s hard for me to say it should or should not be done. The thing I am worried about, from society as a whole, is how we seem to be raising children who believe that they are in control instead of parents taking authority. You see this a lot in helicopter parents. I overheard a story from someone who worked in financial aid at a university who had been overwhelmed with parents taking care of the business side of their child’s enrollment. Of course, the actual student isn’t anywhere to be found in these stories because helicopter mom or dad are taking care of it all.
My concern is the possible correlation between attachment parents and helicopter parenting. When do we let children be children instead of always hovering? Can a child’s creative mind be opened if they’re always protected? Will critical thinking come from a generation who hasn’t learn to fill out a FAFSA form?
In a way, I see the fringe elements of parenting kind of like smoking. You should absolutely have the right to do it (as long as it doesn’t infringe on others’ rights). But there is a huge warning label attached: The longer you do this, it might have undesirable consequences. Proceed with caution.