Is breast-feeding while in uniform conduct unbecoming to a military mom?
The debate over nursing in public got a new layer recently, when photos taken on an Air Force base began to circulate online. In the series of tasteful professional photos showing beaming moms as they nurse their kids, one jumps out: the photo of two servicewomen with their uniform shirts unbuttoned and hiked up to breast-feed.
"A lot of people are saying it's a disgrace to the uniform. They're comparing it to urinating and defecating [while in uniform]," says Crystal Scott, a military spouse who started a breast-feeding support group for military moms. "It's extremely upsetting. Defecating in public is illegal. Breast-feeding is not."
It was Scott's idea to ask photographer Brynja Sigurdardottir to take photos of real-life breast-feeding moms to create posters for National Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August. One of the moms photographed in uniform, Terran Echegoyen-McCabe, breast-feeds her 10-month-old twin girls on her lunch breaks during drill weekends as a member of the Air National Guard.
"I have breast-fed in our lobby, in my car, in the park ... and I pump, usually in the locker room," she says. "I'm proud to be wearing a uniform while breast-feeding. I'm proud of the photo and I hope it encourages other women to know they can breast-feed whether they're active duty, guard or civilian."
She said she's surprised by the reaction to the photos, which also feature her friend Christina Luna, because it never occurred to her that breast-feeding in uniform would cause such a stir.
"There isn't a policy saying we can or cannot breast-feed in uniform," Echegoyen-McCabe says. "I think it's something that every military mom who is breast-feeding has done. ... I think we do need to be able to breast-feed in uniform and be protected."
The Air Force has no policy specifically addressing breast-feeding in uniform, according to Air Force spokesperson Captain Rose Richeson, who added, "Airmen should be mindful of their dress and appearance and present a professional image at all times while in uniform."
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