The Time Cover: An Example of Why I Hate the Mommy Wars

The TIME cover. While it’s about Dr. Bill Sears and attachment parenting—extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and wearing your baby around all day—the image and headline “Are You Mom Enough?” have fueled another fire in the Mommy Wars.

I hate the Mommy Wars. This is the reason I never played well with girls. I can’t stand the cattiness of it all. I try not to get involved. But the headline did strike a chord with me. Women are moved to judge by such things. It pushes buttons. It infuriates. It should only educate.

I do have a take on nursing, the mommy war over it, and why it needs to end. Every woman and child has a different experience, a different need. While I look at that TIME cover and can’t imagine that life for me, who am I to say anything about that mother? She is doing what she believes is good for her child and herself. The reason I can’t imagine that life for me? Nursing is not for everyone. I wasn’t able to nurse my firstborn and could barely do so with my second. And being judged for that wasn’t much fun.

My experience with nursing my first-born was hell. When the lactation consultants at the hospital tried to help us, they got things going for a few minutes and then my son would fuss. We went through this dozens of times with countless nurses. I was tired. My baby was hungry. I was a new, worried mother of a newborn who after 36 hours had had only drops of nourishment.

Every time I tried to nurse him, I changed positions, techniques, said prayers, cursed, relaxed, tensed up, cried a little, and wanted to freaking scream. I mashed the call button for help, but I knew the nurses wouldn’t be going home with me. I had to do it myself.

They realized my son’s frenulum, that long connecting tissue under the tongue, was too tight and he simply couldn’t nurse. They said it could stretch in time. They offered to cut it. My husband and I said no. They started bringing in all kinds of contraptions for me to try. A pump to get my milk flowing. I felt and looked like a cow and after all of my effort, I didn’t have an ounce of milk.

The nurses hooked me up to some tubing so I could finger-feed my son with my breast milk. I felt like someone’s science fair project and my son was still only getting drops of milk. He continued to fuss.

All the while, the lactation consultants kept telling me not to give him formula. It would be detrimental to my milk supply and to him ever latching on. I did as I was told, but my heart was quietly breaking. None of it felt right. I felt like my son was starving and I was sitting by watching.

By the middle of our last night in the hospital, another feeding just wasn’t happening. I knew what I wanted to do, but I was hesitant. The nurses had made me feel incapable. They were set on me not sabotaging nursing. My heart was more set on providing for my son. In the day and a half since he’d been born, we hadn’t had one tender moment of feeding and closeness. It had only involved strangers, contraptions, and too many opinions. I felt like we hadn’t bonded.

The nurse on our night shift was an older woman, and I asked for her honest opinion. She said she would give him a bottle. Relief washed over me and for the first time, I fed my son in peace. And I have never once regretted it.

I continued pumping at home but I never had enough milk. Nursing was not for us. And I have never felt guilty about it.

That was the first tough decision I made as a mother. It hasn’t been the last. So yes, I am mom enough. Because I don’t listen to anyone else. I don’t care what others are doing. I listen to my gut. That’s what makes me a mom.



Filed under About Mom

46 responses to “The Time Cover: An Example of Why I Hate the Mommy Wars

  1. Mairi King

    Hurray, you found and trusted your inner voice. That’s the main lesson everyone should learn as he/she becomes a parent. What a lovely post written from your heart.

  2. I had the same problem with my first child 23 years ago. A few hours into motherhood, a nurse walked into my room and said, “You’ll never get anywhere with those breasts.” I wanted to respond, “That’s not the first time I’ve heard that.” Instead, I just cried. All three of my kids were bottle-fed and they turned out great (my middle child graduates from college TOMORROW and she already has a really cool job).

    As for the mommy wars, I was interviewed by our newspaper for a Mother’s Day article way back in the Nineties when first lady, Hillary Clinton was getting slaughtered in the news for her comments on homemaking and baking cookies. I was a “stay at home mom” so the reporter was trying to get a rise out of me with Clinton’s “feminist” comments as if being at home instead of having a career was anti-feminist. I told her I was thrilled that the feminist movement had given me the ability to choose what I wanted to do with my life.

    As you always do so well pointing out, there is no contest – it’s not a competition. Keep it up Muddle Mom!

    • Thank you, WW. And congrats on a college grad tomorrow! Yay!

      If a nurse had walked in and said that to me, I think I would have tried to get up with my still anesthetized lower body and let her have it!

      You’re exactly right. Having the choice is what matters. All my life I wanted to be not a doctor, not a scientist, not an astronaut, but a mom. And I wanted to stay home. I’m thrilled with my choices. And really every mother should be.

