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Breast-feeding a big kid on the cover of TIME? Yawn

May 10, 2012|By Karin Klein
  • Time sports a cover of a mother breast-feeding her 3-year-old child that has aroused passion, derision, critique and, yes, endless blog posts.
Time sports a cover of a mother breast-feeding her 3-year-old child that… (Time magazine )

As a mother of three, I have a theory about parenting theories: The number of children a person has is inversely proportionate to that person's probable level of belief in parenting theories.

Feed babies by the clock independent of their hunger? A few people are still believers in that, but not many. Tiger moms? Let's not even go there. No, these days the hot topic is "attachment parenting," where the philosophy runs more like: Breast-feed on demand, and seemingly forever. Have the baby in a sling hanging from you as much as possible. Don't settle for having the baby in your room; only sharing the bed will do. The idea is to build the child's sense of security through intense closeness.

Fine. Whatever. As long as everybody else doesn't have to hear about it all the time. Especially those of us who are finished with theories and are settling for just doing what seems best each day for each individual child.

Except we apparently do have to hear about it this time, as the weekly news magazine Time sports a cover showing a mother breast-feeding her 3-year-old child that has aroused passion, derision, critique and, yes, endless blog posts.

There isn't necessarily anything wrong with attachment theory. Well, yes, maybe there is. A report last month from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that overall, accidental deaths to children and teenagers had fallen appreciably -- with one of the few exceptions being suffocation deaths among infants. The report warned against bed-sharing with babies.

But people are very emotional about their child-rearing techniques, so that little line alone will no doubt set off dozens of complaints from people who shared beds with their children and managed never to kill them. Hey, I'd bet most parents, exhausted at one point or another, went for a family snooze. But anecdotes don't tell us much; bald statistics do.

Some people are sure that attachment parenting will lead to helicopter parenting, with the parents making their child's bed -- in the college dormitory. (Maybe we have a future Time cover here?) On the other hand, attachment parenting was not a big deal 20 years ago and we still have a lot of helicopter parents.

Chances are that most theories work if tempered with enough love, support, humor and tolerance for odd smells in the house at various developmental points.

If parents and children can really stand to be intensely close that much of the time, that should be fine with everyone else. Or eat by the clock, something my family never manages. Or feel welcome to adopt my no-theory theory.

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