A new photo shows that in the military's testosterone-fueled microcosm, small but significant steps are being taken to support breastfeeding soldiers.
The push to #normalizebreastfeeding received a major boost when a group of military mamas volunteered to be photographed breastfeeding their babies—in uniform. In the awesome photo, the camo-clad soldiers, all on active duty, are seen cradling their babies and looking down on them fondly. It's a pose any nursing mom knows all too well, but what's especially poignant is what this photo represents.
In the military's testosterone-fueled microcosm, small but significant steps are being taken to support breastfeeding soldiers. For example, at Fort Bliss, where this photo was taken, there's a new nursing room equipped with comfy chairs, a refrigerator to store milk, and now, this photo. But it wasn't too long ago that a protected space like this didn't exist. It certainly wasn't around when Tara Ruby, the brains behind this photo, was a new mom on active duty. Back then, "support for breastfeeding moms wasn't even an option or a consideration," the El Paso, Texas-based photographer wrote on Facebook. "We have come so far."
That sentiment seems to be shared by many of the rank and file, too. Turnout for Ruby's photo shoot was better than expected. She figured just two or three moms would participate; in the end, 10 showed up. Even better? The Army gave her its blessing and support.
To be sure, the public nursing session had a purpose: Ruby wanted to show that "even our mommies in uniform can provide for their babies," she explained. "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 response from military parents and civilians has been overwhelming. Ruby's nursing photo has gone viral, racking up nearly 11,200 likes and 8,500 shares as of this writing. But even more heartening are the comments it's received: "[A]wesome. I breastfed my son for 2 years while active duty navy! So much support for these badass mothers!" wrote one mom, while another posted, "This is a beautiful way to show how much women give of themselves to country and family."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.