TIME's jaw-dropping breast-feeding cover: Too provocative?

The Week's Editorial Staff
The Week

The newsweekly's latest cover features a 3-year-old boy latched onto his mother's breast, igniting debate over attachment parenting — and the image's propriety

TIME magazine sent a jolt through the blogosphere when it unveiled the cover image of its latest issue: A 26-year-old mom breast-feeding her 3-year-old son, who's standing on a chair to reach her nipple. (See the image to the right, and larger below.) The accompanying article, "The Man Who Remade Motherhood," examines the rise of attachment parenting, a style of child-rearing that abides by three main tenants: Extended breast-feeding, co-sleeping, and "baby wearing," or attaching infants to the parent as often as possible with a sling. "To me, the whole point of a magazine cover is to get your attention," says TIME's managing editor Rick Stengel. Mission accomplished. But does the provocative image go too far? 

It's brilliant: This button-pushing cover takes a page out of the sales-spiking playbook that Tina Brown perfected with Newsweek's popular covers, says Hanna Rosin at Slate. "There are many aspects to its genius." Both mom and son wear "impassive expressions, with just the teeniest hint of So What? Fuck You." There's also the kind of mom the cover features: An urban mother with highlights and skinny jeans, a relatable figure sending the message that attachment parenting "is not just for the yahoos."
"Why is this attractive woman breast-feeding a giant child?" 

It's counterproductive: "I'm as pro-breast-feeding-in-public as one can be," says Jessica Wakeman at The Frisky, but the intentional provocation of TIME's cover is a damaging misfire. Attachment parenting is a controversial issue. The jarring image will likely spark visceral reactions in the worst kinds of way, leading those who may be uninformed on attachment to judge solely based on such an extreme cover. It could "do more harm to the parenting tactics" than good.
"TIME magazine goes there with toddler breast-feeding cover"

And it may backfire: The cover could ultimately be bad for business, says Jeff Bercovici at Forbes. TIME says it did not run this cover by its advertisers and retailers, which is sure to ruffle some corporate feathers. Major chains like Walmart and Target often hide risque magazine covers behind special concealing racks, so the provocative images won't help sell copies. The stores may even refuse to stock the issue altogether. Companies are going to "have a fit" over this.
"Will TIME's breast-feeding cover be bad for business?"

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