  3. Love your post. HATE that headline. Seriously, Time.

  4. Agreed. Parenting is so personal, and you must do what’s right for your family, not what’s necessarily popular, or most loudly advocated. And when these wars get going, they only cause one side to dig in their heels, and the other to criticize, and soon it gets nasty. There’s no debate about the pros and cons of each side, just defensiveness. And anyway, why is so important to convince other people that your way of parenting is right, and theirs is wrong? A child can be raised and loved in any number of ways, and just because someone else choses a different path, it doesn’t make your path the wrong one.

    • I think it’s hard for some people to take information and see it as just information, as being informed and educated. I think that’s where things go wrong sometimes and feelings get hurt and people get defensive. There’s nothing wrong with learning different ways of doing things and thinking about it. You don’t have to agree with it, but it can make you think and understand people better. But you’re right, I don’t want to be preached to. And don’t taunt me.

  5. Our son was born 9 weeks early. Although my wife tried nursing, she was unable to produce and he was raised on Gerber formula. I’m sure she would have a few things to say about that issue. 🙂

    • Every mom has something to say about that issue. 🙂 I hope she didn’t have a bad experience.

      • Our experiences weren’t bad at all. The hospital, although they would have liked the proper milk, worked with what they had, started him on formula themselves (he stayed in the NICU for 51 days) and even sent home several tubs of samples. We did our own research as far as brands, when to move him on to solids (he skipped rice cereals entirely), and he was eating “our food” in less than 18 months without any worries as far as nutrients goes from our Pediatrician. Our son has done amazing well considering his premature status with the only issues being that he has to wear glasses (he’s blind as a bat like me) and that he is 3yrs old and only recently started talking. He is in a PPCD program at the local elementary school and loving his time with other kids his age, I’m sure they are the reason he is opening up and starting to talk now. In my opinion, you’d never know he was born early, that he was formula fed, or anything like that.

      • Yes, and you certainly wouldn’t be able to tell that one has been formula fed. That’s the thing. Sounds like your son has been through a lot. Glad to hear he’s doing well. It’s amazing to watch kids transform into such amazing beings. Sometimes it’s hard, but still amazing.

  6. What a horrible experience you had with your son. That’s terrible for nurses to make you feel that way, and they should have been supportive of your wants and feelings. I was able to get the hang of nursing, and while I “support” nursing (meaning if a mom is interested in it, I would support her in that decision) it’s definitely not for every mother and baby, nor do I judge those who choose not to or can’t. It’s like cloth vs disposable diapers, Gerber jar food vs homemade baby food, private vs public school… It’s all a matter of personal preference! The nurses in the hospital with me were very patient and helpful, and when he wouldn’t latch on in the middle of the second night and he was hungry and crying and I was exhausted and flat out didn’t feel like trying anymore, the nurse gave him an ounce of formula to hold him over until I had rested enough to try again. I was able to nurse for the first year which was my goal, but I don’t regret or feel bad about the times that I did have to give him a little formula while we were learning. Perhaps if you had had more open-minded hospital staff/experience, it would have worked out. I think you are exactly right that the “Mommy Wars” are hurting us as mothers much more than EITHER side is helping! (kind of like politics) 😉

  7. Thanks for your wonderful post. I was in a similar situation as you with my first. I never had more than a bottle of breast milk for him each day. Then when my second came along, I thought I could do better since I was inexperienced the first time but still, I wasn’t producing. Sometimes it hurts to hear other mums commenting that I didn’t try hard enough but I honestly did all I could. I kept feeling guilty, even till now. Your post made me realize it’s probably time to move on. Thank you.

    • I hate that anyone told you you didn’t try hard enough. Sometimes people would tell me to keep at it or go to a lactation consultant. This was weeks after my son was born. I just wanted to hold him and spend time with him and not be hooked up to some machine for so much time a day and then I had nothing to show for it. It was awful. Once I gave up pumping, I was so much happier. Years later I found out my grandmother had the same problem. Do not feel guilty.

  8. Great share story, Karen. We’ve all been there, listened to the people “who know better that we do,” and then quietly did what felt right instead. It’s how we SHOULD parent. Every situation is personal and loaded with circumstances that others (outside of mom and dad) could not possibly be privy to. Breastfed or bottlefed? Does it really matter? That the child is FED and loved should be the point of it.

    As for that TIME cover…hm. Fascinating, is all I can think to say. Personally, my goal was that my kids eventually learn to feed themselves — food preferably, not milk — and not rely on me. Nice that my boobs are for “fun” only these days, what’s left of them, that is.

