By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
With Mother’s Day behind us, the topic of the moment is no longer “Are You Mom Enough?”
Today’s hot conversation-starter is Facebook stock. It’s not the eye-catching Time magazine cover of pretty Los Angeles mom Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her 3-year-old — a boy photographed standing on a chair and wearing big-kid camouflage pants.
That picture is yesterday’s news, although lots of us are still chatting about attachment parenting, the real subject of Time writer Kate Pickert’s cover article.
Magazine or no magazine, life goes on as normal at the Machias area home of Marianne Ames, her husband Christopher, and their five children. It’s a happy, nonstop life, caring for 17-month-old Eloise, 5-year-old Evangeline, Gabriel, 7, Christian, 10, and 12-year-old AhLana.
“Society doesn’t always value the complex role of motherhood,” Marianne Ames said.
Along with being a wife and mother, Ames is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. It’s a title achieved through her work as a La Leche League leader, training in several classes, and passing an exam. She runs Mother Nuture Breastfeeding, a private-practice lactation consulting service that helps families in Snohomish, Skagit and north King counties.
She and her husband are devotees of attachment parenting.
Pediatrician William Sears, author of “The Attachment Parenting Book,” popularized the phrase for an approach that begins with a strong parent-infant bond. Breastfeeding, “baby wearing,” and sleeping within close nursing and touching distance to an infant are among the tools of attachment parenting.
No question, that Time photo was a startling display. “The point of a cover is to get your attention,” said Time Editor-in-Chief Rick Stengel in a TV interview on MSNBC, “and this gets your attention.”
Ames, though, said there’s nothing unusual about breastfeeding a 3-year-old.
“I have nursed through pregnancies, and then allowed my children to wean themselves naturally,” said the 36-year-old mother, who continues to breastfeed her youngest child.
Ames also is involved in Attachment Parenting International of Snohomish County, a group that meets monthly and maintains a Facebook page. She doesn’t see attachment parenting as a new trend.
“Dr. Sears really defined it,” she said. “He coined the phrase for what existed originally. It’s how parents have met the needs of their child, emotionally and completely. It was the way people parented.”
As for bedtime, in the Ames home infants slept with their parents. When a new baby comes, toddlers have been moved to a separate bed in the parents’ room, until that child is ready for their own room.
Attachment parenting is more than breastfeeding. Ames said love and respect are at its core. “There are many, many choices each family makes. It’s finding the choice that’s best for you and your family,” she said.
Ames doesn’t think Time’s cover headline — “Are You Mom Enough?” — does anyone any favors.
“I think every mom comes from a place of trying to do what’s best for their children, every mom and dad,” she said. Our world, she said, “isn’t always friendly or supportive.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to straddle the role between being a mother while finding where you fit in the world. It’s tough,” she said.
The benefits of extended breastfeeding are well known.
In a 1997 article titled “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” the American Academy of Pediatrics cited studies showing the possible protective effect of breast milk against sudden infant death syndrome, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lymphoma and allergies. The paper also linked breastfeeding to health benefits for mothers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics report said babies should be fed only breast milk until 6 months of age, and added: “It is recommended that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired.”
How long that is shouldn’t be cause to draw battle lines in any ridiculous culture clashes or mommy wars.
“When I think about breastfeeding, there are so many opinions. There’s my opinion, your opinion, and the next-door neighbor’s,” she said.
Ames isn’t wild about that Time magazine cover, but she’s not about to attack the mom in the picture.
“I felt the pose may have exaggerated it, and the way the boy was dressed. Is that something I would do? Probably not. But I don’t have any sort of issue with that mother,” she said. “Moms and babies are just doing what they were biologically created to do.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.