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Huffington Post: What's Behind the Grumet-Bashing?

I've just had an article published on the Huffington Post - a look at the huge reaction to the Time Mag cover of Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her son. I try to explore some of the reasons why many people have responded with such disgust and hatred towards her, and ask...would they be this angry if they had been attachment parented?

Click here to read the article on the Huff, or read it below.

What's Behind the Grumet-Bashing?

‘Never wrestle with a pig’, a friend advised, when I suggested I might add my voice to the chorus of commentary that has followed the now infamous Time magazine cover shot of Jamie Lynne Grumet .. ‘You both get dirty, and the pig likes it’. I took her point. ‘Those bastard commenters,’ she added. ‘It won’t matter how well you write or what you say, all they’ll hear is that you breastfed your daughter til she was four, and savage you.’ Til she was FOUR? I hear you cry. Yes, you heard correctly. Now run along, off you go, dismissed. Skip to the end. Begin your savaging.

Still here? OK – here’s the pig. A mother allows herself to be photographed for the cover of Time, breastfeeding her three year old son, presumably in the spirit of breaking down barriers and encouraging greater freedom of choice. And how does the world respond to such a pioneer? ‘Highly disturbing’, ‘Disgusting’, ‘Unnatural’, ‘Abusive’ – to name just a few of the more repeatable names she has been called this week.  Criticism of her action has ranged from a high profile mocking on Saturday Night Live, to the usual low blows in the comments sections of the many online articles responding to the story.

A lot a lot a lot of people just didn’t like this image. But just what is it about nursing toddlers, and about attachment parenting, that quite clearly bothers them so much? Some of it seems to stem from the fact that many people don’t understand what Attachment Parenting actually is, but are happy to oppose it anyway. There has been a lot of amusing misconception this week involving feckless lazy hippy mothers breastfeeding their kids through the college railings and such like.

Another reason, perhaps, is that as soon as anyone starts promoting one parenting style, there’s an automatic implication that others who are not following this approach are somehow ‘getting it wrong’. People get defensive, and don’t like to think they are making bad choices for the people they love. The ‘Mummy Wars’ start, solidarity is abandoned, and everyone forgets that, as long as a few basics are met, there isn’t really a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, there is just different. But does a bit of misinformed anxiety explain all the Grumet-bashing, or does it go deeper than this?

Mankind has a long history of being Anti-Attachment. Throughout time and across the globe, many cultures have found ways to disrupt the mother infant bond. From superstitions about mother’s milk and colostrum, to hospital night nurseries and beyond, people have always sought to drive a wedge between mother and babe, to put a dampener on this ultimate love affair. Why would they do this? Because attachment encourages mothers to treat their children with love, respect and empathy, which helps to create people who are loving, respectful and empathic, and loving, respectful and empathic people don’t make good fighters. Or possibly even bankers and politicians. Either way, it’s a tribal survival thang.

But being raised with warrior enhancing tough love comes with a price. You don’t have to look too far in this world to find someone who has low self esteem, who can’t be good to themself, or who finds it difficult to maintain positive relationships. Unfortunately you also don’t have to search very hard to find people who are angry, aggressive, and lacking in empathy, gentleness, kindness. Plenty of them have been out and about this week, accusing Jamie Lynne Grumet of being a child molester and a freak because she dared to admit that she snuggles her child to sleep at her breast, that she isn’t afraid to swim against the cultural tide, and that she loves her children without limits. It begs the question, if these people had had a mother like Grumet, would they still be so angry and cruel?


  1. That's it?

    I came here looking for a decent defense of 'Attachment Parenting' and all you write is how maybe, if more people did it this way, there would be less hate on the internet? And something about tribal warriors needing to be strong so they aren't breastfed past a certain age.


    I understand that parents, with a reasonable exception, have the right to parent as they please. Attachment Parenting, to me, is weird as but I know many parts of S. America and, apparently, Time magazine practice it. So do whatever works for you.

    But when you write a defense of something, a vague accusation of people misunderstanding and a few lines about angry internet commenters is kind of lackluster.

    Please include more information and, you know, maybe some medical or psychological opinions/ studies to back up your random assertions.


  2. Hello Ryan
    I'm not sure why you came here for 'a decent defuse of AP'. That is not the title of the article - the article asks, What's Behind the Grumet-Bashing? and was a short piece I wrote for the Huff Post (who have a low word limit and like comment and opinion, not long academic tomes!).
    If you want to find out more about AP there are plenty of books and articles that I am sure you are quite capable of finding.
    Good luck in your search! x

  3. Ah! Thank you for this. Maybe the haters just need more hugs...

  4. Aw Ryan, if only you'd spent longer at your mother's breast... ;)

  5. I wish I could bash everyone who bashed Jamie. Such revolting people out there! I agree with you, less people would be that way if more of their mothers had parented differently. And i'm speaking from one of those warrior style upbringings. I hate warrior and love attachment! already i have a better relationship with my 19 month old son than my mother has ever had with me.

    1. How great that you are breaking the cycle x

  6. The Law of the Excluded Middle is behind all of these problems! If people simply saw difference as what it is - difference - then I suppose we could all just accept those things as variations of normality. When difference automatically implies some kind of ranking over what is better or deficient, that is when all these problems continue. Such a shame that such uninformed commenters would somehow manage to even get their feeble arguments and judgements heard.

  7. I just think it's a shame, when breastfeeding rates are horrifyingly low in the Western world, due at least in part to an idea that it is, somehow, "gross", that Time chooses to concentrate on the more "extreme" end. I'd love to see them encouraging even six weeks of breastfeeding... Because if you don't start, you'll never keep going...

  8. I breastfeed my daughter and when people ask how long I plan to I reply, "until she decides to stop or her teacher kicks me out of class." I think breastfeeding is best for baby and mama on so many levels but Time's cover did disturb me a little. Not because I think pictures of breastfeeding are gross. I have a ton of them on my blog: photos of my daughter nursing that I caught in the moment not staged in a studio for a photographer for a magazine cover intended to create controversy.

    1. Ditto. The image on the cover is antagonistic at best. AP should be about love, harmony, & acceptance. As an AP mom, I feel that its way more militant & defiant than it should be.

  9. "not staged in a studio for a photographer for a magazine cover intended to create controversy."

    Only reason I disliked the cover photo.

  10. I am totally supportive of full-term breastfeeding. After all, I still nurse my 3 year old. However, while I take my hat off to Ms Grumet for making such a public declaration, I did not like the Time magazine cover for various reasons:

    I did not like the composition of the photo. I did not like the child standing on a box while breastfeeding. This is not a very loving stance. I would certainly be annoyed if my boy wanted to feed like this. Standing on a box also made him look more like 8 years old, shocking people even more.

    I HATED the headline "Are you mum enough". This headline is unnecessarily inflammatory. As if an image of a woman feeding a big boy wasn't enough to get tongues wagging, they also had to imply that you are a lesser mum if you don't. I know a fair few attachment parents. None of them feel that mothers who only breastfeed to the more acceptable 12 months are lesser mums.
    I found that this headline made attachment parents and long-term breastfeeding mums sound like self-righteous, sactimoneous witches. We're not like that!!!


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