One of our most famous endurance breastfeeders, if not the most famous endurance breastfeeder, Mayim Bialik, has decided to retire the boob. Her 4-year-old son Fred has officially weaned.
Fred isn’t going to nurse on his way down the wedding aisle or at his high school graduation. I didn’t need to break him of a “habit” and teach him “who’s in charge.” I didn’t need to set boundaries you thought I should have set when I didn’t want to set them.
Because we did it: Fred weaned.
As you might imagine, Mayim got a lot of criticism for being a strict devotee of attachment parenting, family co-sleeping and allowing her children to self-wean and all. When she titled her book on the subject “Beyond the Sling,” she really wasn’t kidding.
Mayim Bialik is a pretty cool Jewish woman. Not only is the actress, who managed to remake her career after becoming a teen star on 1990s television series “Blossom” successful, but she is also successful in a unique way. She earned a doctorate in neuroscience and has made a career out of being that sharp, funny, nerdy character many of us can relate to and identify with. She currently co-stars on “The Big Bang Theory” as neuroscientist Amy Farrah Fowler, and has managed to write a new book on holistic parenting, slated to come out soon. On top of all that, Bialik is deeply Jewishly engaged, which makes her a real on-screen Hollywood rarity.
So when she recently announced on her blog at Jewish parenting site Kveller that she and her husband of nine years are getting divorced, the news ricocheted around the Jewish web faster than nova gets scarfed down at kiddush.
For all her cool Jewish cred, Bialik has also been controversial, mainly for her extreme practice of attachment parenting, which she touts in her book, “Beyond the Sling”. My friend and colleague Allison Kaplan Sommer has written a spirited analysis of just what makes Bialik tough to stomach as a model of motherhood.
Oh, Blossom. I hate to be critical of one of my favorite actresses who is an “out Jew” to boot, but your recent article in the online Jewish parenting publication Kveller, just raised too many alarm bells for me not to comment here. In the article, titled “I Breastfeed my Toddler, Got a Problem With It?” actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik writes about exclusively breastfeeding her 2½ year old son. He eats no solid food.
Yes, it’s an uncomfortable image. When our first babies were newborns, some friends and I took a post-partum exercise class, and we exchanged stunned looks when, at the end of class, the instructor’s preschooler came in, plopped down in her lap and lifted her shirt to nurse. But I live in the Park Slope area, a Brooklyn neighborhood where attachment parenting is so much the norm that family beds are conventional and people bring their babies with them into bars. So being unconventional isn’t the issue. It’s two other things that Bialik wrote that give me pause.
Her 2 ½ year old son isn’t yet verbal, she writes, unable even to ask in a basic way to nurse (he indicates interest in sign language), but Bialik doesn’t offer any explanation for his lack of speech. She also writes, “I have not slept more than 4 hours in almost 6 years.” She continues, “My son, however, is healthy, happy, and independent, and I see no reason to wean him.”
For Sisterhood contributor Elissa Strauss, a recent panel discussion on marketing embarrassing products to women brought to mind an episode of the 1990s sitcom “Blossom,” in which the title character gets her period for the first time — and celebrates the occasion with her family, over Chinese food. For me, the discussion recalled the so-called “menstrual slap” — the Jewish minhag, or custom, of slapping your daughter across the face on the occasion of her first period.
My parents weren’t ones for corporal punishment, but my mom did deliver a swift slap when I told her news — and proceeded to plead with her not to tell dad, because that would be way … too … embarrassing. When I asked her what I did to deserve the slap, she said something to the effect of “That’s what nanny did when it happened to me. That’s just what Jewish mothers do.”