Breast-feeding In Uniform: Brave or Brazen?
A group of Air Force moms photographed breast-feeding their children in uniform and in public have sparked a heated debate among parents and service members. The photos, taken at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash., were intended to be part of a campaign to empower service members to breast-feed. The pictures went viral after they were posted on the photographer's website.
Terren Echegoyan-McCabe, who was photographed breast-feeding her 10-month-old twins, told Michel Martin of NPR's Tell Me More that she didn't intend for the photos to be provocative. "The photos came about pretty innocently.To me it's equivalent as feeding your child a strawberry, a hamburger, a bottle, anything. It's just feeding your child," she says. The photos she posed for in uniform, she says, were meant to be displayed in a health center on her military base.
Some military moms called the women brave, but others condemned the photographs,calling it unacceptable,or even disgraceful, to breast-feed in public while in uniform.
"We live by a code of standards, and particularly when in uniform. We have standards of conduct and we have standards of appearance. There are just certain things that--as a mother in the military--we sacrifice that other civilian women can engage in. And breast-feeding publicly is just one of those things," says Claire White, a mom of two who serves in the Air Force. White, who lives in Sacramento, Calif., says she breast-fed her two young sons while she was on active duty. She says that the military health system was"incredibly supportive."
Former Marine Chrystal Foster, who is also a mom, commented to NPR via Facebook. "I support women and their right to breast-feed.I did it myself. This photo however will bleed in to combat situations, and is the exact reason many women are kept from serving on the front lines. Women have fought long and hard to get where they are on the battle field and attention screaming photos like this set them back leaps and bounds," Foster wrote.
Robyn Roche-Paull, author of "Breastfeeding in Combat Boots" and U.S. Navy veteran,says the military policy on breast-feeding is disjointed and the U.S. Army does not have one at all. "A lot of these mothers aren't being given a place to pump. They aren't being given the time to pump. And I'm just talking about when they're on their home base," she says.
For now, Echegoyan-McCabe says she hopes her photographs will bring the needs of military mothers into the light. "We are women, we are mothers. A man is allowed to be a father hugging their child after deployment...you're saying a man can do these things but a woman has to be simply just a solider, just an airman?It's not fair.It will keep us back.It will prevent us from going forward and becoming equals in the military" she says.