By now I am sure that you (and the rest of the English speaking world) has seen the cover of TIME magazine with the mom breastfeeding her 3-year-old son. It is a very provocative and in-your-face photograph, meant to get people talking (and sell magazines). The title asks, “Are You Mom Enough?” and the article goes onto to discuss attachment parenting (of which extended breastfeeding is just one part). The magazine was released on Friday the 11th, just ahead of Mother’s Day here in the States.
Without even reading the article I could tell that it would be very one-sided, and it was. The cover photo actually had very little to do with the article, and while I personally liked the cover photo (full disclosure here: I breastfed all 3 of my children until they self-weaned, which happened to be about 6 years old, and was featured on ABC’s 20/20 show about extended breastfeeding), I get that for a lot of other people it was too inflammatory and has done a disservice to all the work that breastfeeding advocates have worked so hard to work towards. And what about the article? It discussed attachment parenting in a negative tone and made AP mothers out to be martyrs to their children who do nothing but breastfeed 24/7, co-sleep with their babies (to the detriment of their sex life and marriage), and wear their babies even in the shower, eschewing strollers, cribs and bottles completely. And in no way could an AP mother possibly work outside the home.
The fact of the matter is, AP mothers DO work outside the home, and many of them serve in the military! But really, it shouldn’t matter how long you breastfed for, or if you co-sleep or not, use a stroller or homeschool. Every mother has to make these decisions for herself and what will work best under the circumstances she finds herself in. And for AD military moms this may mean weaning earlier than you like, or not co-sleeping because you desperately need your sleep when you work 18 hour days, and yes…using pacifiers because your baby is not with you to meet his sucking needs. What matters is that you have made an informed choice regarding your parenting and are doing what is best for you and your family. The fact that you have taken responsibility for your baby’s health and well-being and are doing the best under the very challenging circumstances of serving in the military, makes you “Mom Enough” !!
- The AD mom who breastfeeds is enough
- The AD mom who uses formula is enough
- The AD mom who ships her milk home is enough
- The AD mom who pumps and dumps is enough
- The AD mom who co-sleeps is enough
- The AD mom who uses a crib is enough
- The AD mom who wears her baby in a sling is enough
- The AD mom who uses a stroller is enough
- The AD mom who breastfeeds to age 2 or beyond is enough
- The AD mom who weans her baby for a deployment is enough
Breastfeeding in Combat Boots supports breastfeeding as the biological norm, and I would love to see the breastfeeding rates in the military increase to match those found in the civilian world (currently 44% at 6 months and 23% at 12 months). And while it may seem impossible for AD military moms to breastfeed beyond a year given the harsh duty and separation from their babies, it can (and has) been done by plenty of AD military moms. This Army mom breastfed her twin boys for 3.5 years!
Here are some research and policy statements that support extended breastfeeding:
- Kathryn Dettwyler’s research shows that the natural, biological age of weaning is between 2.5 and 7 years of age.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics “reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by the mother and infant“
- The Amercian Academy of Family Physicians states that “Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired”
- The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months and then to 2 years or beyond.
While the goal of Breastfeeding in Combat Boots is for as many AD mothers to breastfeed as possible for as long as possible and for more babies of AD moms to receive breastmilk, I support AD mothers to breastfeed to the best of their ability and work to help them reach their goals, whatever that goal is…6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years. I meet AD military moms where they are and support them to make the decisions that are best for her and the circumstances she is in. I educate and use evidence-based research to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. To that end and to honor all of the AD military moms that I have had the privilege to work with over the years, I am giving away a copy of my book. Here is how to win:
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The winner will be chosen at random from the pool of entries and announced on May 31st in a blog post.