by Molly Rauch
She is standing tall and proud while nursing her decidedly-not-a-baby son, who is standing on a chair so he can reach her bared breast. The internet crackles with responses to the image of gorgeous Jamie Lynne Grumet on the cover of Time. The image is sure to divide moms and dads over how best to raise our children.
Time’s cover story reports on the attachment parenting movement, which is based on the idea that we should keep our babies physically close to us through extended breastfeeding, baby wearing and co-sleeping. It can be a lot of work for a mom. And so Time asks, “Are You Mom Enough?”
The image on the cover is cause for celebration for some; shocking and appalling to others; just “gross” to plenty (though not to me). I happen to like it. But something about the cover was bothering me.
I think I figured out what it was.
It’s just one little three-letter word.
It’s the word “you.”
Time asks, “Are You Mom Enough?” I’d like to ask instead, “Are We Mom Enough?”
Are we mom enough to fight for healthier lungs for our kids? Several components of air pollution trigger asthma, including ozone, particle pollution and nitrogen oxide. The technology exists to clean up the air; but power plants, factories, and car companies don’t want to make the changes. We need to work together to make sure that strong regulations are put in place and implemented effectively. Are we mom enough?
Are we mom enough to fight for healthier brains for our kids? We’ve all heard from our doctors that we should avoid eating tuna while pregnant, because of high levels of mercury. But why should this be our problem? That mercury doesn’t just naturally get into tuna. It comes largely from coal-burning power plants. Why should power plants be allowed to pour mercury into our air, when the technology exists to stop it at the source? Our children’s brains are not worth damaging in order to keep the coal plants running without a hitch. We need to work together to support EPA’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, which would reduce the amount of mercury power plants are allowed to emit. Are we mom enough?
Are we mom enough to fight for toxic-free nutrition for our kids? Whether you are a card-carrying member of La Leche League or stock a cabinet full of formula, toxics in our air, water and consumer products can get into our breast milk and our formula. Many toxic chemicals have been detected in the breast milk of moms around the world, including heavy metals, dioxins, flame retardants, PCBs, perchlorate and pesticides. We don’t know the health effects of these exposures, but we know that we are feeding these toxicants to our babies.
At the same time, there are problems with formula as well. Aside from what pediatricians cite as its inferiority to breast milk nutritionally, formula contains whatever contaminants are in the drinking water it’s made from, as well as any contaminants that might leach into it from baby bottles and nipples. Meanwhile, our nation’s major statute regulating chemicals in consumer products does not require safety testing in advance of allowing a new chemical to hit the shelves. New chemicals are basically untested. Sounds like we’re the guinea pigs to me. We need to work together to demand a more child-protective system, so our breast milk and our formula are safe for all our babies. Are we mom enough?
Deciding whether to nurse our babies, and when to wean them, should be an individual decision. But standing up for our children’s health should be a “we” moment.
Photo credit: TIME