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Breastfeeding Soldiers Photo Stirs Up Debate

Breastfeeding Soldiers Photo Stirs Up Debate

Two members of the U.S. Air National Guard sparked debate after a photo of themselves breastfeeding went viral.

The image, which was by photographer Brynja Sigurdardottir as a part of the Mom2Mom Breastfeeding Campaign, showed†Terran Echegoyen-McCabe and Christina Luna, members of the Air National Guard based out of Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash., breastfeeding their children while in uniform.

The photo stirred up the seemingly endless debate over breastfeeding in public, and briefly raised concerns that the women might be disciplined for violating military regulations that prohibit the use of uniforms in support of a cause.

“A lot of people are saying it’s a disgrace to the uniform. They’re comparing it to urinating and defecating,” said the founder of Mom2Mom, Crystal Scott, in an interview with NBC. “It’s extremely upsetting. Defecating in public is illegal. Breast-feeding is not.”

Scott co-founded the group to promote breastfeeding among women on the base. The military has no specific rules on breastfeeding in uniform.

“I have breast-fed in our lobby, in my car, in the park,” said †Echegoyen-McCabe in an interview with NBC. “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.”

In an interview with the Air Force Times, Capt. Keith Kosik, a spokesperson for the Washington National Guard, said, “The uniform was misused. Thatís against regulations,” but he hastened to add that the military did not have a problem with breastfeeding.

“I want to be very, very clear about this. Our issue is not, nor has it ever been, about breastfeeding,” Kosik said. “It has to do with honoring the uniform and making sure itís not misused. I canít wear my uniform to a political rally, to try to sell you something or push an ideology. That was our point of contention.”

Kosik added that the airwomen were not expected to face discipline, and that the military planned to use the incident as a “teachable moment” regarding breastfeeding and promoting causes while in uniform.

45 states and the District of Columbia have laws making public breastfeeding legal, including Washington state. Women have still faced opprobrium for doing so, however; NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne ultimately was forced to apologize after calling breastfeeding “nasty” (and referring to†one critic of his as a “dumb bitch.”)

The continued attacks on breastfeeding — an act that dates back literally tens of millions of years, one that is the hallmark of mammals — may be disconcerting. But Mom2Mom is working to do something about it.

“We hope to open minds about military and civilian breastfeeding in private or public,” said Scott.

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Photo Credit: Mothering Touch

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70 comments

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6:54PM PST on Dec 1, 2012

The military can deploy the mothers anywhere they want at any time. Is breastfeeding while in uniform even a good idea?

I read that the military requires that someone else be available to care for children, all at times, because it is possible to deploy any man or woman anywhere at any time.

12:26PM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

Viva La Mujer!

4:44AM PDT on Jun 11, 2012

These days, the only images of soldiers I see are of them pointing rifles into the faces of sobbing terrified little girls. pissing on corpses, torturing prisoners and shooting young men, including two journalists down in the street and this is what they are getting bent out of shape over. It's a sick world we are living in.

5:06AM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

It seems pretty clear that the military are quite happy for their personnel to breastfeed and indeed to breastfeed in public and in uniform, if the situation arises. What they do not like is the fact that these women were in uniform being used in pursuit of a specific campaign (be it a sensible one or a contentious one).

I don't know if the pictures concerned showed a range of women breastfeeding, a couple of whom were in uniform, or if these two were specifically used in pursuit of the campaign. It may be that undue emphasis has been placed on this simply because someone has caused these two to go viral, which is no fault of the campaigners.

I do however respect the military's position that the pictures should not have been used for campaigning purposes without permission. It is nevertheless good to see that the women concerned will not be facing any consequences as a result of what has happened.

2:51PM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

The putrid hysterical nastiness in some of these notes is utterly amazing. Why is doing and even being photographed doing this such a big deal. Time this hypocritical screeching stopped!

7:44PM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

Breast feeding your infant is good for their health and makes a woman feel good and they bond together. This is fine, but I say do it in private. Anyone can feed the baby before leaving the house and going out in public. Yes, it's a natural thing to do, but why can't you do it at home instead of in a public place? What are you trying to prove? That you have tits?

4:39PM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

women who breast feed in public aren't shoving it in your face just because you feel like staring. I get disgusted by 300 pound people walking around stuffing their face with fries, double cheese burgers, milk shakes, sodas. ice cream, but i dont say anything, i dont make a big fuss over it, i dont have to look at them. They are not doing anything to me, they are just harming themselves. Breastfeeding moms are not harming anybody, in fact they are giving the baby what it needs to survive. and yet people make such a big deal about it. Just get over it, boobs are only sexual if you make them that way, feeding is there purpose and feeding is not sexual, but a necessity for survival, and you have to be mental if you think i will bottle feed when it is my time to be a mother

8:15AM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

I think women who object to other women breastfeeding in public are probably sexually repressed and embarrassed of their own bodies.

5:28AM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

"Breast feeding is quite natural but it's about high time women learn to recognize what's okay in public and what isn't. For goodness sakes, what's with all this public behavior anyway? A little modesty wouldn't hurt."

Yeah, we wouldn't want women to get uppity and think they have agency over their own bodies' natural processes. We let them get away with feeding their babies in public, and next thing you know, they'll think they can vote!

While we're talking modesty, though, I think we need laws against men showing their moobs on the beach, at pools, and when they're mowing their lawns shirtless. When I see their C-cups hanging out, I get all flustered and confused, and I question my sexuality. And we can't have that, either.

O.o

5:07AM PDT on Jun 6, 2012

For all of you bashing soldiers, they are the one's protecting your right to breast feed and to write to this blog about it. Shame on you. You enjoy the freedoms their sacrifices give you, yet turn around and call them murderers and rapists. I cannot even find the word to tell you how disgusting your words are.

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