Jamie Lynne Grumet, a 26-year-old mother of two in Los Angeles, is on the cover of TIME this week breast-feeding her son Aram, who turns 4 next month. Kate Pickert, the author of the accompanying cover story, “The Man Who Remade Motherhood,” spoke with Grumet about attachment parenting, adoption and breast-feeding, topics Grumet writes about on her blog, I Am Not the Babysitter.
It’s clear from your blog that you’re into attachment parenting. Are you a fan of Dr. Bill Sears?
He’s great. I’ve read all his books. He has a very gentle spirit, and I find what he’s saying to be nonjudgmental and relevant to what’s happening today and what we’re finding out about some of the issues that are popping up with our children’s health. I feel like he really is doing this because he knows this is best. And the way he does it is graceful and educating rather than condemning.
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How old are your children?
My adopted son is 5, and my biological son will be 4 next month.
Tell me about becoming a mom and breast-feeding your children.
We were starting the process of adoption when I got pregnant. We weren’t expecting our biological son at all. He was born two months early, and preemies that age don’t have a sucking reflex. The nurses in the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] — they kept trying to put him on formula. I couldn’t see him for three days because I was so sick. I was basically passed out from the medication they were giving me. My husband is so great — he would bring the equipment in and actually do the pumping while I was asleep. It was a full family effort. My mother breast-fed me until I was 6 years old, until I self-weaned. Her encouragement to breast-feed is why we were so successful.
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And your adopted son?
We were able to bring our son home in November 2010. I know so many amazing women who have induced their lactation, but I had milk [from feeding my biological son]. I had one of the easier situations as far as adoptive breast-feeding is concerned, but it was considered extended breast-feeding. And it was transracial. And he was adopted. I was ready for attack as soon as I posted one of the pictures [on my blog].
Being able to give him that [comfort] with the trauma that he faced was really, really important to me. But I didn’t realize how much it would help my attachment to him. When his English improved, because the connection was there, he didn’t do it as much. So now he’ll do it maybe once a month.
Why did your mom breast-feed you for so long?
She wasn’t a hippie. Everyone thinks she must have been because we lived in Northern California. My dad did go to Berkeley, but he was a nutritional scientist. He got his master’s there and his Ph.D. My parents were really into nutrition, that’s why.
Do you remember breast-feeding?
What’s that memory like?
It’s really warm. It’s like embracing your mother, like a hug. You feel comforted, nurtured and really, really loved. I had so much self-confidence as a child, and I know it’s from that. I never felt like she would ever leave me. I felt that security.
Extended breast-feeding is one of those attachment-parenting things that can be really challenging for moms who work. Are you a stay-at-home mom?
I stay at home. I blog from home. And I homeschool. I think if [attachment parenting] is working for a family, that’s what should matter. If it’s too hard on the parents, it’s in vain if there’s an emptiness about how they’re living their life.
What do you say to people who say breast-feeding a 3-year-old is disturbing or wrong?
They are people who tell me they’re going to call social services on me or that it’s child molestation. I really don’t think I can reason with those people. But as far as someone who says they’re uncomfortable with this, I don’t think it’s wrong to admit this. But people have to realize this is biologically normal. It’s not socially normal. The more people see it, the more it’ll become normal in our culture. That’s what I’m hoping. I want people to see it.
There seems to be a war going on between conventional parenting and attachment parenting, and that’s what I want to avoid. I want everyone to be encouraging. We’re not on opposing teams. We all need to be encouraging to each other, and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job at that.