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. That’s 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 it’s not misused. I can’t 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.
Photo Credit: Mothering Touch