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Time magazine breast-feeding cover provokes strong reaction

L.A. mom Jamie Lynne Grumet is shown breast-feeding her nearly 4-year-old son. The picture and story on attachment parenting marks anniversary of Dr. Bill Sears book.

May 10, 2012|By James Rainey, Los Angeles Times
  • Time sports a cover of a mother breast-feeding her 3-year-old child that has aroused passion, derision, critique and, yes, endless blog posts.
Time sports a cover of a mother breast-feeding her 3-year-old child that… (Time magazine )

A Time magazine cover with L.A. mom Jamie Lynne Grumet breast-feeding her strapping, almost 4-year-old son promises to be the head-snapping checkout-stand stopper of the season, based on the fevered reaction provoked by the magazine's pre-Mother's Daylanding.

Editors at the news magazine said they ran the provocative cover photo and a story on attachment parenting to mark the 20th anniversary of the Dr. Bill Sears book on the subject, which helped power the movement for moms to establish deeper, and more prolonged, physical bonds with their children.


FOR THE RECORD, 4:07 p.m.: An earlier version of this article said Dr. Barry Sears wrote the book on attachment parenting. Dr. Bill Sears wrote the book.


Grumet, 26, explains in a Q&A article how she herself nursed until she was 6 years old. She said her mom was not a hippie but her dad was a UC Berkeley-trained nutritional scientist. His training informed the family's nursing imperative.

The newly famous mom regularly blogs about her parenting experiences (and posts to a Facebook page) at "Iamnotthebabysitter.com" — an apparent reference to her youthful appearance. The blog appeared to have crashed Thursday under the weight of her new fame.

On the Facebook page, Grumet discusses a variety of topics, including the challenges of operating as a multi-racial family. An adopted son is black, while Grumet is white. One entry reads: "Being an adoptive transracial family we always knew we were going to face hardships other families will never have to deal with."

Grumet seemed surprised by her sudden fame: "Oh my gosh!" she posted on her Facebook page. "Aram and I are on the cover of @timemagazine." She is expected to appear on the "Today" show Friday.

Sears and other advocates of attachment parenting testify to its many physiological and psychological benefits, though Time's reporter on the story says there is no long-term study that proves the benefits. The program calls for not only nursing children well into their toddler years, but for toting young kids in slings, to be closer to their parents, and to encourage them to sleep in bed with mom and dad.

Reactions to the provocative photo of Grumet and son Aram ran the gamut. "How ridiculous can Time magazine get to prove a point?" wrote one woman on Twitter. The parenting blog Babble.com expressed ambivalence: "Is it extreme to breast feed a 3-year-old? That depends on how you feel about extended breast feeding, of course. But one thing is for sure: it's totally, totally hot. Or gross and weird. Or both."

Rick Stengel, Time's managing editor, explaining the cover, told Forbes magazine, "To me, the whole point of a magazine cover is to get your attention. From the moment that we started talking about this story as a cover possibility, it was like I couldn't get out of the meetings. There was so much opinion and passion about it and discussion."

Among Grumet's comments to Time:

- "My mother breast-fed me until I was six years old until I self-weaned. Her encouragement to breast-feed is why we were so successful."

- "It's really warm. It's like embracing your mother, like a hug. You feel comforted, nurtured and really, really loved. I had so much self-confidence as a child, and I know it's from that. I never felt like she would ever leave me. I felt that security."

Grumet sounded, pre-publication anyway, like she was prepared for some flak.

But people have to realize this is biologically normal," she told the magazine. "It's not socially normal. The more people see it, the more it'll become normal in our culture. That's what I'm hoping. I want people to see it."

james.rainey@latimes.com

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