Are AD military moms ‘mom’ enough?

Are AD military moms ‘mom’ enough?

By now I am sure that you (and the rest of the English speaking world) has seen the cover of TIME magazine with the mom breastfeeding her 3-year-old son.  It is a very provocative and in-your-face photograph, meant to get people talking (and sell magazines).  The title asks, “Are You Mom Enough?” and the article goes onto to discuss attachment parenting (of which extended breastfeeding is just one part).   The magazine was released on Friday the 11th, just ahead of Mother’s Day here in the States.

Without even reading the article I could tell that it would be very one-sided, and it was. The cover photo actually had very little to do with the article, and while I personally liked the cover photo (full disclosure here:  I breastfed all 3 of my children until they self-weaned, which happened to be about 6 years old, and was featured on ABC’s 20/20 show about extended breastfeeding), I get that for a lot of other people it was too inflammatory and has done a disservice to all the work that breastfeeding advocates have worked so hard to work towards. And what about the article?  It discussed attachment parenting in a negative tone and made AP mothers out to be martyrs to their children who do nothing but breastfeed 24/7, co-sleep with their babies (to the detriment of their sex life and marriage), and wear their babies even in the shower, eschewing strollers, cribs and bottles completely.  And in no way could an AP mother possibly work outside the home.

The fact of the matter is, AP mothers DO work outside the home, and many of them serve in the military!  But really, it shouldn’t matter how long you breastfed for, or if you co-sleep or not, use a stroller or homeschool.  Every mother has to make these decisions for herself and what will work best under the circumstances she finds herself in. And for AD military moms this may mean weaning earlier than you like, or not co-sleeping because you desperately need your sleep when you work 18 hour days, and yes…using pacifiers because your baby is not with you to meet his sucking needs.  What matters is that you have made an informed choice regarding your parenting and are doing what is best for you and your family.  The fact that you have taken responsibility for your baby’s health and well-being and are doing the best under the very challenging circumstances of serving in the military, makes you “Mom Enough” !!

  • The AD mom who breastfeeds is enough
  • The AD mom who uses formula is enough
  • The AD mom who ships her milk home is enough
  • The AD mom who pumps and dumps is enough
  • The AD mom who co-sleeps is enough
  • The AD mom who uses a crib is enough
  • The AD mom who wears her baby in a sling is enough
  • The AD mom who uses a stroller is enough
  • The AD mom who breastfeeds to age 2 or beyond is enough
  • The AD mom who weans her baby for a deployment is enough

Breastfeeding in Combat Boots supports breastfeeding as the biological norm, and I would love to see the breastfeeding rates in the military increase to match those found in the civilian world (currently 44% at 6 months and  23% at 12 months).  And while it may seem impossible for AD military moms to breastfeed beyond a year given the harsh duty and separation from their babies, it can (and has) been done by plenty of AD military moms.  This Army mom breastfed her twin boys for 3.5 years!

Here are some research and policy statements that support extended breastfeeding:

  • Kathryn Dettwyler’s research shows that the natural, biological age of weaning is between 2.5 and 7 years of age.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics “reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by the mother and infant
  • The Amercian Academy of Family Physicians states that “Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired”
  • The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months and then to 2 years or beyond.

While the goal of Breastfeeding in Combat Boots is for as many AD mothers to breastfeed as possible for as long as possible and for more babies of AD moms to receive breastmilk, I support AD mothers to breastfeed to the best of their ability and work to help them reach their goals, whatever that goal is…6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years.  I meet AD military moms where they are and support them to make the decisions that are best for her and the circumstances she is in.  I educate and use evidence-based research to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.  To that end and to honor all of the AD military moms that I have had the privilege to work with over the years, I am giving away a copy of my book.  Here is how to win:

Click on the ‘subscribe’ button and enter your information to subscribe to my blog.

Comment on this blog post by responding to: “AD military moms are mom enough…tell me how!”

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The winner will be chosen at random from the pool of entries and announced on May 31st in a blog post.

11 Responses to Are AD military moms ‘mom’ enough?


  1. I was also saddened by the way this article portrayed AP mothers and “extended” breastfeeders as outside the mainstream. I am an active duty Marine lucky enough to spend the first 3 years of my son’s life stationed with a non-deployable unit. We have been breastfeeding for 20 months and have no current plan to stop.

    After this year, I will be leaving the military in hopes of finding a job that will be a little more condusive to my parenting style (not to mention less wildly opposed to natural childbirth).


