In Defense of my Friend Jamie Lynne Grumet: Time’s breastfeeding cover girl

This photo better represents Jamie.

The Controversy Surrounding Extended Breast Feeding

Several years ago, during an interview with a homeopathic doctor for an ailment of mine, she mentioned she still breastfed her 5-year old son.  

I backed out of her office as if she were a crazed circus clown gunman, never to return again to that wackjob.

If I’d seen Time’s “Are You Mom Enough?” wildly controversial cover of 26-year old Jamie Lynne Grumet nursing her 3-year old son Aram and not personally known her, I would’ve thought she was a wackjob too.

Here’s the thing, since meeting Jamie through our blogging community, she has shattered all of my preconceived notions about attachment parenting and the men and women who practice it.

First, her sons Aram and Samuel have no separation anxiety.  

They don’t cling, whine, cry, pout, interrupt, throw tantrums, manipulate, coerce or hold their parents hostage in any way.  

When Jamie, me and our husbands went out to dinner a couple of weeks ago, leaving all four of our children with our babysitter, her boys hardly looked up to say good-bye.  

They were confident in their parents’ reliability, well-adjusted and excited to play with our girls. Jamie and her husband, Brian, are doing an incredible job of raising their boys.

Second, Jamie nursed her adopted older son Samuel when he came to live with them over a year ago.  

The image of her two toddler boys, one white, one black, nursing simultaneously in a photo on her website I Am Not The Babysitter, might have unsettled me had I not known the story behind the image.  

Samuel was nursed by his Ethiopian biological mother before she gave him up for adoption. Jamie decided to try to nurse Samuel in order to make the traumatic transition from the biological mother easier for her adoptive son and to let him know he was safe and he was family.

Finally, Jamie has a heart the size of Texas.  

She’s generous to a fault. She’s trusting because she’s trustworthy. I’m pleased about the attention her blog and her many philanthropic causes will receive due to the Time article.  

But, I think Time did Jamie a disservice by photographing her in an unnatural position in a calculatedly provocative pose in order to sell magazines.  

The woman on the cover — while as stunningly beautiful as the real Jamie — doesn’t reflect the inclusive, intelligent, wise-beyond-her-years, loving, nurturing, non-judgmental woman I know who would never have authored the headline, “Are You Mom Enough?”

I hope, as readers get to know Jamie better through her blog and her good works (The Faye Foundation – ending the orphan crisis in Sidama, Ethiopia through medical and family assistance), they’ll meet the real Jamie.  It’s people like her who strive to use their influence for good.

Cheers, Jamie, I’m behind you all the way.

55 thoughts on “In Defense of my Friend Jamie Lynne Grumet: Time’s breastfeeding cover girl”

  1. As we well know, people can be so phobic…anything a little bit different than the way “I’d” do it is suspect right?
    I say YOU GO GIRL!!
    And a big kudos to you for being a good friend defending your good friend Shannon 🙂

  2. This was an important thing to post — so many times people forget that the situations that elicit self righteous responses have to do with *actual people*. Thanks for reminding everyone to see the human being before the issue.

    1. I agree Faiqa. Public figures can’t always control their message, they’re often at the distorting hands of the media.

  3. “But, I think Time did Jamie a disservice by photographing her in an unnatural position in a calculatedly provocative pose in order to sell magazines.” This was exactly my thought when I saw the cover. I also thought, “Shame on you, Time magazine!” Breast feeding is right and good and natural. While I wouldn’t/didn’t continue until my children were this old, it doesn’t mean it isn’t right for someone else. I think Time (not so) unwittingly, once again, gave breast feeding moms bad press.

    1. Absolutely Shelli — I understand why so many breastfeeding advocacy groups are in an uproar over the image. No child stands on a stool to breastfeed. Also, Jamie’s taking a lot of heat for putting her child on the cover of Time. When Time calls, who says no? Not me. You expect them to be a legitimate, hard news magazine, not jockeying for shock value like lesser rags.

    2. Why is just Time’s fault? She’s the one who posed. I’m sure she was aware of what was going on.

      1. Hi Kendra — I can’t speak for Jamie except to quote her Today show interview, which is that she knew there would be a strong reaction. She knows her parenting choices are considered extreme by other parents. However I don’t think she fully realized how the pose that was selected would come across (this is me just guessing as I haven’t spoken to her), and I’m absolutely certain she couldn’t have known the headline they were going to use. A month or so ago I was featured on the Today show for a body image story and I had no idea how they were going to spin it. Once you sign on for a media appearance you really have no control over the outcome.

