Imagine the most unfriendly place for breastfeeding mothers. It’s probably the United States military, despite the fact that there are more than 200,000 active women in duty, according to Digital Trends. At one point, it was so bad that when Tara Ruby was on active duty in 1997-2001, there were no private spaces for breastfeeding mothers to pump milk.
Luckily, the military world has become a bit friendlier to moms since then–at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, a nursing room has finally opened in the army base. This marks a significant change in military history, as it recognizes breastfeeding as a normal bonding experience between a woman and her child.
Ruby, now a photographer, has decided to celebrate the opening of the nursery room through “portraits of uniformed soldiers breastfeeding their children.” It is no surprise why these photos have gone viral–they illustrate beautifully how women can at once be maternal while also wearing a uniform emblematic of extreme masculinity.
In a post she shared on Facebook, which has received more then 21,000 shares and 18,000 likes, she wrote:
“Today I believe we made history. To my knowledge a group photo to show support of active duty military mommies nursing their little’s has never been done. It is so nice to see support for this here at Fort Bliss.
I was active duty a long time ago when support for breastfeeding moms wasn’t even an option or a consideration. We have come so far. Breastfeeding their babies doesn’t make them less of a soldier, I believe it makes them a better one. Juggling the tasks and expectations of a soldier, plus providing for their own in the best way they possibly can, makes these ladies even stronger for it.”
Surprisingly, Facebook initially took the post down, which seems counterintuitive considering Zuckerberg is about to become a dad, but this perfectly exemplifies the need for breastfeeding to become normalized within the public sphere. By sharing photographs and stories, women and men alike can show each other that breastfeeding is not gross or unprofessional, it’s just part of life.
And really, why wouldn’t we celebrate mothers who put themselves in danger to keep their country safe? There isn’t anything more badass than that.