Viral photograph aims to normalize breastfeeding in the military

TEXAS (KUSI) – A photo of combat-ready moms in uniform while breastfeeding their children went viral this week.

Photographer Tara Ruby — a former member of the Air Force who was on active duty between 1997 and 2001 — came up with the concept for the photo. 

Ruby is now a photographer who takes family portraits and she told ABC News that the photo quickly went viral, racking up 2.5 million views on her Facebook page.

"It has been just insane and it’s so much of a response that I haven’t been able to go through the comments on my Facebook page," she said. "It’s been intense."

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In a Facebook post displaying the picture, Ruby said her aim for the photo was to normalize breastfeeding in the military.

"To my knowledge a group photo to show support of active-duty military mommies nursing their little’s has never been done," she said on Facebook. "It is so nice to see support for this here at Fort Bliss."

Ruby said she wanted to show that juggling the demands of being a soldier while also providing for a child makes women stronger.

She said the picture was taken for a nursing room at Fort Bliss in Texas.

Where policies on breastfeeding exist, they vary according to the branch of military service. The Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines have policies in place, but the Army does not, according to the pro-breastfeeding group Breastfeeding in Combat Boots and the Stars and Stripes website.

According to the website, while the Army does not have a branch-wide policy, individual Army bases have issued policies regarding breastfeeding, including at least one that irritated some new moms for asking breastfeeding women to make every attempt to cover themselves.

Army and Air Force bases in Hawaii and Idaho faced criticism for breastfeeding policies that were too restrictive. They required mothers to cover themselves or go to a designated room. 

"I was active duty a long time ago when support for breastfeeding moms wasn’t even an option or a consideration," Ruby said on Facebook. "We have come so far. Breastfeeding their babies doesn’t make them less of a soldier, I believe it makes them a better one."

In her interview with ABC News, Ruby said she is now talking to breastfeeding groups about starting a campaign around the picture in the hopes she can support other moms.

"[It’s] the massively overwhelmingly response," said Ruby of hearing from working moms who have responded to the photo. "When they look at the picture they don’t see the Army uniform, they see themselves."

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