    • Yeah, my boobs certainly won’t be appearing on any magazine covers. Still waiting on my kids to perfect that feeding themselves part and use a fork. 😉

  9. Jim Cantwell

    Good for you Karen,
    My wife also tried breast feeding and it wasn’t for her either, she simply wasn’t producing enough milk, the bond between my daughter and wife is very strong, and because I fed my daughter too we are very close. How come nobody ever talks about the bond made with the father who feeds his babies?

    • You know, I started to mention that! But as you can see I didn’t. I just didn’t find the place for it and I often leave my husband out of my posts actually on purpose. Most of the time I try to focus on me and being a mother and not writing for him and what he feels, even though he reads every one of my posts before I publish it. He’s a great committed father and a co-parent. We do everything together. I know my writing often sounds like I’m the only parent, but I just don’t like speaking for him. It’s my point of view, my blog.

      However, that is another reason we did like bottle feeding. My husband and son did bond and are extremely close. He got up in the middle of the night with him every night for many feedings. There is a definite closeness when you feed your infant and he really enjoyed being a part of it. Thanks, Jim, for bringing up that point.

  10. I agree that moms should spend a lot less time criticizing each other, and a whole lot more time supporting each other.

  11. Mommy wars help no one. We don’t know why they make the choices they do, so, unless abuse is involved (I know, that’s debatable too), we should but out. Angie

  12. Great post, Karen! That headline Time picked, that ridiculous photo — it floored me. I could not believe a magazine I respected would take such a complete nosedive into outrageousness and intentional controversy at the expense of women.

    I am a breastfeeding mom. I breastfed my daughter until she weaned at 14 months and my son at 2 1/2 is still nursing (I intend to wean him by 3 and before he looks to be the size of the giant kid on Time’s cover). I tell you this because even me, someone who is breastfeeding a toddler, is offended by this cover. It is unnaturally posed on purpose. We women breastfeeding older kids have enough crap to deal with in judgment, we don’t need to be made into some kind of weird poster child. No woman breastfeeds like this. I’ve heard breastfeeding advocates are also upset by the photo. Also, I don’t follow attachment style parenting and hate that this makes it seem that all those who breastfeed also sleep with their kids and carry them around all day. If they do, so be it. But that’s not even the majority of women who breastfeed.

    I appreciate you sharing your experience with breastfeeding. I can say with 100% certainty that I too would’ve quit had I not had the unique asset of a lactation consultant friend who let me call her at 1:00 in the morning for several weeks (bawling). While I’m glad it worked out, I hate the fact that I look back on my first six weeks as a mother and only remember the tension and stress of breastfeeding. I remember people coming over to hold her and saying “Oh, she seems hungry.” And I would cringe and want to tell them to f— off! 😉 And before my son was born, I already had dread about his early nursing weeks. Thankfully it was better but not perfect. And I at least had the benefit of knowing it can get better (from my past experience). Had I quit the first time and then thought about trying the second time, the dread would’ve been overwhelming. Not a fun way to spend those precious times with your newborn.

    I help fundraise for a breastfeeding nonprofit agency in my city. It’s an amazing place and is very unique and is being used as a national model for other states. What I love about it is that the women who work there show no judgment. When a mother client quits after a week, the agency sends her a heartfelt note supporting her choice and telling her to not feel regret and guilt but confidence that she chose what was best for her and her baby. I love that. They also intentionally chose a board member who quit nursing after a week as it was important to them to have this perspective too. This is the way mothers are supposed to behave toward each other. Supportive.

    I’m sorry for such a ridiculously long comment. This happens to be a subject I am a bit consumed with right now. I got your back on this!

    • What a great program. Some mothers do need to know that quitting is OK. While my first experience was horrible, I did try again with my daughter. It was better. I still just didn’t produce enough milk so I supplemented with formula and did what I could for a while. It was a better experience for me, and thank goodness I knew not to feel guilty about it.

      Thanks for sharing your experience as someone who does extended breastfeeding. I think the photo was horrible. Had it been a natural photograph of a mom and her child comfortably sitting in a chair, it would have been much better. Headline was outrageous. I’ve been reading comments on other sites about it and am in shock at how closed-minded and opinionated people are about it and saying it is just downright wrong to parent that way. OK, so it’s not for everyone. That’s fine. But what happened to the elementary rules we learned? Consider others’ feelings. Expressing your opinions is one thing, but preaching and accusing is something else. Just don’t read anything else about it, OK? 😉

      • I fortunately have not read much about it. I try to avoid things that make me want to bang my head against the wall. Although any time I hear “child abuse” or “sexual” connected to extended breastfeeding it doesn’t phase me. There is a point where objections become so ignorant that they’re not even hurtful to me. More like amusing. 🙂 I’ll admit that the idea of nursing at all, let alone nursing a toddler, used to revolt me. So I guess that helps me to not be bothered by that line of thinking.

