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Parental Pride or Indecent Exposure: Photos of military women breastfeeding in uniform stirs controversy

nubreastfeeding.jpg

Military moms at Fairchild Air Base, in Washington, want to remove the stigma from breastfeeding.Courtesy of Mom2Mom

A photo of two servicewomen breastfeeding in uniform has put the military at the center of an age-old debate.

The picture was released as part of a campaign to promote breastfeeding by Mom2Mom, a support group formed by military women and spouses at Fairchild Air Base, near Spokane, Wash. Program coordinator Crystal Scott said the goal is to help make it easier for military moms to serve their babies while serving their country. Still, Scott said she had no idea the image of women in uniform nursing infants would cause such a furor.

“Soldiers are allowed to smoke, drink and chew tobacco in uniform,” Scott said. “We hope to open minds about military and civilian breastfeeding in private or public.”

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

- Crystal Scott, Mom2Mom support group

The two women in the photo, Terran Echegoyen-McCabe and Christina Luna, are members of the Air National Guard who live and work on the base. They declined to comment, but said through the support group that they "don't regret" being in the photo.

Although there are currently no policies regarding military breastfeeding in uniform, U.S. law states that a woman may breastfeed her child in any federal building or on federal property. But that didn't stop angry commenters from posting on the group's Facebook page.

"My fiance and my brother are in the military and nothing is worse than seeing someone disrespect the uniform," wrote one. "Brestfeeding (sic) is beautiful and a personal choice but i don't think it is professional or appropriate to breastfeed in uniform while being in public."

"Nobody told you you can't do it, but you don't have to flaunt it," wrote another. "I am a mom and a Marine and completely do not support your cause."

Scott was caught by surprise by the controversy.

“This photo shoot was local," she said. "It literally exploded overnight. We were never expecting this to happen.”

The photos were released between Time magazine’s controversial “Are You Mom Enough?” cover -- which depicted a mom nursing her 3-year-old son -- and Memorial Day, but the photo shoot was planned months in advance, according to Scott. 

Scott said that there are many women breastfeeding on military bases and that most locations have a support group or are developing one. She said the act is no different than other parental duties, including bottle-feeding and diaper-changing.

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

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