Terran McCabe: The Air Force Breastfeeding Mom Finally Speaks Out

Terran McCabe: The Air Force Breastfeeding Mom Finally Speaks Out
terran mccabe

Brynja Sigurdardottir Photography

by Terran McCabe

Whoever said a picture can speak a thousand words was right, even when I could speak none. A group of breastfeeding women, including myself, all took part in a photo shoot with the intentions of  letting others know breastfeeding is possible regardless of your situation. My main contribution, or so I thought, was that I happened to have twins. Boy was I wrong. Another woman and I, who both served in the Air National Guard, also took pictures in our uniform to show that even those serving could also breastfeed. We were both prior active duty so we knew the struggles of both being full-time and part-time military. Contrary to popular belief, we did get permission to take the pictures. After the pictures were taken, we were going to consult the law office on base and get permission for the photos and positive quotes to go along with them with the goal of having them put into women’s exam rooms.

After the photographer posted a preview of the pictures on Facebook, the military breastfeeding picture spread like wild fire. Our plans were never to come to fruition. Comments, and then news articles all across the world started to question whether what we did was right. How breastfeeding can ever be wrong, I have no idea! After I did a telephone interview with the Today Moms,  I received a phone call from the Air Force telling me not to do any more interviews and to stop talking about the subject all together. They even asked me to take the photos off of Facebook and to not make comments or share any stories that involved the picture. I had to comply with the no speaking order but legally I didn’t have to comply with them controlling my Facebook. There were many rumors going around about why the Air Force was so upset over the picture. They told me that they aren’t against breastfeeding at all but that it is against the rules to promote a product while in uniform (which it is).

Is breastmilk a product? How did Terran hold her own under fire from everywhere? Continue reading on page 2…


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  1. Julie Beazer 11 May, 2013, 12:54

    I am no longer a nursing mother as my children have all grown up. I have three, Teagen who is 11, Meric who is 8 and Talise who is 6. When they were babies I practiced nursing on demand, wherever and whenever they needed, and never once did I cover up. And even though I will never have the pleasure of nursing another baby I will always support mothers and babies, and their rights to be fed and to feed whenever and wherever they please. Thank you for this article. And know that you always have my support.

    Reply this comment
  2. Kelli Pumphrey 11 May, 2013, 13:26

    Well said, Terran! You are an inspiration to women all over the world. Let the haters hate, you have made a huge contribution to the movement to normalise breast feeding!

    Reply this comment
  3. Kate 13 May, 2013, 07:36

    Well done ladies. You have my support from England and thank you for your service.

    Reply this comment
  4. Jane 13 May, 2013, 08:51

    *applauds wildly*

    Reply this comment
  5. Adam 13 May, 2013, 10:06

    Personally I think when you wear a uniform you should conduct yourself with some professionalism. There is a time and place for everything but sadly people always feel the need to make a political statement. If you cant conform to the rules of something you shouldn’t have enrolled in the first place. I imagine the Air Force would want unity between its members not rogue feminist activists.

    Should people just be allowed to do whatever they please while representing something as prestigious as the Air Force?

    Reply this comment
    • Terran 13 May, 2013, 21:52

      I’m not sure what branch of the military you are in but you really sound like you know your stuff and you have pride in our country. That’s why I served 7 years! I love my country and have NEVER done anything to disrespect the uniform. I may have broken a dress and appearance code…

      In the Air Force there are regulations that you can pump in uniform however it’s very unfortunate that there are NO rules/AFI’s about breastfeeding in uniform. Now while in uniform and pumping my dress and appearance are almost identical to what you see in the above picture. SO the above picture IS aloud, so what would make you think that doing the same thing, except for your baby attached instead of a machine, would be against the rules? The ONLY dress and appearance code I broke was not wearing a hat.

      If you disagree, try finding something that dictates how one breastfeeds in uniform!

      If calling me a rogue feminist is supposed to be an insult, think again. I am a feminist, and so I hope are you, for to not think women deserve to be treated EQUAL to men is a much larger disgrace than the one you’ve accused me of.

      I am an amazing mother and have done everything in my power, including breastfeeding my children, to be the best mother I can be. How would you say this represents the prestigious Air Force ( I also recieved Airman of The Year about a year prior to the photo)? I’d say pretty darn well!

      Thank you!

      Reply this comment
      • Amy 6 October, 2013, 19:35

        A million things were floating around in my head in response to Adam’s comment but you covered all of them in a much more responsible manner than I would have! You know exactly what you are talking about and you are clearly making informed decisions about how to conduct yourself in uniform. Thank you for speaking for women who chose not to because of the fear of facing a backlash to their personal choices that will only really affect them and their families. You are a beautiful person.

        Reply this comment
    • stephen 14 May, 2013, 12:58

      Wow, Adam, since when do our men in uniform avoid posing in uniform while drinking alcohol, draping themselves all over women or various other questionable activities outside their professional duties? Typical military boy shenanigans we laugh off with a boys-will-be-boys attitude, but we can’t let women do something necessary on their break time? If anything, I’d think allowing such photos to be shown would improve recruitment for the military.

      Reply this comment
      • Terran 14 May, 2013, 13:39

        Thank you Stephen! You’re right there is a double standard. Your support is much appreciated!

