'Time' for debate 'Extreme breast-feeding' draws strong reactionsTime cover masks problem: Too few children breast-fed

Beth Wheless relaxes Friday at James Island County Park with her 5-month-old daughter Mary Alice. Wheless says she breast-fed her daughter Lucy until she was 2 years old. “I think 3 might be a little too old,” she said of the much-debated Time magazine cover.

Most people won’t dispute the benefits of breast-feeding.

But not everyone agrees on whether they want to see it on the cover of Time magazine.

This week, it shows a young mother breast-feeding a young boy who’s standing on a chair.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding as the sole source of nutrition for babies for the first 6 months.

It not only has nutritional benefits but also provides protection against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases and allergies, according to the AAP. It provides a connection between mother and baby. Breast-fed babies are less likely to become obese adults.

But thanks to the May 21 cover of Time magazine, there’s a new term people are talking about: extreme breast-feeding. It’s part of something called “attachment parenting,” a concept promoted by noted pediatrician Bill Sears that includes such ideas as breast-feeding longer, having a family bed and not letting babies “cry it out.”

On Friday, the magazine’s cover was a hot topic on morning television and radio news and social media platforms.

“Time cover” and/or “breast-feeding” were three of the top five most searched terms on Google on Thursday and one of the top five on Friday.

The magazine cover shows Jamie Lynne Grumet, 26, of Los Angeles, standing with one hand on her hip and the other around her nearly 4-year-old son, who is perched on a child-sized wooden chair, suckling at her breast. Both mother and son gaze at the camera. Across the cover are the words “Are You Mom Enough?”

Grumet is a married mother of two who writes a blog called “I am not the Babysitter.” Her older son, 5, was adopted, but she also nursed him after her biological son was born, according to the Time article. She said she’s been confronted by strangers who see her nursing and threaten “to call social services on me or that it’s child molestation.”

She said on the “Today” show Friday that she was breast-fed until age 6.

The cover has elicited a strong reaction, but it’s hard to tell if people are more offended by the photo or by having their maternal instincts questioned.

On The Post and Courier’s Facebook page, for instance, many comments ran along the lines of “If you think you can decide if I’m #momenough based on my ability or inability to breastfeed, you’re an idiot.”

Others felt the boy is too old to be breast-feeding and others said they wouldn’t pass judgment. Many discussed how long a baby should breast-feed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests breast-feeding until at least 12 months and the World Health Organization suggests “up to two years of age or beyond.”

Beth Wheless, a West Ashley mother of three, said she had planned to nurse her older daughter, Lucy, until she was 12 months, but her pediatrician recommended continuing because the infant was too young to be vaccinated for H1N1, but could be protected by mother’s milk.

“All the doctors said you need to keep nursing her, so I did … and then things got busy and I didn’t wean her until she was 2,” she said. Now Lucy is 4, and Wheless breast-feeds her second daughter, Mary Alice, 5 months. “It was weird at (age) 2 because she could start undressing me. I think 3 might be a little too old. It’s not like that mom and that child are living in a third world country where that’s the only clean liquid.”

Some folks called it a ploy to sell magazines, and even praised the effort. Magazine expert Samir Husni, a professor at the Magazine Innovation Center, Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, called the cover a “stroke of genius” in an L.A. Times story.

Many news accounts say the accompanying story, by Kate Picker, does not include any new information.

“I think the debate around it is more interesting than the cover itself,” said Elena Strauman, associate professor at the College of Charleston who teaches health communication and media. “I think it does spur that discussion of how do we look at motherhood. ... Why does it matter that people are so upset about this cover when we have all of these other things out there that really glorify women showing off their body? Here we have this cover that shows something natural and we are horrified by it. There’s so much there and there are so many layers to this issue.”