(RNN) – Some things once seen cannot be unseen. And one of those is this week's cover of Time.
The news magazine's cover depicts a 3-year-old boy latched on to his mother's partially exposed left breast. Both of them are holding your gaze in a joint, non-verbal, "What are you looking at?" expression.
This mother is no model. She is parenting blogger Jamie Lynne Grumet, and that's her real-life son, Aran, who will turn 4 next month.
Grumet is one of the mothers featured in the magazine's story about "attachment parenting."
Attachment parenting is a child-rearing philosophy that embraces eight principles meant to foster strong emotional connections between parents and their children. Some of those principles include co-sleeping, something called "baby wearing" and of course, extended nursing.
The term became popular after Dr. Bill Sears and his wife Martha released their parenting book, The Baby Book, in 1992. But baby boomers may remember hippies were nursing their 3-year-old children four decades ago as well.
(Disclosure: This writer was one of those children. Ahem.)
Many people took issue online with the cover, some even suggesting that what Grumet was doing is criminal, or at least weird. Even journalists, who usually fancy themselves as wizened and jaded, were shocked.
"3 of us in the @BBJNewsroom are now gathered around the Time magazine cover, jaws on the floor," tweeted @GalenMoore.
In an interview with Time editors, Grumet says some of the backlash is related to how society views breastfeeding.
"There are people who tell me they're going to call social services on me or that it's child molestation," she said. "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."
Time says the philosophy behind the photo was the desire to drive home the point that a child old enough to stand and suckle at his mother's breast was not a typical sight.
"It was important to show that there's no stereotypical look for a mom who practices this kind of parenting," said photographer Martin Schoeller on the magazine's website.
Time managing editor Richard Stengel defended the cover against criticism that it was a cheap shot at boosting magazine sales and a poor representation of the story.
"The image has its own whimsical side," he said. "The little boy is looking at the camera, the woman is slightly bemused. I bet he's proud to be on the cover. I'm hoping this will sell well."
The magazine hits news stands Friday.
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