Hey, Time Magazine: I Am a Black Attachment Parent

Hey, Time Magazine: I Am a Black Attachment Parent


Not that you’d know about this, but African and indigenous South American women have been wearing their babies in wraps on their backs, and breastfeeding their kids through early childhood for centuries.  And many modern single moms, out of necessity, have been co-sleeping with their children through late childhood years since forever.

However, when a world renowned doctor and parenting expert Dr. Sears assembles those practices along with 6 other steps for growing confident children it is called “Attachment Parenting,” making news and going viral. It also gets a coveted TIME magazine cover.

The magazine this week released a  cover story about Dr. Sear’s attachment parenting theory which featured a 26-year old young White mom nursing her 3-year old child as he stood on stool.  Reaction has been mixed, but people are primarily outraged by what they see as a child too old to be noshing on his mama’s breasts.  Breastfeeding experts are perturbed because the image  could  cause more people already ambivalent and uncomfortable with nursing to solidify their negative impressions of a very human and natural practice.

And as perception can easily overshadow reality, had the woman on the cover been Latina, the response may have quickly turned into dialogue about so-called “anchor babies,” illegal immigration and welfare.  Ask blogger and columnist Maegan Ortiz, who, amidst all the furor over the cover, tweeted a link to an article she wrote, “The Racial and Economic  Politics of Babywearing.” It focused on the way people of color are criticized, shun and shamed for practices they do while affluent White families get praise and accolades for the same activity, all while shelling  a pretty penny for the comfort to do the same – via expensive slings that can cost upwards to $70 a piece.

But, I digress.

I cannot lie. I am an attachment parent. Actually, I had no clue that I was one until a friend  caught me expressing embarrassment and guilt over co-sleeping with my children well into their early childhood days.  She then handed me a book based on Sears theory.

Attachment parenting is based on the premise that extended nursing and co-sleeping, wearing the baby in slings against your body at early stages, and providing nurturing physical touch and encouragement from infancy through early childhood has lifelong benefits for children.  It enables them to grow confident and comfortable in their own skin and surrounding environment.

If you judged the practice based on an article featuring only Caucasian women, a casual observer could assume it may be something unique to that demographic.  You would think African Americans don’t do it.

Everything that was instinctual to me that I did while raising my 9, 6 and 4 year old fit comfortably into the theory: I nursed each of my three children past the age of 1, and my youngest until she was nearly 2 years old.  I endured all the critical and judgmental looks and questions from friends asking, “you’re still breastfeeding?” Knowing the benefits for reducing SIDS risk, ear infection, asthma, diabetes and obesity, it was a no-brainer for me, though among women in my racial group I knew I made the exception, not the norm. While 75% of US women start out breastfeeding less than 45% of African American women do, the CDC reports.   Cultural discomfort plays into this number.  Reports like a a 2005 Joint Center report  indicated more Black women could do wonders narrowing the Black/White infant mortality gap.

Also, when my children were infants, rather than put them in strollers and buggies, I carried them in a sling to keep them close to me so they could nurse discreetly when needed.  I gave them infant massages after bath time and consistently smothered them with comforting and gentle hugs.

My husband and I do not rely on spanking as an initial form of punishing our children and our use of “time out” as a primary form of discipline has worked for the most part. We have strict rules – and while kids will be kids and they act up once in a while we are comforted in knowing that they are secure and love us more than fear us. They also sleep with us on occasion, most times after starting the night in their own beds.  They get hugs, and reassurance constantly and perhaps as a result they do right by us in return.  They are honor roll students who receive scholastic awards and acknowledgments in school.  They are smart, confident and have broad and expansive imaginations. They are curious and love to explore and are not afraid to approach any new situation.

I guess I can credit a lot of their positive development to attachment parenting.

Certainly, there are many more of us who probably didn’t know there was a name for it.  Or that we and our ancestors and people around the way have been doing it for ages.

Of course, it’s not right for everyone, but that is okay. There is more than one way to raise a child.

If anything, the imagery accomplished what it set out to do: trigger dialog and get people talking on the issues, sharing their perspectives and experiences and start considering alternative means of parenting they may not have previously considered.

Once they get the image of a grown child breastfeeding out of their head.


  1. What a great article!

    I am guilty of being shocked by the cover. What shocked me most about the cover was how old that little boy looked up on the chair. And yes, I was a bit insulted being questioned if I was "MOM ENOUGH?"

    I have been nosing around wanting to learn more about Dr. Sears and I stumbled upon this site. Apparently, this other doctor is friends with Dr. Sears and he "sort of" commented on Dr. Sears while talking about how to boost breastfeeding nutrition.

