Kim, a U.S. Army specialist, tried to explain to her commanders why the dirty, bug-ridden bathroom was not sanitary enough for her, or for any nursing mother. They said she could use her car, all the while not understanding why Kim needed to pump breast milk more than once a day anyway.
Her story, highlighting the Army’s lack of accommodation for nursing servicewomen, exemplifies a much broader military problem.
Army servicewomen face obstacles in motherhood because that branch, unlike every other, does not currently have a policy regarding breastfeeding while on the job. Servicewomen are left at the mercy of superiors, whereas in the other branches standard policy dictates when and where female servicemembers can breastfeed, the length of time permitted and the type of facilities that must be provided.
It is clear that the Army needs a policy defining baseline parameters for nursing mothers. But while the Army may be the only branch without a breastfeeding policy, this particular issue speaks to a larger cultural shift that needs to take place across our armed forces.
Since I joined the Armed Services Committee, I have become acutely aware of the lasting challenges women face in an institution historically dominated by men.