  2. Thanks for supporting all moms, whatever their decisions are to fit their particular circumstances. Military moms are definitely mom enough!


  3. I agree more AD moms should breast feed. I also think it depends on the career feild. I was in sfs for 6 years and the hours, the unpredictable environments you would work in, an the unsupportive supervision made so many mommys quit. Plus I think a lot of the moms become disengaged with their children since they are always working or deployed its sad really because breast feeding is the best thing you can do for your babies. I breast feed my little guy and I will for as long as he wants I love giving him the best food possible and
    Glad I got out so I can


    • Yes, career field can make a big difference in how easy or hard it is to breastfeed in the military, as does rank. I’ve also seen the ‘disengagement’ from their children in mothers who do not breastfeed….and that is from the lack of hormones that are present when breastfeeding. Thank you for your thoughts and for giving your little guy the breast for as long as he wants!


  4. As military women, we also have an obligation to educate our superiors on the importance of supporting our troops in these decisions. Until we stand up and fight for changing the military mindset- things are not going to get better for our fellow military mommas. I was lucky to be able to breastfeed all 3 of my littles for over a year- but it was not without struggle. Pumping in bathrooms, storage closets, in the back of M997s, under ponchos, in porta potties and having to justify myself time and time again to my superiors and my peers. As an officer, it was often awkward and at times I even had to quote the federal guidelines that protected my right to pump while at work. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for the junior enlisted Soldiers who aren’t able to “fight the good fight”.

    If a women chooses to breastfeed her baby and serve in the service, we owe it to them to support them. As more and more women rise to higher positions within the military, we need to champion these causes.

    MAJ Shannon Whiteman


    • MAJ Whiteman,
      You are so correct. It is very difficult to breastfeed in the military, especially for the junior enlisted. And we need officers like yourself to support the enlisted troops, and push for policy change. It really makes a huge difference.


  5. Greetings and Congratulations!!!
    I am a Childbirth Educator and Breast Feeding Advocate for years and LOVE when women exercise the power to birth and basically do anything that is good for them. Why should we assume our bodies don’t work and we need to be rescued from birth? Why are we told our breasts don’t produce Enough milk for our children? I breast fed for 2 years without a problem and am happy to see you ladies find the balance between work and womanhood. Blessings! Debra


  6. 1979 quote, from Rear Admiral James Hogg USN:

    “The people in the Navy look on motherhood as being compatible with being a woman.”


  7. I’m an Active Duty Army SSG and I’ve decided to breastfeed for as long as my supply allows me too. I’ve brought this up on a different page, but I think it fits here too. I haven’t fought TDY’s, but I try to bring the child wih me anywhere I can and pump religiously as my military duty permits. However, what I’ve faced is blame, shame and ridicule from other military mothers, from the leadership and from my fellow Soldiers. Every time I go to a foreign country and the subject of my motherhood comes up I have to explain why women in US military and women in US in general do not get sufficient time off work to take care of their babies (9 months minimum in most Western countries, 1 year to 3 years in many countries all over the world)? And I always quote many great female leaders in the Military, that it is because “we fought long and hard” to gain respect and equality. Well, I’m sorry, but there can’t be any equality, when it comes to motherhood until men become physically capable to bear, birth and breastfeed children. We all can run, shoot and yell, but we can’t all raise a new generation of Service Memebers:-)


  8. There is only one natural way of going about it. I haven’t seen any other creature out in nature purchasing any sort of powdered milk, while they have much better milk in great supply or covering up with aprons and blankets. I actually saw a woman (a civilian woman) spend 5 minutes digging her cover out of her bag, while her starving child was about to get a herina from screaming. Where are our priorities???
    I’ve also been told by a Marine male Major to just stop pumping, when I’m TDY so that I don’t have to take a 15 minute pumping break every 4 hours…What I really wanted to say was: “Could you hold your bowel movements for a few days, while you are TDY, so that we don’t have to worry about your breaks?”…I’m not comparing berastpumping to defecation, but since I’m forced to use bathrooms to pump (especially during long TDYs), someone has already equated these two processes for me and without asking me… Was that my choice???
    At the moment I can not even imagine breastfeeding past the first year and staying on active duty, because I simply would not be given the time or the opportunity to continue. Even if I’m not deployed, there are long TDY’s to deal with and pumping in bathrooms during a lunch break just can’t be that great for me in a long run:-((( It saddens me though. I’d love to nurse for as long as my baby enjoys it.

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