In the late ‘90s, when Tara Ruby was in the U.S. Air Force, support for breastfeeding moms “wasn’t even an option or a consideration,” she said.
So when the mom, now a photographer, heard that a dedicated nursing room was being built in the Fort Bliss Army post in El Paso, Texas, she knew she had to do something to show her support.
“I thought it would be nice to have a uniformed soldier breastfeeding portrait to hang in the room,” Ruby, who is based in El Paso, told The Huffington Post in an email Sunday. She hoped that such a photograph would show military moms that they “can be amazing mothers and soldiers at the same time.”
Parnering with the Fort Bliss P3T program, a moms’ support group, Ruby put out a call on Facebook to find nursing mothers willing to be photographed for the portrait.
In the end, ten women showed up for shoot, held last Thursday at the Army post. All of them came in full uniform, with their babies in tow.
According to CNN, the photo shoot was approved by the Fort Bliss Public Affairs and Garrison Command.
In a touching message of appreciation to the nursing moms who participated in the shoot, Ruby wrote on Facebook:
Ladies, I can't begin to express how I felt during the session, and during the time I spent editing. I remember nursing my oldest in the shadows, hiding on toilets and where ever I could while in uniform. My second baby I was told to cover up, that no one wanted to see ‘that.’ I remember that breastfeeding wasn't cool or the norm.
And now look at the bunch of you. Active duty, serving our country, and being amazing mothers that provide the best possible for your babies. This photo will help many other young mothers, young soldiers make decisions for their families and even their careers. I am proud of each and every one of you for standing up for your rights.
The photograph of the moms has since gone viral on Facebook, racking up thousands of views.
According to Ruby, Facebook initially took the photo down from her wall after she posted it late Thursday night. After reposting it the following morning, however, she says the photo has remained on her page.
“It had simply disappeared from Facebook,” she told HuffPost. “I confirmed with others that I knew had shared it and it was missing from their pages as well… like it had never existed. So we just reposted and reposted again. It looks like it will stay this time!”
Facebook has not commented on the disappearance of the picture.
Ruby says she hopes the photo will help give more visibility to military moms and offer encouragement to mothers everywhere.
“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,” wrote Ruby on Facebook. “Breastfeeding their babies doesn't make [women] 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.”
“I am 100% for #normalizebreastfeeding,” she added. “How about you?”
Also on HuffPost: