A Texas photographer is hoping to shed light on how difficult it can be to be a breastfeeding mother in the Army with a powerful new photo.
For the photo, Tara Ruby put out an all-call for military moms to stand in the middle of the Main Parade Field at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, and breastfeed their babies while in uniform.
“Today, I believe we made history,” Ruby wrote in a Facebook post alongside the photo. “To my knowledge, a group photo to show support of active duty military mommies nursing their littles has never been done.”
Ruby, a former soldier, also wrote that when she served, “support for breastfeeding moms wasn't even an option or a consideration.”
She said that she wanted to take the photo to make a point: “I’m a firm believer that if someone can visually see it, it can change their minds,” Ruby told SheKnows.com. “If they see this, people will understand there’s no reason to choose between being a mom and a solider.”
Military moms can nurse—and are allowed to do so in uniform—but there is currently no specific, Army-wide breastfeeding policy.
But lawmakers are working to change that. An amendment to the House Armed Services Committee's defense authorization bill draft would require the Army to "develop a comprehensive policy regarding breastfeeding" for female soldiers that creates facilities for nursing moms and lets them have pumping breaks, the Military Times reports.
The amendment also says that pumping areas will have “adequate privacy and cleanliness” and should have electrical outlets so mothers can use breast pumps. It also states, per Military Times: "Restrooms should not be considered an appropriate location."
The amendment was drafted after officials at an Air Force base in Idaho were forced to remove a policy that required breastfeeding moms on base to use a private room, cover up, or leave the premises if they needed to nurse.
Ruby says she hopes this photo can help nudge lawmakers in the right direction while normalizing the activity.
“Breastfeeding their babies doesn't make them less of a soldier; I believe it makes them a better one,” she said on Facebook. “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.”