  4. I am happy to read an article about Jamie that is not sensationalizing the story. Thank you for the better insight to who she is as a person rather than a headline.

  5. I would like to think that no one has an issue with the fact that she breast feeds her ‘older’ toddler. I would like to think that it’s the title of the article, something she had no control over, that’s burning people’s britches. But….I’m smart enough to know that she’s going to get hammered regardless. Which is too bad because it shouldn’t matter either way what she thinks or what anyone else thinks. If she’s a mother then it should be safe to assume that she loves her children and she’s doing what she thinks is best. Which is more than good enough for me.

  6. I just don’t see why people care, or have an opinion. It’s Jamie’s life and Jamie’s children and Jamie’s business.

    We would do well to mind our own.

  7. I never once had an issue with Jamie or her parenting decisions. “The media” isn’t always the people about whom the media is writing. In fact, people who are interviewed/photographed are often unwitting victims of twisted words and insinuations.

    I’m glad that you’ve posted this, because I did wonder how she felt about how her photograph was used by Time.

    1. I can’t speak for Jamie’s feelings because she hasn’t expressed them to me, but I do feel I know her well enough to know she wouldn’t want any part of reigniting the mommy wars. She just doesn’t roll like that.

  8. mari reynolds

    I don’t agree with long term breastfeeding but that is the same conclusion my friends and I came to. The composition of the photo blows the topic way out of proportion. Great job getting right to the point.

    1. Thanks Mari — Jamie’s getting it from both sides right now thanks to that photo. Still I hope something positive comes from all of this for her because she works so hard for all of her causes.

  9. I think the real heat comes from the fire between the To-breastfeed-or-not-to-breastfeed and my-parenting-style-is-better-than-your-parenting-style camps. Jamie’s photo was just used as a catalyst to fan the flames.

    However, as I’ve told EVERYONE on facebook (yes, I giggled for writing that 🙂 I don’t understand why parents are waging war with one another anyway. My parenting style is NOT up for debate, and yours shouldn’t be either. Whether I breastfed my daughter or didn’t is no one else’s business, honestly.

    I applaud Jamie for being proud of her choices and her family. And I do not find the cover of Time offensive. However, I can’t totally agree simply because it is a nationalized image of her son, who will have to live with his mother’s decision well into adulthood. But these are the choices we make as parents, and I would never shame a fellow parent for being passionate and committed.

    Yes, Time could have run a different image. But as we parents function as such, Time also functions as the large commercialized machine that it is.

    Overall, I appreciate anyone who is comfortable with herself and doesn’t let the rest of the world bully her into a lifestyle that does not feel natural to her household.

    And thank you for standing up for your friend. It is a sweet, strong gesture that far outways the voices of critics.

    1. I hope this post is some kind of counter-balance of the negative press. And I have to say one thing about Aram, I don’t think that kid is going to mind a bit. He’s so confident and he’ll probably be 6′ 4″ like his daddy.

  10. Shannon,
    I only know Jamie online and through a few e-mails, but who I felt that she was through those interactions is just how you describe her. I’m glad that you wrote this to remind people that she is a real person, a real mother who is standing up for what she believes in but at the same time being very careful to say that she is respectful of other parenting choices and that she is not trying to start a “mommy-war”.

    I think every child deserves to have a parent who loves them as much as Jamie obviously loves her boys. It was really brave of her to be the face of attachment parenting and child-led weaning…not an easy choice I’m sure.

  11. I’m glad Jamie did this because it opened up the dialogue about ‘mommy wars’. whether people want to admit it or not, they do exist, unfortunately.
    I don’t parent the way Jamie does but I respect her right to do so.
    What I did take issue with was the way Time spun this article. Jamie did nothing wrong in trying to enlighten people to the AP lifestyle. However Time sought to cause controversy and obviously they succeeded.
    Another blogger and I started a campaign to help other mothers celebrate their parenting choices. I hope that you will check it out and maybe join in. 🙂

  12. I agree very much that Time made this so silly and I’m sure she is wonderful. But I also need to say I breast fed 4 months, don’t practice family bed (don’t believe in crying it out though) and have a FT outside life. All my kids never cling, whine, cry, pout, interrupt, throw tantrums, manipulate, coerce or hold us parents hostage in any way. So their are all kinds of parenting and it’s a shame that this even continues. Parents need to support each other. In that article, I actually liked the fathers opinion in the box best of all. The rest of it is very instictual to mothering.

