The backlash to a staged photo of two servicewomen breastfeeding in uniform includes remarks that nursing babies is "a disgrace to the uniform" and similar to "urinating and defecating" while in military garb.
Liberal magazine Mother Jones described the civilian response to the photo as "the mother of all wars" on women.
But the real battle, says Robyn Roche-Paull, a U.S. Navy Veteran who wrote the 2010 book "Breastfeeding in Combat Boots," is not in the civilian perception of breastfeeding in uniform, but with the perception out in the field.
There, she says, breastfeeding has been and continues to be an issue. When Roche-Paull posted the contentious photo on her Facebook page, she says she asked whether enlisted female personnel could relate to the criticism.
The overwhelming response: Yes.
"Servicewomen still aren't sure whether it is okay to feed in uniform," Roche-Paull said. "So their breasts are full and they don't always have a room to pump in... or they have to drive to a child development center, change out of uniform, breastfeed, change again, and then race back—all on a half hour lunch break."
When asked for the Department of Defense policy on uniformed breastfeeding, DOD spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said: "The DOD policy on uniform doesn't address that."
Whispers also called the Air Force, as the staged photo was located at the Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington.
Captain Rose Richeson, a spokeswoman for the Air Force, gave a similar answer: "We actually don't have a policy in place that addresses breastfeeding in uniform."
The Air Force does have standing instructions to support breastfeeding mothers with pump rooms and child development centers.
But the lack of policy on uniforms allows for dissent.
Roche-Paull says some of the fiercest backlash women who feed in uniform face comes from senior female officers.
"They say it's disgraceful, and throw out the equality card," Roche-Paull said. "You know, that we worked this hard to get to where we are, and you've ruined everything we worked so hard to achieve [by breastfeeding]."