05/10/2012 05:49 EDT | Updated 07/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Time Magazine's breastfeeding cover photo goes viral, sparks wide ranging debate

TORONTO - The jury's out on whether it's breastfeeding at its best or parenting at its worst. Either way, it's an image that has tongues wagging.

A controversial Time Magazine cover photo is going viral and people across the globe, Canadians included, are voicing their opinions.

The image features Jamie Lynne Grumet, a slim, blonde 26-year-old Los Angeles mother of two, breastfeeding her younger son Aram, who turns four next month.

Aram stands on a chair to reach his mother's chest and casts a sidelong glance at the camera as he feeds.

The accompanying headline for a story on attachment parenting asks readers in bright red letters if they are "mom enough."

Many took to the Internet to criticize the photograph, saying its widespread publication would hurt Aram when he grows older.

"Kid's too old," Tammy King wrote on Canadian Family magazine's Facebook page. "That is too extreme," added Lisa Matthews.

Toronto-based blogger Dee Brun wasted no time ripping into Grumet for subjecting her son to unavoidable teasing in the future.

"The real story here lies with that 3 year old boy who will have to re-live this picture OVER and OVER for the rest of his life," the mother of four blogged. "SHAME ON MOM… for creating something her son will NEVER be able to escape from."

Others, however, expressed support for Grumet, saying she was brave to show there is nothing wrong with a natural process.

"Get over it people," Nicole Demers Sivyer wrote, adding that the average age of weaning around the world ranges from three years to six.

"I'm appalled and saddened by the blatant disregard for child-lead weaning and the standards that some people feel they need to impose on how others provide nourishment for their child."

Melissa Dickinson, meanwhile, chided some for viewing the image in an exploitative light.

"If this looks like child porn to you then you are a pervert and the issues lie within you," she posted.

Still more simply expressed their surprise at the provocative image and accused Time of using it just to sell copies when the magazine hits stands.

"Her choices don't affect any of ours," wrote Alexise Dodd Clarke. "It's obvious they are getting the attention from the cover they wanted."

Calgary resident Buzz Bishop, who blogs at dad-camp.com, took in the photo from a father's perspective, saying the magazine used classic baiting strategy to draw readers in while Grumet's own parenting was too extreme for him.

"Breastfeeding is natural, perfect, and the best way to nourish children. This pose, and Ms Grumet’s experience and lifestyle, doesn’t promote that," he blogged, noting that Grumet wasn't even part of the main story but was featured in a sidebar.

Grumet also breastfeeds her adopted five-year-old son and acknowledged the controversy her parenting practices have created.

She told Time some people have said breastfeeding her sons at their age is like child molestation. She said she can't reason with such individuals.

"People have to realize this is biologically normal. It’s not socially normal," she told the magazine in an interview. "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."

Grumet also told Time she was breastfed herself until she was six years old and she remembers it as an experience that was like "embracing your mother, like a hug."

"You feel comforted, nurtured and really, really loved," she said. "I had so much self-confidence as a child, and I know it’s from that."

Grumet added that her own mother "wasn't a hippie" but breastfed her for so long because her parents were really into nutrition.

The Time cover has already set off a series of Internet memes — one replaces Grumet's face with that of the late Princess Diana, a nod to another controversial magazine cover, in that instance for NewsWeek, where an image of the deceased royal was manipulated to depict how she may have looked if she were still alive.

Another uses the same image but changes the cover's headline to "Are you desperate to sell magazines?"

Vanity Fair Magazine took things further into the future, publishing a fictional blog about an interaction with a college-age Aram in the year 2027.

In an imagined classroom setting, Aram is asked for his thoughts about mass media and sensationalism, a question he tries to avoid, despite a teaching assistant referring to the Time cover.

"All I have to say is, it's enough," the fictional grown-up Aram says, prompting his questioner to respond, "You think the subject's been milked for all its worth?"