    1. Hi Rhonda — your comment is like a few others I’ve gotten. I didn’t mean to suggest that children who aren’t parented the AP way do any of those things. I guess I was trying to let Jamie’s critics know that even though she practices AP it hasn’t infantilized her boys or made them clingy.

  13. This was a beautiful post. More people need to read it. I would love to interview her and let people know the “truth.” You’re a great friend!

  14. Danielle White

    To the woman currently known as Beautiful,
    Thank you for posting this! I completely agree with you regarding my dear child-hood friend Jamie. I advocate for woman feeling free to create a bond through breastfeeding their newborns everyday while working as a postpartum nurse. I think what you wrote about Time was well said. Thank you for supporting our friend through your blog.

  15. Elisa Claassen

    Shannon, Thanks so much for sharing this “other” side to your friend Jaimie. I saw the cover and was ..horrified. It looked like a mad woman, but then I read what you had to say and saw her in an interview …and frankly, she seems quite nice. I personally may not wish to go that route, but it seems to work for her!

  16. While I’m sure that Jamie didn’t know the title of the article (I didn’t AP & for a second that title didn’t make me feel good), but my thing was w/the photo they used, since I doubt that’s how she breastfeeds. She could have vetoed that photo, but she must have agreed to have them take that photo, which in turn means she knew they could use that one.
    Each parent/kid is different. I didn’t AP and didn’t even breastfeed that long & my kids are healthy well rounded kids. I had a former co-worker who had a 8 or 10 yr old child who refused to go in her own bed, she had to sleep in mom & dad’s bed. So it’s how you handle it. We need to support each other as mom’s, no matter what method we use. (trust me, I felt a lot of grief by not breastfeeding long, which I shouldn’t have have received such “mean mom” remarks).

    1. I think this article is backfiring for Time because women are realizing the magazine is just trying to pit us against one another for sales. I had a really tough time nursing my firstborn and man did the La LEche league make me feel like crap for that. I really think we all need to put our feet down and just not engage in bashing each other. Can’t speak anymore for Jamie as it’s not my place. I hope she gets an opportunity to speak for herself with a media outlet that has a conscience.

  17. While I do not know Jamie, nor have interacted with her via any web forums, to point a few things out addressed by Shannon-

    “No child stands on a stool to breastfeed. Also, Jamie’s taking a lot of heat for putting her child on the cover of Time. When Time calls, who says no? Not me. You expect them to be a legitimate, hard news magazine, not jockeying for shock value like lesser rags.”

    It is Jamie’s CHOICE to not even pose like that with the possibility they could use the image.

    And to address if Time calls and who would say no? My job as a parent is to love and protect my child, even if it means I refuse to pimp them out on the front of a magazine cover. Period.

    Time Magazine is legit. They had HER permission to use any image they wanted. Time is known for publishing pictures and prospective’s people don’t usually see…who would think any different because it’s in relation to bf.

    I do not agree she went on a magazine cover, much less, allowed her child’s face to be shown. She has branded that child for life with her actions. I will go to my grave knowing every single decision I make, I make to protect my children. I don’t do anything by choice that allows for them to be humiliated now, or for the rest of their lives.

    1. Hi Jodi — I’m not going to speak on behalf of Jamie anymore but am hoping she has the opportunity to do so for herself. All I know is that when I see her with her children I see an incredibly loving mom.

  18. I’ve mostly followed it all on my mobile through my news feed so haven’t read much about what’s written but never have I thought anything bad against the mum. This is all down to Time, they chose the picture and headline for maximum effect.

    I breastfed my eldest two until the birth of my baby, at which point my middlie seems to have forgotten how to and my eldest decided she didn’t need it as much as she did. They were 2.5yo and a couple of weeks of 5yo. It’s almost a year later and my eldest will tell you that she does still have milk, when she chooses to, my middlie still asks but doesn’t know what to do.

    1. What I’m learning is that so many moms breastfeed their children well into their toddler years and beyond. It’s certainly not as unusual as I used to think. And really, whose business is it how anyone chooses to nurture their children, as long as they’re nurtured. Thanks for commenting Claire.

