Friday, June 1, 2012

Military moms shock by breastfeeding in uniform

The photo on the left is sparking a firestorm. It's part of a breastfeeding campaign by Mom2Mom of Fairchild Air Force Base, a support group founded by military spouse and mom Crystal Scott.

All of the photos (which you can see here) are stunning, but this one is drawing attention because the moms are nursing in uniform. The moms had gotten permission from their superiors to be photographed in uniform, but now the Washington Air National Guard is saying that the women were wrong. (The military has no rules against breastfeeding in uniform, but "the real issue is that servicemembers are not allowed to use the uniform to further a civilian cause.")

Apparently breastfeeding is a "civilian cause." Does that mean that being a mom is a civilian job?

Contrast these gorgeous images of mothers breastfeeding content, happy babies with this one on the cover of TIME magazine (which has now gone viral and is the subject of all sorts of political parodies, usually featuring Mitt Romney feeding at the breast of Bain Capitol or Donald Trump or some other disgusting image).

First of all, no one would EVER breastfeed a child in such a way. It sexualizes breastfeeding and the mother-son relationship. It plays on fears I read about in the excellent book, The Mama Boy's MythIt pits moms against each other, and it's intentionally provocative. "Are You Mom Enough?" prompts women to criticize each other for their parenting decisions...either attachment parenting advocates criticizing those who don't practice attachment parenting or the other way around.

I breastfed Kieran and Nicholas until they were three, so I clearly support breastfeeding beyond infanthood. I didn't want to do it past three, although I know a lot of people who felt I nursed too long. I support other women's decisions to nurse their kids into young childhood, but I also think it's risking scorn to do it in public.

And I truly feel sorry for this boy on the cover of a national magazine, who will have this image follow him around for the rest of his life. I have far more concerns about that than the fact that he is breastfeeding.