Army mothers pose for photo - while breastfeeding babies

Photo of soldiers breastfeeding Image copyright Tara Ruby Photography

A photograph of 10 military women breastfeeding in their uniforms has gone viral, with people voicing their support for photographer Tara Ruby's attempt to normalise public breastfeeding - particularly for those on active duty.

The picture has been shared almost 10,000 times and garnered support from a number of people both on Facebook and Instagram.

One Facebook user wrote: "This is a beautiful way to show how much women give of themselves to country and family."

Ruby herself was a young mother on active duty in the US Air Force between 1997 and 2001. "I would nurse anywhere I could find a spot. There wasn't a dedicated office. Many nights I worked through the night, and I would have to find an empty office to pump," she told BBC Trending.

Ruby recounted stories of other military mothers pumping milk in the back of tanks and light armoured vehicles while on field rotation.

She was inspired to take the photograph after Fort Bliss, an army post in El Paso, Texas, created a new nursing room for mothers on duty.

"We have come so far," she wrote. "Breastfeeding their babies doesn't make them less of a soldier, I believe it makes them a better one."

After posting the image last Thursday, Tara found that the post, along with shared posts, was removed. She has since reposted it, and other groups supporting the normalisation of breastfeeding have followed suit.

When asked why the posts were initially removed, a Facebook spokesman said: "This content does not violate our community standards."

Although the response was largely positive, some comments challenged the suitability of breastfeeding in uniform.

One woman wrote: "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."

Ruby defends the photo, and claims hers the first group portrait to show military women breastfeeding.

"If you make change and history, not everyone is going to agree. You have to keep going and facing forward."

Robyn Roche-Paull, author and founder of the online support group Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, hopes this picture will reduce stigma surrounding the issue of breastfeeding.

"Being able to put this image out so other women in the military can see that it is, in fact, possible to feed in the military is the ultimate goal, because so many think they can't."

She says since only 14.5% of the active-duty force is female, the movement for military breastfeeding is particularly unique.

"The guys don't get it. Their culture is a warrior culture, so showing the world something feminine and nurturing is seen as weak," says Roche-Paull.

Ruby hopes that this image will dispel any notions that breastfeeding and being a soldier are incompatible.

"You can be a good mother and a good soldier at the same time. You don't have to choose between the two."

Blog by Olivia Lace-Evans

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