TIME's Jaw-Dropping Breast-Feeding Cover

The newsweekly's latest cover features a gangly 3-year-old boy latched onto his mother's breast, igniting debate over attachment parenting — and the image's propriety.  TIME managing editor Richard Stengel (Class of 1973) says the point of magazine covers is to catch people's attention.

POSTED ON MAY 10, 2012

TIME managing editor Richard Stengel (Class of 1973) says the point of magazine covers is to catch people's attention.

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Best Opinion:  Slate, The Frisky, Forbes
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 tenets: 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." And the cover features the sort of mom — relatable and urban with stylish highlights and skinny jeans — that sends 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, complex issue. The jarring image will likely spark visceral reactions in the worst kinds of way, leading those who know little about attachment parenting to make snap judgments based soley on such an extreme cover.

"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. And major chains like Walmart and Target often hide risque magazine covers behind special concealing racks; if that happens, the provocative image 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?"