Is Breastfeeding a Disgrace to the Uniform?
Breastfeeding is a baby eating and it is a normal, public activity. A woman has a right to breastfeed anywhere she and her baby would otherwise be allowed to be...and you aren't going to get any qualifiers like "with a cover" or "discreetly" from me.
As a woman and a mother, I cannot see anything wrong with a mom feeding her baby. As a military spouse and a member of the military family, however, I do have some concerns about the recent photographs of two National Guard airmen, Senior Airman Terran Echegoyen-McCabe and Staff Sgt.Christina Luna, breastfeeding their children. It has nothing to do with the age of the children or the amount of the breast showing and everything to do with military regulation and uniform.
What people outside of the military family (and perhaps some in it) often do not understand is that our service members voluntarily give up a number of their rights once they join the military. One of those rights is to support causes in uniform as a member of the armed forces.
Is a mother breastfeeding her child supporting a cause? Not necessarily. However, these moms were not picking their kids up on the way home from drill, they purposely donned the uniform during their off-duty time for the express purpose of having professional photos taken in support of an independent campaign. And their uniform is not being worn according to regulation. They are not even wearing a cover...and by that I mean a hat, not a hooter hider!
I recall a number of times when my husband said he needed to come home and change his uniform before going somewhere because remaining in uniform might cause him to come into conflict with some military regulation or another...and he wasn't having a professional photo shoot of his activities, either.
In fact, before even giving an innocuous quote to a local paper, speaking as a service member, you are supposed to have your actions cleared by the public affairs officer on your post. This, to me, is the heart of the matter. If these women were given permission to appear, in non-regulation uniform, as part of this independent campaign, then Hooah! The photographer claims permission was given for the airmen to be photographed in uniform as part of the campaign but an Air National Guard official says that the women are in violation of regulations.
To many breastfeeding advocates, the uniform is just one more excuse for denying a baby the right to eat his natural and normal food in public. However, the military is a career like no other and the stakes are higher than anywhere else. You sign on to follow the regulations and discipline is paramount.
Would this be as sexy of an issue in the media if it did not involve breastfeeding? Probably not. However, would it still be against regulation and cause for possible disciplinary action? Most likely.
The uniform is not a prop or costume for a campaign. There are strict military regulations about the proper wearing of the uniform. Some of these rules may seem nonsensical to civilians like me but service members need to follow them...even the ridiculous ones...especially the ridiculous ones.