  19. Oh Shannon! You are such a beautiful person. I am so happy we are friends.

    What strikes me as odd as how people are ignorant to what happens in a photo shoot. I think Time even speaks a little about the shoot. It was a warm and nurturing environment. The photo they chose did not represent that, nor was it a photo they were attempting to take. I don’t think people realize toddler nursing is in strange positions and most of the time we are sitting down, but sometimes I’ve had him stand up for a quick sip. Other breastfeeding moms also understood the standing up part. That is why I thought the standing up on a stool was playful. This particular pose was not something that was captured intentionally. Aram’s hands droped a couple of times during the shoot and the photographer immediately tended to Aram to see if he wanted a break. He was going for the pictures of him with his arms wrapped around me, not of them dropped. Not ideal. I think the main issue with this picture is it looks cold and the only place we are touching is where he is latched on. It is not the ideal picture to show attachment parenting, but it was not a calculated move on the photographer or my part. Hopefully TIME will release more of the images to see this was what TIME wanted and a risk all of the subjects in the photo shoot were willing to take. We were told they were doing an article on Dr. Sears in celebration of his book’s 20th anniversary. Dr. Sears is a warm kind and intelligent man. Any of the families that were asked to do this jumped at the chance to represent attachment parenting with Dr. Sears. We were told some of the photos might make it into the article. Potentially there could be a cover shot, but nothing definite. This was something I was (am still am) proud to represent.

    As far as having my child on the cover. I understand why people wouldn’t want their child’s face to be shown publicly. For a long time on my blog I blurred out Aram’s face and gave him an alternate name. I started coming to my own revelations about doing that and eventually discontinued that way of blogging. I still respect people who do. I find it completely hypocritical if someone would be okay with allowing their child on the cover of TIME giving their mother a hug, but not okay with the breastfeeding. That kind of hypocrisy is exactly the reason we did this. I am proud and I am damn sure my children will be too. My mother and father parented me this way and I am so glad they did. If not, I would be scared to let people know my convictions if they are not the popular choice- and how sad of a life is that. I am teaching my children to do the same. If not I would be a failure as a mother.

    1. Dear Jamie — Thanks for posting a few more of the details about the shoot. I’m calling Oprah right now (she may not pick up) because I want your critics to have a chance to see and hear the real you. You know I feel so lucky to have your positive energy in my life!

  20. Great sentiments Shannon! I’m sure we all like to think people are generally open minded and accepting, but reading all the heated, nasty comments directed towards Jamie and attachment parenting made me cringe for her. I’m sure the publicity will fade soon enough and she can go back to some normalcy. Maybe Octomom needs to pull a media stunt…

  21. Great sentiments Shannon! I’m sure we all like to think people are generally open minded and accepting, but reading all the heated, nasty comments directed towards Jamie and attachment parenting made me cringe. I’m sure the publicity will fade soon enough and she can go back to some normalcy. Maybe Octomom needs to pull a media stunt…

  22. Well, being that she is a model I can assume she would know exactly how pictures and their poses dont always paint the story you want to tell. Posing in the position that she is in is not only proactive and in your face but it is the most UN-nurturing photo they cold have used. Its cold and sterile. There is nothing warm about its. Its almost like line up, get fed and leave and if I were to listen to all of your comments that is the exact opposite of what she would have wanted to project and the way she is. Unfortunately, there was no for-site in this campaign. Its a shame, but I still believe the child is to old.

    1. Hi Ally — it’s an unfortunate pose and some of it was accidental according to Jamie. But I think it best at this point that she speak for herself. She gave an excellent interview on CNN you might be able to see on YouTube. It better represents her personality and what she’s about.

      1. Hm, as much as my 5’3″ self should be flattered by the mistaken occupation of a model- I’m actually confused on why that even is a rumor that got started. Time chose 4 real families to be subjects for an article on Dr. Sears. My occupation is mother and CEO of a foundation.

  23. Mommy wars only exist in the US where everything is turned into a competition. It’s pretty sick. I’m glad I raised my son in Europe.

  24. Thanks for putting a person behind the face. I will admit to being irked by the article- and momentarily by the mom- but mostly at Time for being so needlessly controversial. Hug that girl for the anonymous Internet mamas who wouldn’t chose her path, but support her choices anyway, and hope the backlash hasn’t been too crazy, will ya?

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