    For us moms out there who do breastfeed, I was wondering if you have ever heard of this "AKG" boost before to enhance nutrition for our babies. Would love to hear what you think about this and it also made me wonder how long should we breast feed for, too. http://www.nutrilysdelmar/blog/dr-sears-cover-sto

    Happy Mother's Day!

  2. You bring out that African and South American's follow this practice. So? Other comments about this are Many African and SA nations are in poverty. Is this tied to them breastfeeding too long? making dependants of their children? Since Obama and Mitt want to get into peoples bedrooms and make those decisions maybe the federal gov't could mandate how long to breastfeed children since they also want to control our health insurance?

    • Dude. This has NOTHING to do with Politics. This is about what is best for nurturing a baby and preparing her for being an independent human and adult, developmental wise. If she grows in a nation of poverty, what does that have to do with what nursing and bedsharing has done for her development?

      I fear this may be over your head, dear as you are mixing apples and oranges.

      • You tell us what that has to do with it in "poor" countries? Can you point to data used? Studies taken? Or do you just comment based on opinions and write-ups of others and twist it so you can write about "black" side?

        If Obama and Mitt can make a national issue out of what goes on in someones bedroom, Obama can have 1/7 of the US economy taken over by federal gov't with heath insurance issue, the federal gov't can crate a "food pyramid" that is wrong for many Americans/use it to estabiched food programs – how long do you think it will be before they will try and take over how long "you" can breast feed a child?

        • Hey dude. "Google It" I'm not going to do your work for you. The people who are in these studies and lauding its benefits are not "black". I think your deep seated hatred of black people is clouding your judgment as you are incapable of seeing anything through a neutral non-racial and sane lens. I don't know why I respond to you. I guess since all you do is sit behind your computer, troll and spew hate, you have to get your jollies somehow. You really need to get a hobby you know. You're going to end up in an early grave with all that venom poisoning your being the way it does.

          • I have a hobby…asking question you cannot or refuse to answer while you live inside the "black" box LOL. You say "I" cannot see thru a non-racial lens yet all you seem to write about is "black" this or that – right, I'm color blinded. Show us ANYWHERE I have spewed any hate???

          • This is a site about African and Hispanic and Latino Americans. I really do not understand why you insist on commenting on articles on here asking why the focus. Go somewhere else if you don't want to read our spin on politics. Good grief. You are a exhausting and a troll. Own up to your role, dude. ugh!

    • And further, you must not understand or have education on all of the benefits of breastfeeding for children's development. I think you need to either get more education on the issue or stay in your troll lane. It's a more comfortable place for you, hon.

      • It is directly related to politics. Read. When "poor" are used to play with taking tax money used to create these "studies" as was published here locally last year to "prove" something (ie: low borth rate) then it is politics. You want to pick "one" thing out and analyze it yet want to ignore everything else as if there are no consequences to these actions by others actions. Just because you disagree with looking at ALL factors does not make anyone a troll, except by you when you make one-sided statements based solely on color. BTW, my Master’s Thesis was on Child Development.

          • Never -the-less. I have a Masters from Florida A&M University and that was my thesis. Just because you cannot debate and only make name calling and accusations makes your points illrelevant, imho.

          • And that the point, you always revert to name calling and sidline "all other issues" when it doeswn't fit neatly into your 1-2 page essay's eventhough ALL issues affect each other. Try to think out side of box.

  3. I made the decision to breastfeed my child long term because it was something between my daughter and I exclusively, and because many organizations including La Leche League were advocating breastfeeding until the age of 5. In fact, the actress Lindsey Wagner (The Bionic Woman) was the spokesperson for the movement. The only reason I stopped was because I took a job on the over night shift. There is nothing weird or odd about breastfeeding a child past infancy. It is healthy for the child, and builds a bond between the mother and child that is like no other. I also carried my daughter in a Snuggly until she was too tall to fit in it, and if I could have found a sling, I could ahve carried her close to me, longer. While I did not like the Time Magazine cover and felt that the mother should have refused to allow herself and her child to be exploited in that way, I was an attachment parent long before I ever heard the name, and I am a Black woman.

    • Bravo, Time! Such an important issue should be on the cover. If women would breast feed their kids until 3 or 4, there would be a lot less sickness at school later because the mothers immune system would have built up the emerging immune systems of the kids. Their may not be a need for so many immunizations if kids have mother's milk a long time. Plastic bottles have BTHA that causes little girls to reach puberty in pre-school and increase the risk of breast cancer when they grow up. Plastic bottles should be banned.

