Jamie Lynne Grumet, who posed for the cover of Time Magazinenursing her 3-year-old son, appeared on NBC's "Today" show on Friday to talk about the controversial cover.
"We knew exactly what we were going to get in to," Grumet said as her son, Aram, fidgeted on the couch beside her. "I do understand why Time chose this picture because…it did create such a media craze to get the dialogue talking."
But the outrage that followed the cover's release on Thursday took her by surprise. "I don't think anyone was expecting it," she said.
The shocking photo shows 26-year-old Grumet wearing skinny jeans and a tank top while Aram, standing on a wooden chair, is latched on to her left breast. Both are looking at the camera -- Aram quizzically, Grumet defiantly. The headline reads "Are You Mom Enough?"
"I understand some of the breastfeeding advocates are actually upset about this," Grumet said as Aram draped himself over her lap and whined. They feel that the cover didn't show the nurturing side of attachment parenting, she explained as she stroked her son's back, but "This isn't how we breastfeed at home. It's more of a cradling, nurturing situation."
Many Yahoo! readers had the same issue with the picture. "This picture would have been better received if the child was seated on mom's lap and they were looking at each other," Cherrie from Raleigh, North Carolina, commented. "Nothing about this picture makes me think of nurture or affection. Mom is practically glaring at the camera. I think TIME magazine was going for the shock factor." More than 1,750 other Yahoo! readers gave her comment a thumbs up.
"Breastfeeding is a wonderful bonding experience between mother and child," wrote Tonya from Rochester, New York. "She is not bonding with him in this photo. She is using him to fuel controversy."
Other readers felt that the picture perverted what should be a normal, natural experience.
"This picture set breast feeding back decades by sexualizing it!" Aceroni, a Yahoo! reader from Pittsburgh, wrote.
"How do I erase this from my computer?" quipped JoshuaW from Charlotte, North Carolina. "If the feds raid my place, I'm looking at five to ten."
Photographer Martin Schoeller also took pictures of four other mothers breastfeeding their older children, but none of those photos -- which Time posted online -- garnered such a visceral response. In an alternate shot, Grumet is cradling Aram, who appears to be asleep.
The photos were intended to illustrate a story about Dr. William Sears, the author of "The Baby Book" and the authority on attachment parenting. Extended breastfeeding is just one part of that parenting style, which also advocates co-sleeping, wearing your baby on your body, and attending to your child's needs before he or she has a chance to cry. Critics contend that some people take attachment parenting to extremes, socially and academically crippling their children by coddling them.
"When you give a child the feeling that the whole world revolves around them, it's not good training for the real world," psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig told NBC. "The whole world doesn't revolve around anybody."
Dr. Sears also appeared on the "Today" show with Grumet. He tried to soothe Aram when the child seemed restless, and pointed out that attachment parenting concepts are meant to be "tools, not rules" for parents.
Still, he added: "I've never yet seen an attachment parented baby who's become a school bully… 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 to give your baby the best investment you'll ever give."
Aram, who will be 4 in June, is already starting to self-wean, Grumet said, adding that she hopes that he stops breastfeeding in his fourth year. Yes, attachment parenting means dedicating yourself completely to your child, but "I don't feel like that takes away from my own personal life," she said.
"My relationship with my husband is very, very important to me, and I think that it gives my children a strong bond, too," added Grumet, who also breastfed her adopted 5-year-old son. "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." Attachment parenting is not for everyone, Grumet pointed out. "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."