Time touched a nerve this week with its provocative cover photo of 26-year-old Jamie Lynne Grumet and her 3-year-old son standing on a chair next to her, nursing her left breast while both stare directly (and unapologetically) at readers.
The underlying story focused on the “attachment parenting” method developed by Dr. William Sears, which advocates prolonged breastfeeding, “baby wearing” (carrying the child in a sling throughout the day), and having babies sleep in parents’ beds. The issue, which appeared on newsstands over the weekend and coincided with Mother’s Day, sparked thousands of responses from news outlets around the world.
Many reported that Time had “reignited” the debate about parenting, and breastfeeding in particular. But that’s not true, at least not judging by the reactions in the mainstream media. What Time reignited is the age-old and somewhat tiresome debate about incendiary magazine covers. Quarreling about whether Time had done good or bad totally overshadowed commentary about the substance of its article, which is unfortunate for anyone interested in learning the basics of the medical community’s current thinking on attachment parenting.
Time’s story, by staff writer Kate Pickert, doesn’t go too deep into the evidence for and against attachment parenting, either. Its focus is Sears, a California pediatrician who wrote the seminal treatise on the method, The Baby Book, in 1992. The 20-year-anniversay peg is a bit weak and Sears is no stranger to the media, but Time contended that, “For all the book’s popularity and influence, surprisingly little is known about the author.”
From there, the piece delved into Sears and his wife’s childhoods and their own child-rearing practices, arguing that attachment parenting is “rooted” in their upbringing and that “Sears’ views are less extreme than his critics (and even many of his followers) realize.”