Time cover mom defends breast-feeding 3-year-old son

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A controversial Time magazine cover, which shows a young mom breast-feeding her nearly 4-year-old son as he stands on a chair, has caused a media frenzy and inspired critics and supporters alike.

Cover mom Jamie Grumet, 26, and her son Aram discussed the kerfuffle with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie on Friday.  

“We knew exactly what we were going to get in to,” Grumet said about the cover and story, which focuses on the theory of attachment parenting. What Grumet, who said she was breast-fed until the age of 6, didn’t expect was the public’s immediate, almost visceral reaction.

More than 131,000 people voted on the TODAY.com poll about the cover, with 27% saying “It’s great!” and 73% saying, “Eh, I don’t really want to see that.” 

“I don’t see anything wrong with breast-feeding,” commented one reader, “but I think the picture itself on the cover is pretty awkward and terrible. But that’s just because the picture is bad, not because breast-feeding is offensive and something to be ashamed of.”

Related: Time's breast-feeding toddler cover spurs shock, talk

Another saluted Grumet’s courage, saying the cover was a positive step “and the more mothers do it the better. We need adults who think of touching and being touched as human and normal.”

The May 21 cover of TIME, featuring Jamie Grumet and her son.Time Magazine / Today

Grumet believes some breast-feeding advocates have criticized the cover because it doesn’t translate the nurturing aspect of attachment parenting.

“This isn’t how we breast-feed at home, it’s more of a cradling, nurturing situation,” said the Los Angeles mom. “I do understand why Time chose this picture because…it did create such a media craze to get the dialogue talking.”

Attachment parenting encourages breast-feeding (sometimes into toddler-hood), co-sleeping and “baby wearing,” — attaching infants to their mothers via slings. According to this parenting style, no infant should be left to cry as it represents a plea for help. 

“I don’t feel like that takes away from my personal life. My relationship with husband is very, very important to me, and I think that it gives my children a strong bond, too,” said Grumet. “A lot of people say, you know, you can't really be intimate with your husband  if you're co-sleeping and … those are kind of myths, too.”

Dr. William Sears, author of “The Baby Book” and attachment parenting guru, told Guthrie he believes in balance. “I’ve never yet seen an attachment-parented baby who’s become a school bully,” said Sears. “If you were on an island, and you had no mother-in-laws, no psychologists, no doctors around, no experts, this is what you would naturally and instinctively do…”

But some critics say attachment parenting is problematic.

“When you give a child the feeling that the whole world revolves around them, it’s not good training for the real world,” said psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig. “The whole world doesn’t revolve around anybody.”

Grumet, who also has a 5-year-old adopted son, says she hopes Aram will stop breast-feeding in his fourth year, though she's leaving it up to him because she believes in self-weaning. She cautions that her method of attachment parenting isn’t right for everyone.

“You need to do what’s best for your baby and for your own family,” she said. “You can take some of Dr. Sears’ attachment parenting philosophies and maybe not others and that’s OK; you’re not a bad parent. Your child will still be OK.”

More stories about breast-feeding from TODAY Moms:

Controversial ad uses breast-feeding to sell cookies

Wean, baby, wean: The pressure to rest the breast

More adoptive moms breast-feed babies