These combat uniform-clad breastfeeding mums are unexpectedly leading the charge to normalise breastfeeding, after this image went viral. It was taken to commemorate the opening of a new nursing room at an army base, but it’s since been used to continue the war against shaming breastfeeding women.
Photographer Tara Ruby was once a breastfeeding mum, on active duty in the Air Force in the US. She would use empty offices and bathrooms to express breastmilk. She told CNN that’s why she welcomed news that an army base in Texas: Fort Bliss, was opening a nursing room – completed with comfy chairs and a fridge for storing milk.
So Tara offered to take some photos, which she would donate as decoration for the new room.
“I thought it was be nice to offer some photographs as an additional show of support,” she tells CNN. “Seeing a picture like that helps mothers understand they can be an active soldier and provide support to their children.”
Ten women turned up for the photo shoot, with babies in tow.
“I think it’s great the Army is supporting active duty mothers,” Tara says. “Sometimes, you hit a point in your military career where you have to choose between being a soldier and a mother, and a photo like this helps mothers so they don’t have to choose. ”
Tara says the first time she posted the photo on her Facebook page, it disappeared. But she uploaded it again, and it soon grew legs, being shared more than 10,000 times at last count.
In the post Tara says, “Breastfeeding their babies doesn’t make them less of a soldier, I believe it makes them a better one. Juggling the tasks and expectations of a soldier, plus providing for their own in the best way they possibly can, makes these ladies even stronger for it.”
The comments on the post are overwhelmingly supportive, but many who have been in similar positions, had opposing views on the image:
“Since putting on the uniform is a direct reflection of our country and it is worn with professionalism, I (an active duty sailor serving the world’s greatest navy) consider this extremely unprofessional. I DO support the motive, don’t get me wrong, but the way we are fighting for the right, not so much. Instead, I think that a lounge type area should be provided in work places so mothers can nurse privately and in good conditions that is NOT a bathroom.”
“I have breastfed three babies while serving. I however do think, it should not be done publicly while in uniform. I fully support breastfeeding, but do think when you decide to have children while in the military, there are some things that must be given up. Military professionalism is not being held while your top is open and a baby at your breast. I’m sure this will get many wonderful remarks, but this is just my opinion. (Nine years of service).”
Tara says in Facebook post this week, “The support has been overwhelmingly… I believe that we have done something so much larger than we all expected too, and have touched more lives that we could have imagined we would have. What a way to make history!”