  4. These countries are poor mostly because of European influence–abusing natural resources in the name of colonization. Second MGothoc. I understand what you are saying. I just don’t think the author was in a political mindset. You threw her off with your comment about government influence in the private lives of its citizens. Your comment was more about government control and less about the benefit of breastfeeding. Third. There are huge implications indeed. I don’t think Uncle Sam cares enough about breast feeding to interject on this issue though.

    • I agree European has and does have influence. But is those like Taylor (x-pres of Liberia and descendant of US slaves) now being sentenced that has just as much influence over what happens to "his" people as any outsiders – as it has always been. IE: the Europeans didn't have to go into Africa and catch slaves. Slaves were brought by other Africans and sold to whomever. Liberia is a country founded by/for US slaves in early 1800's, for US slaves and is still ran by that mindset, imho.

      • If you do not think the Federal gov't will categorize even breast feeding then….But that is how the feds operate, take one small issue (as JG has done writing about an issue inside her little box), segregate people "help" solve a non-exist problem, then move on to next "health" issue. These "studies" as JG writings or actual studies always play a part in the money that gov't gives out. IE: who will pay for "slings" she mentions or other care needs of those children? There are books infinitum on issues such as tis, which can and will be used to write thesis to support this or that idea, to back or deny some gov't "report," etc, etc.__The only apparent reason JG writes about this “black” issue is because it was published on “Time” but a “white” women and child was used. So hence her twist on the subject using her own experiences. In other words, rather than using her own creativity to investigate or come up with her own story, it seems she just “colors” it and kinda copies into a “black” issue.

  5. Criminal acts against others are most often caused by a lack of mother love. Children who were neglected or abused as children very often grow up on the wronbg side of the law, doing harm to others. People need a possitive connection with their mother from early childhood to carry a sense of value, worth and to care about others. Example: Adolf Hitler was beaten as a child, and had a violent desire to be valued as worthy.

  6. Apparently, no one was reading Time which is exactly why the editors published it. It was like dumping gasoline all over a simmering fire and then throwing a match on it. We all know what you get. A hell of an explosion. And we all proved we were lemmings. Meanwhile, all of the marketing executives and editors are high fiving each other backstage. I talk about the end of my role as a lemming here: http://www.themommypsychologist.com/2012/05/11/ha

  7. I didn't mean to hit reply so quickly! I wasn't done! With that being said, I think this article is one of the best that I've read on this topic. There are so many erroneous assumptions within that cover it is ridiculous. And by the way, the person posting above has no idea what he's talking about.

  8. Apparently,i‘m really impressed
    With the parenting or adoptation of a black kid. however,the act of hollywood celebrity Lindsely wagner,was absolutely wrong.the problem is not the breastfeeding at that age,but the way the picture was captured.the image coused alot of ambivalent and uncomfortable to many people not only women along
    even to the entire world at large, with full of negative impact and impression.
    Really ofcourse,its insulting for
    Every mother who knows the ethics and values of what breastfeed mean.only woman knew that,Dr,you are not a woman therefore,no matter how educated you are you‘ll never understand this.then a question to the so called Dr,Sears,why would you publically support these theorie that brings confusion to people let your students argue in the class about it rather used a young lady to creat havoc in the society.

  9. The problem suffered is by a child in abandonment of the other parent, especially boys who's father may just work far away spending weekends at home, or leave making him feel he wasn't wanted by his dad. Refusing to take the son fishing because dad's afraid he won't catch a fish. Regardless, Americans are not adequately informed about the importance of mother's milk to develop a strong immune system, rather relying on shot, the critical importance of close ties gained by breast feeding and sleeping with one or more parents for psychological health. Instead, they are concerned if a woman's breast is showing when men go shirtless all the time. There is an epidemic of childhood leukemia, autism and cancer we don't understand. It's time to stop looking at what is shallow and think about nurturing and nutrician. Cow's milk mostly benefits the immune system of calves. This and the cover of Time should win an award for making people think because it's very important.

  10. Great article, but I don't necessarily think of Dr Sears as Mr attachment parenting – more John Bowlby who formulated attachment theory way back in the 40s.__Also, I'm surprised to see 'time out' mentioned as a method that's considered part of attachment parenting. Volumes has been written about the problems with time outs, in particular the failure of this method to meet children's emotional needs – a key part of attachment parenting surely.

  11. That’s me and my daughter Kiona aka Muffin! I saw this in my FB “on this day feed”…. I breastfeed her till 3 1/2. I still work for WIC .. Currently I’m with the State of Michigan WIC Division and I’m the WIC Breastfeeding Community Liaison. I work at Hutzel and St. John Hospital.