The moment I was told I was trying to promote a product, which I can only assume was my breast milk because they were unclear and weren’t able to specify what product I was trying to promote, I decided that while I had to shut my mouth, that I would not stop sharing positive articles regarding the picture on Facebook. To deny that it was a breastfeeding issue was distasteful and ignorant. To not be able to speak up while others, even those in the military, berated, belittled, showed hatred and ignorance all because I was FEEDING my children while wearing my uniform was infuriating to me. After all, if the same picture was taken of me formula feeding my children or giving them fruit, this wouldn’t have been an issue and the picture would have never grabbed the public’s attention.
For months after the photos were seen by the public, the picture received negative comments by the bucketfuls. Some were ok with the picture but wished I would have been more discrete and covered up, some compared breastfeeding to ejaculation, masturbation and bowel movements. A video was posted on YouTube directed towards me that stated breastfeeding in uniform is equivalent to a male in uniform ejaculating in public. The man in the video considered me a disgrace to the uniform and so did many others. It’s amazing to me what people say and how presumptuous they can be, especially when they are hidden behind a computer. Luckily for my sanity, during a time when I couldn’t speak my own mind, I saw many congratulatory and supportive comments.
I have to accept that, in our culture, there are many stigmas with breastfeeding and rules that people think one should follow while breastfeeding. I don’t, however, have to accept that things should stay as they are. To compare feeding a child via one’s breast to sexual gratification in public or defecation is ridiculous. You can only make this comparison if you also compare a grown adult eating their lunch in public to the same. Eating is eating and breast milk is SUPPOSED to come from a breast. I was not and will not ever be a disgrace to the uniform. As I’ve said before, every military mom that has breastfed has done so in uniform. My cleavage seemed to be an issue for many. I’m feeding two children so yes, my breasts will be exposed. I have absolutely no apologies for this photo.
Breastfeeding is the most natural and normal thing to feed your child. Covering up, as I was told by many that I should have done to make the picture more “okay”, was not an option for me. I don’t cover up for the same reasons people don’t hide when they eat . The more women chose to cover themselves, go into a separate room or only breastfeed at home, the harder it will be for our society to see breastfeeding for what it is: feeding your children! To those mothers who do cover, I urge you not to, but applaud you for giving your children the most precious gift there is.
The picture should have never made such headlines because it should have been seen as normal, beautiful and giving. The other mother in the photo and myself work hard at giving our children the best we can. I have no regrets and hope that it has encouraged other mothers, especially those in the military to continue to breastfeed. I also hope more than anything that it encourages the Air Force and Air National Guard as well as other military branches to put regulations into place that encourage and protect women while breastfeeding on and off duty.