Recently in the news, there has been an uproar about some photos that have surfaced of female Air Force soldiers nursing their babies. They are both in uniform and on a military base for the photos, which were taken for National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Their military jackets (called a “blouse” even on men) are unbuttoned to allow their children unfettered access to their breasts. As is normal with breastfeeding, the areolae are completely covered by the babies’ latches, and only the outside of the breasts are exposed.
The people arguing in support of these photos say that a nursing mother is a beautiful, natural thing, and that certainly servicewomen have the right to nurse their babies, despite being soldiers.
The people arguing against these photos say that it’s disrespectful to the uniform for women to be nursing, comparing it to defecating or urinating in public while in uniform.
Now let’s talk about war and about the men and women who protect our country from threats, both foreign and domestic. All of them are either mothers or fathers or sons or daughters, but in the honored and respected military uniform they become somehow more and less, simultaneously. They are treated with utmost respect, and seen as a trained unit for combat and intelligence. They are the servicepersons who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect us and our freedom and way of life. They are, for all intents and purposes, parts of a single machine that is our military. No longer individuals, but part of a much stronger chain of protection.
What do you think? What’s the real issue here? Do you think the photos are just a beautiful example of maternal love, or do you think that media representations of nursing breasts and babies need to be kept separate from media representations of those who serve and protect our nation?
Terran Echegoyen-McCabe & Christina Luna for Mom2Mom Breastfeeding Campaign