"Breastfeeding their babies doesn't make them less of a soldier, I believe it makes them a better one," the photographer said.
Any breastfeeding mom knows how insanely stressful it can be to pump at work. In offices without a dedicated space for nursing, many women struggle to find a clean, private place to get the job done.
Thankfully, for the soldier-moms at Fort Bliss, the U.S. Army post in El Paso, Texas, this is no longer a concern. They will now be able to use the post's new nursing room, complete with comfy chairs, a refrigerator for milk storage, and a sink. The one thing missing? Decorations.
Thrilled by the news, Tara Ruby, a local photographer and Air Force veteran, offered to shoot portraits of the hardworking mamas with their babies to hang in the room.
"I thought it was be nice to offer some photographs as an additional show of support," she told CNN. "Seeing a picture like that helps mothers understand they can be an active soldier and provide support to their children."
Ruby reached out to members of Fort Bliss’ Pregnancy and Postpartum Physical Training Program support group (or P3T for short), looking for volunteers, and set up the shoot with approval from Fort Bliss Public Affairs and Garrison Command. Expecting just a couple people to show up, she was thrilled to have ten nursing moms, fully uniformed in camo and work boots, come with their babies.
Ruby posted the gorgeous group shot, of all ten soldiers breastfeeding in uniform, on her business’ Facebook page on Sept. 10th, just before midnight. It was removed at some point that night (despite not being in violation of Facebook guidelines), but she quickly re-posted it, and from there it garnered more than 9,000 shares and 12,000 Likes (and counting).
“I was active duty a long time ago when support for breastfeeding moms wasn't even an option or a consideration,” Ruby wrote in the Facebook caption. “We have come so far. Breastfeeding their babies doesn't make them 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.”
In an interview with SheKnows, Ruby explained that she stopped breastfeeding her now-teenage son after eight weeks because her Air Force shifts were too irregular to get on a good schedule. She’s glad to see now that military moms have better support, and hopes that this photo will do even more.
"Sometimes, you hit a point in your military career where you have to choose between being a soldier and a mother, and a photo like this helps mothers so they don't have to choose," she told CNN.
As she concluded on Facebook: “I believe we made history.”