Professor of Gender and War. University of Sydney

Is the US Military ready to accommodate Breastfeeding Soldiers?

SUMMARY: In the US, the Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide a reasonable break-time for nursing mothers and a private place for mothers to pump, but not in the military workplace. Following a long history of ignoring or being afraid of women’s bodies, the US Army has forced many servicewomen shared stories of pumping in the bathroom or their car, as public breastfeeding was restricted but no other facilities were available. Representative Niki Tsongas (Democrat of Massachusetts) is a member of the Armed Services Committee, recently sponsored a provision in a defense bill that would require the Army to establish a comprehensive policy toward breastfeeding. Her amendment to the bill, H.R. 1735, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, specifies, ‘Restrooms should not be considered an appropriate location.’ The Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy and Coast Guard have different regulations about time of pumping breaks but all require private rooms, it’s time the Army comes on board. Tsongas claims, ‘There are many ways in which the services are not recognising the ever growing diversity of their members.’ There is an insidious and pernicious idea that women in the military who have children are ‘weak,’ which perpetuates the idea that ‘male soldiers are allowed to have families, but female soldiers are not.’

SOURCE: Emily Greenhouse, May 20 2015, ‘Is the U.S. Military ready to Accommodate breastfeeding soldiers?’ Bloomberg Politics,

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