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All the Buzz: Public Military Breastfeeding

Lately boobies have been creating quite the commotion. Not because of breast cancer awareness — “save the ta-tas” is now a household phrase — but because of breastfeeding. While it may seem a little weird for a man, and a MANspouse, to be chiming in on this subject, I feel like I should.

Over the course of the last two years breastfeeding has been put in the public eye. Not from the sense that we are getting an eyeful of milk, or even because breasts are being inappropriately exposed at every turn, but because there seems to be a question as to when and where breastfeeding is OK.

I’ve got to admit, as a guy, when I see a woman flop her boobie out so her baby can have a meal/snack, it still weirds me out. When I walk by someone nursing their child at an airport or in a restaurant, I find myself purposefully looking the other way so I don’t appear in any way to be some sort of perv.

But I also must admit, I am a lot more comfortable with it now than I ever was before. I am even more comfortable with it today than I was when my wife was nursing our son. Why? Because now I get it.

Being a MANspouse who tries to stay active in our military community, especially being active with my toddler, I come across quite a number of women with breastfeeding babies. It never fails that if I go to a playgroup, I am almost guaranteed to have a mom in the room nursing her child. When these occurrences first started happening I thought to myself “do you really have to do that here?”  But the more it happened the more I realized it was OK. No … no … it wasn’t OK …. it was RIGHT! Their right.

Whenever someone new shows up to playgroup with a child that is nursing you can always tell they are even more weirded out about nursing in front of me than I am of them. The baby will cry for a bit and then this “oh crap, what do I do? There is a strange man in the room” look will overcome not just the mom’s face, but their entire body language. The mom will become increasingly more uncomfortable until she knows it’s either pack up the rest of the kids she brought to playgroup to go somewhere else, hope I leave or … LET THE PUPPY LOOSE! More often than not the mom will give in to nursing in front of me. Out of respect, once that happens, I do my best to stay on the other side of the room to allow her to be as comfortable as possible.

But every once in awhile you will get the mom who is none the weary of me being in the room. She may in fact even continue to engage me in conversation. The first time a mom who engaged me in conversation while she was feeding her child, I swear, I nearly threw up because I was so nervously uncomfortable with a stranger having a portion of her breast exposed in front of me (even though it was completely covered).

But it only took one mom who would not allow me to escape conversation to make me realize there was nothing weird about the situation. It was all in my head. There was and is nothing sexual about a mom feeding her child. The only people who make it sexual are those who haven’t got a clue. Because, honestly, is there anything more amazing than the fact a human being can provide everything a baby needs (love/affection/food) without having to go to a store?

By now most of you should know about the article talking about servicemembers being proud to breastfeed while IN UNIFORM! This has created quite the stir. But to me, this story is only getting the hype it is getting because of the pictures that were taken. The story in and of itself about moms who wear the uniform breastfeeding in public is not a real issue. Nearly every person in the world is considerate enough to be at least a little modest while feeding their child. That modesty comes in the form of feeding/pumping in a car, locker room, behind the closed door of an office or a host of other places out of view of the general public. Of course actual nursing is a bit different than pumping so it’s a bit more socially acceptable to see a woman in the lobby of an office with her baby on her boob than it is to see her pumping.

But the only thing I can wonder is if this would even be a hot topic if it weren’t for the mom on the left in the picture being almost completely exposed?

I have witnessed several dozen women who were breast feeding while I was in their presence. And I can not recall a single one who showed as much skin as the woman in the picture did. So what that is telling me is that picture was taken for one reason, so all of us fools would be blogging, reading and talking about it. That picture was taken as part of an ad campaign for an organization started by a military spouse. To me, I want that woman who organized this to be my publicist because look at all the talk she has going because of the way the picture was STAGED. It’s making national headlines for goodness sake.

The question coming out of all of this is whether or not it is right for a female servicemember, in uniform, to breastfeed her child. My answer, simply put, HELL YEAH it’s OK. As long as she has respect for those around her. The same respect 99.9 percent of the other moms who nurse have for the general public.

Now, should a woman attached to an infantry unit just whip it out and start feeding her child in front of all the guys? Ummm … no. But would she? If the uncomfortable feeling women at a playgroup get when it is just one strange man in their presence hinders them from nursing, I can only imagine what it would be like with a platoon of men staring her down.

Discretion. It is an incredible thing. Luckily for us there is an honor and integrity that comes from wearing a US Military uniform. Discretion is something all servicemembers should have.

It bugs the crap out of me when I see all these people talking smack about women disgracing the uniform by nursing in it.

Where are all the critics for those folks who dress in drag to make a funny video while wearing a uniform?

Where are all the critics when I am in a restaurant with my family and a group of soldiers (all ranks for the most part) are sitting on the other side of the building using foul language loud enough everyone can hear them, while IN UNIFORM!?!

Where are all the critics who are tearing apart the thousands upon thousands of YouTube videos of servicemen in uniform simulating sex acts on other men, just in the name of fun? (You may call it “dancing,” but we ALL call it “ridin up on somebody and smackin’ dat ass.”)

And don’t even get me started on the immaturity of servicemembers in their PT ‘shorty shorts’ uniform who don’t wear underwear and purposefully rest their leg on a wall so their dingaling dangles inches from another mans face.

This whole thing about women in uniform breast feeding … it got it’s run. I am blogging about it now. And I am just one of dozens. Hundreds of military related Facebook pages have posted about it. Tens of thousands have shared the link. It got it’s play. It’s time to let it go. Servicewomen should without a doubt be allowed to breastfeed in public while in uniform. Just as they have been doing on very rare occasions for a very long time. Providing they are conducting them self in a professional and courteous manner of course. And if you are one of the one’s who really wants to start nitpicking about unprofessionalism in uniform, then go make me a sammich, cuz it’s ‘Peanut Butter Jelly Time’ for you to realize that a disgrace to the uniform does not come in the form of a mom doing one of the most incredible things that the human body can do.

***And if you didn’t get the “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” reference, it’s a link, click on it.***

Editor’s note: seriously, click on that link. Hilarious.

Wayne Perry and his wife reside in Fort Riley, Kansas where his wife serves as a combat medic in the US Army. His wife enlisted in 2010 and they were married in 2006. They have two children, ages 2 and 11. Wayne is currently a stay at home dad. He blogs under the name TheArmyWife(DUDE) and you can find it here. Wayne is honored to be part of the core team for the Army Wife Network. He also is one of the founders of the group MANning the Homefront that works to connect MANspouses. The group at Fort Riley meets once a month for dinner just for the guys and at least once a month for either a family or MANly event. They hope to see similiar groups start across the globe at all military installations. You can find the facebook page for MANning the Homefront here.

About Wayne Perry

Wayne Perry is a male military spouse (or as he likes to say, a MANspouse). He and his wife have been married for nearly seven years and she has been in the Army for three. Wayne is a stay-at-home dad with two boys that keep him extremely busy. Wayne is also an advocate for MANspouses, inspiring them to get involved in the military community and support each other. Through the facebook page MANning the Homefront he hopes to connect MANspouses with one another.

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