If you passed by a magazine stand sometime in May 2012, you might remember a striking photo on the cover of Time Magazine: An attractive young woman and her preschool-aged son, who stood on a chair to nurse at his mother’s breast.
That mother was Jamie Lynne Grumet. The California mom of two looks back at the debut of that cover image — which was used to illustrate Time Magazine’s story on attachment parenting — and the ensuing controversy over extended breastfeeding as ushering in one of the craziest periods in her life. Overnight, she went from a relatively unknown blogger to a media sensation. From the Today Show to Nightline, everyone wanted to talk to Grumet.
Grumet found herself the object of plenty of criticism but amid the media firestorm, something wonderful happened: Her 15 minutes of fame translated into clean drinking water for a rural village in Ethiopia and even more exciting projects are, excuse the pun, on tap.
“The media is very powerful and I understand how that helps us so much,” Grumet told me. “I was so thankful for everything that happened.”
Let’s backtrack. Before the Time cover, before Grumet became the “it” woman for extended breastfeeding, before she even started breastfeeding — that is, before she became a mom — Grumet was a college anthropology major. Her studies included field work in Ghana, where she learned about health issues facing mothers and children in developing countries.
Grumet’s academic interests eventually evolved into charity work. In 2011, the year after she and her husband adopted their older son from Ethiopia, she founded an organization focused on helping mothers and children in that country. She soon joined forces with Awassa Children’s Project, a nonprofit group that provides housing for children orphaned by AIDS, runs AIDS education programs, and trains adults for vocational work.
And then came Time. Grumet agreed to be in the Time Magazine piece but never dreamed she’d be the cover girl or how hotly the media spotlight would burn.
“We thought it was just for Time‘s small audience,” she said. “That’s not what happened.”
Though Grumet, now 28, says she was pleased with the Time story about attachment parenting, she’s quick to note that she didn’t have “creative control” over that controversial cover, which included the cover line “Are You Mom Enough?” — a provocative question that critics said stoked the proverbial Mommy Wars.
So, when the small, holistic family health magazine Pathways to Family Wellness, offered to do their own story on Grumet — this time, letting her choose the cover image — she jumped at the chance.
Grumet’s second magazine appearance caught the attention of the producers of the (since cancelled) Ricki Lake Show, who invited her to come on. One producer, who learned about Grumet’s work in Africa, suggested she’d benefit from getting in touch with one of the show’s earlier guests: former pro surfer Jon Rose, the founder of the charity Waves for Water.
She did, and a new partnership was born. Grumet worked with Rose and his father Jack to raise money to bring portable water filter systems to a rural village near Lake Awassa, Ethiopia. They quickly amassed more than $20,000 — efforts boosted, no doubt, by the publicity Grumet continued to receive as an advocate for attachment parenting and breastfeeding, she said.
TV and radio personality Dr. Drew talked about it and “a lot of smaller blogs did start picking it up and writing about it,” Grumet said.”I remember people just linked back kindly to the project when they were talking about attachment parenting … We raised the money so fast.”
But Grumet was just getting started. She’s now working with Waves for Water on projects in Uganda and South Africa. In the latter, she’s also establishing a sustainable community garden run by local women through the new nonprofit, Raise It Up, which is sponsored by DSA Pays It Forward. Oh, and she’s teamed with Dr. Jay Gordon to plan a pediatric ward at an AIDS clinic in South Africa. (You can credit Grumet’s connection to Gordon to the Time cover, too. Known to many as a controversial figure for his criticism of conventional vaccine schedules, Gordon met with Grumet after the Time cover and the two bonded over charitable causes. Grumet says her children are vaccinated.)
Grumet spent a generous amount of time on the phone with me explaining her own projects, but she’s also passionate about offering support to at least a couple of more — this wetlands project in Ethiopia sponsored by Marley Coffee and Mama Hope, which works on everything from schools to health clinics throughout Africa. (Mama Hope, by the way, has benefited from another one of Grumet’s Time-related connections — photographer Martin Schoeller, who took the famous photo of Grumet and her son for Time, donated a print for an auction benefiting a Mama Hope maternal health clinic.)
Grumet hopes that, as has happened in the past, talking about her charitable work and the works of others will bring even more support to their causes.
But if you’re still reading this because you want to know if Grumet is still breastfeeding, I’ll satisfy your curiosity — I’ll admit, I wanted to know too!
The answer is no.
Her adopted son Samuel had weaned before the Time cover’s debut and her biological son Aram weaned about two months afterward, right around his 4th birthday. The boys are now 7 and 5, respectively.
But breastfeeding is never far from their minds, or their eyes — whether it’s seeing women breastfeeding in the African communities the family visits or just walking by the framed Time cover hanging in their Los Angeles apartment. It was Aram, Grumet remembered, who insisted his parents display the magazine.
“Aram came out and said, ‘Isn’t this the magazine that helps mommies know it’s OK to nurse? We should put it up.’”
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