        Reply this comment
    • Francesca 12 November, 2013, 07:46

      Typical guy statement……I am a military breastfeeding/pumping mom and proud!

      Reply this comment
  6. Kelly 13 May, 2013, 10:36

    I cannot believe all the negativity you had to deal with over this beautiful photo! Thank you for your service and for promoting breastfeeding as normal! I imagine many people have learned a lot about breastfeeding from conversations about this photo. They are beautiful. I hope someday it will be seen as normal and beautiful and would draw no negativity.

    Reply this comment
  7. Ellisha 13 May, 2013, 12:07

    I have seen this photo floating around for a while and I have always thought it is beautiful and awesome. You are articulate, smart and brave. Carry on!

    Reply this comment
  8. MLK 14 May, 2013, 06:45

    First of all, thank you for your service!
    I remember at the time your picture came out, I remember being in awe that a soldier, a very busy mama still committed to breastfeeding! I’m even more impressed now that I’ve read your story. You are a strong, inspiring mama and I’m thankful you shared this post with us. The picture is beautiful, your story is beautiful!

    Reply this comment
  9. DeAnna 14 May, 2013, 12:21

    I can’t believe that people want to throw negative comments about breastfeeding. I breastfed my son until he had to be placed on fomula (stomach issues) and hated that I couldn’t breastfed longer. I had a friend of mine call my breastfeeding “unnatural” because “boobies are meant for sexual stuff, that’s just wierd” was almost her exact phrasing. I remember it like it was yesterday. How anyone can call breastfeeding unnatural I will never understand. Yes you were in uniform, but I don’t see how this could be wrong and why people are throwing a fit. Just because you’re a member of armed forces does not mean you aren’t a mother and can’t breastfeed! People need to grow up!

    Reply this comment
  10. Karla 23 May, 2013, 12:04

    Thank you for being courageous as a mom and as a soldier for our country! Maybe one day soon breastfeeding will not be seen as taboo and we will look back and wonder how it ever was.

    Reply this comment
  11. Nicole 4 June, 2013, 10:53

    Their response, “it is against the rules to promote a product while in uniform” is VERY far reaching! UGH!

    Reply this comment
  12. Jen 4 August, 2013, 11:07

    I’ve liked this photo since the first time I saw it – we should do more photos of military women from all branches nursing in uniform and have them put in the offices of the LC’s on post, as well as in the OB/GYN clinics. My husband, an army preventive medicine doctor, thinks that would be a great campaign for promoting breastfeeding among military communities, both with active and reserve females, as well as with female military dependents.

    All these comparisons to sexual activities and bodily functions say more about the people who say those things than they do about nursing in uniform or about nursing in general – namely that they are sadly misinformed and, in some cases, disgusting individuals who do more to disgrace the uniform by their sheer nastiness and ignorant hatred (because that’s what it is) than nursing in uniform ever could. As for covering yourself, the whole point of the shoot was to show that you were nursing. How can it be properly shown if you’re draped in blankets or some kind of covering? It would defeat the entire purpose of the photo, particularly if you wanted to place it in women’s exam rooms at a clinic as a way to promote breastfeeding in general.

    Lastly, the Air Force is wrong – you are not promoting a product because it’s not monetized in any way, nor is it mass produced, since breast milk is unique in its content to each individual woman. What you ARE promoting is a good practice or behavior, and the military supports those things all the time, particularly in the interest of the health of its soldiers/airmen/sailors/marines and their families. So you aren’t violating any rules. I’m willing to bet that any legal counsel would tell you the same if they knew enough about breast milk and its individual nature.

    Reply this comment
  13. Lisa 6 October, 2013, 18:08

    I can’t wait for the day it’s just seen as NORMAL. Not special, or above and beyond, or fought over or superior… just normal.

    Reply this comment
  14. kristen 7 October, 2013, 11:20

    Theres nothing wrong with breast feeding but God put a stop to showing your boobs at the garden.
    I am not against breast feeding but I am a woman and I am straight, not gay and even when I see a woman breast feeding like the woman on the left of this pic, I have to turn my face. I also have to say that if I dont know the person and baby and dont have a bond with them it kind of disgust me to see breast feeding done in a resturant. I feel like even resturants need to have family rooms near the bathrooms so breast feeding can be done in there.

    Reply this comment
    • Jessica 8 October, 2013, 11:35

      would you feed your baby formula in a bathroom? Would you eat a sandwich in the bathroom? Breasts are MEANT to feed children, it’s SOCIETY that has sexualized them. Next time you’re willing to sit down on a toilet in a public restroom and eat your lunch or feed your baby a bottle, come back and tell me. I’d love to hear about it.

      Reply this comment
    • Jenia 11 November, 2013, 20:33

      Before Adam and Eve ate the forbbin fruit they did not realize they were naked. After they his from Him and were ashamed of themselves. It was completely natural to walk around completely nude. I am by no means a nudist, but I don’t see how breast feeding at any time is wrong, especially in God’s eyes. Our bodies were created by Him and in His image. There was a time when breast feeding was the only option and anything outside of that would be considered strange. If you are uncomfortable with an infant eating, then that is something that is your personal issue. Why is it okay for your friend to openly feed her child in front of you but not a stranger? I personally suggest you start covering your head while you eat as it makes you uncomfortable to see others openly eating.

      Reply this comment

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