      • And for the record, even though I do happen to nurse a man-child, the visual of that scene sort of looks strange even to me. I can’t say I see it and think “beautiful.” I know I’m probably the worst spokesperson for breastfeeding in that respect.

      • But they set it up in the most unnatural way. In my short experience, I could barely nurse an infant standing up. At least for me, it was all about comfort. That doesn’t look comfortable for either side. They got their point across. The photographer states why he does that, pulls up a chair and all. He said he wanted to “underline the point that this was an uncommon situation.”

  13. Kim E.

    I had the same experience with my daughter. Often times I would feel guilty for not doing what was “best” for her. After many years of making decisions about various issues, I have learned to only focus on my children and do what is best for them. I have learned to tune everyone else out and not worry about what they think. Just because something is best for their children doesn’t mean it’s best for mine. I try very hard to instill that in my daughter.

  14. Pingback: Yummy Mommy | Authentic Imperfection

  15. Most excellent ! I am so fed up (sorry) with all this – there is no “right or wrong”. And as SNL pointed out this weekend, I feel sorry for the kid in the photo – do they not think hes going to be teased ? The title of being “Mom enough” ticked me off – I doubt few women see her as Super Mom.
    But the Whenever I see articles like this I think “yeh, and in 5 years there will be another study telling us to do the exact opposite” ….

    • I immediately thought the same thing. Wait ’til this poor kid gets to junior high school and someone gets a hold of this magazine. My own son would think that was pretty cool right now but he’s also not 14.

  16. I had problems nursing my boys, but by my third, my body finally figured it out, I agree with you, despite, or even because of your troubles, you are, we are mom enough, and then some, because we struggled and made the tough choices for our babies.

  17. Kathleen

    Thank you. I had a very similar experience with breastfeeding and I’ve never felt badly about it. It’s weird because I feel like other women feel sorry for me when I tell them my story. I’m fine. My sons are fine. Thanks, but I don’t need your pity perfect stranger.

    I’ve learned so much as a mom, but the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned is to trust my gut.

    So glad I found your blog.

    • Thanks! No, I’ve never felt the need for pity either. I think it worked out just fine. And sharing feedings with my husband was a plus. It was also cool when my daughter came along and my son got to help feed her.

  18. Jim Cantwell

    Reblogged this on Where The Grey Matter Pours Out and commented:
    This weeks reblog comes from Karen whom hosts the blog
    It is quite good you should stop by there when you can

  19. Reblogged this on AllThingsBoys Blog and commented:
    Such a great article…

  20. with my last child i decided to breast feed. after all i was never going to have this chance again. each time i nursed him, he cried. the pain for me was almost over bearing as he tried harder and harder to grasp a good hold. after going to the doctor and finding that he had been losing weight, i gave up my wants and tended to his needs. i made the best decision for him and for me, just like you did!

  21. When my son was born, he wouldn’t nurse either – well, not easily, so I, too was fiddled around with by nursing staff etc. and lectured on persevering – so much so that it was only when he lost 2 lbs (alarming as you can imagine) that I was finally advised to opt for bottle. Well he didn’t like that either but that is another story!
    Loved your post and have just subscribed to your blog!

  22. I wanted to add, when I was in college, I worked for an outpatient lab, and I will never forget the mother who brought in a near lifeless newborn whom I RAN literally through the maze of hallways to the ER–all because le leche had convinced this woman to give this baby nothing when she couldn’t breast feed. It made me truly dislike everything to do with this organization. Arggg!

  23. And BTW, the minute I walked in and handed the baby to the docs, they laid her down and coded her! They saved her, but I shudder to think what would have happened if the pediatrician hadn’t ordered bloodwork thus forcing the mom to come in. She did survive, thankfully.

  24. transplantednorth

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! Glad you did what was right for you and your baby. That first month is hell, yes there is such intense joy but really the first month of motherhood I found myself beating myself up because I opted for an epidural, and no, nursing did not come naturally and without effort. I think a relaxed mom makes for a happier baby and I also never liked getting together with other mommies who would not otherwise socialize with me if we didn’t have kids the same age. I wanted to talk about something other than naps, breastfeeding and eventually, who was the first to pottty train. How about — books? Politics? I also blogged about that time cover here:

  25. Well said! Thank you for sharing your story.

  26. People ask me all the time if I breastfed any of my 3 boys. When I tell them that I didn’t, I get that strange, judgmental look. That’s when I inform them that the Foster Care system in Washington doesn’t look too kindly on breastfeeding other people’s babies… lol That usually gets them off my back. However, If I could have, I might have. But I think that the choice is ours and ours alone to make, and we shouldn’t be judged by it.
    Good for you, and thanks for sharing 🙂

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