Dear Col. Iverson

Dear Col. Iverson,

My name is Leah Wilson. I am an Air Force wife and mother of two small children. Although my husband is not currently stationed at Mountain Home AFB, as a member of the Air Force community and as a nursing mother who could someday wind up living at Mountain Home, I felt compelled to follow up yesterday’s phone call to your hotline with an open letter.

I am gravely concerned about your new breastfeeding policy for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that this new policy is an unreasonable burden on the women you claim to respect. Though breastfeeding is a natural process it is not an intuitive one. In fact for the vast majority of women there is a steep learning curve and any number of challenges they may face. Instituting a discriminatory and sexist policy is not in any way respectful of them or their needs. Requiring them to use a cover, which by the way many children (including my own) refuse to nurse under, or to relocate themselves, all their things, and any additional children to a separate area while simultaneously juggling a now screaming infant (because he’s hungry but not allowed to eat for fear of his needs offending someone’s delicate sensibilities) is a ridiculous expectation. Not only is it discriminatory and sexist but it draws even more attention to the nursing mother than if she were simply permitted to feed her hungry child as she chooses.

Additionally, while your memorandum specifies this policy applies to nursing mothers in a customer service area, it does not clarify what constitutes a customer service area. For example, the BX and the Commissary both by their very nature serve customers. Are they considered a customer service area? Do I have to stuff my children and all our things into the manager’s office with any other nursing mothers and their kids? What about the waiting room at the pharmacy? Or the clinic? Should I request the appropriate office in those locations as well? Are we allowed to go to the park or do we have to leave every time my child needs a snack? I’m sure you’re aware that children nurse more when it’s hot, similar to the way adults drink more water. You can see how utilizing outside facilities would become very impractical when we have to leave every 15 minutes so the baby can nurse.

Also, I am curious about the legality of this policy. Although I know base commanders certainly have the discretion to institute new policies over those under their command, I am not sure they have the authority to revise federal law. It seems unlikely that a base commander would be allowed to essentially reverse a federal discrimination law, specifically┬áPublic Law 108-199, Section 629, Division F, Title VI (January 23, 2004), which provides that “a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location.” (As an aside, I am quite curious what the law you referenced has to do with breastfeeding since it seems to deal primarily with loan origination fees.)

While it may never have occurred to you that this policy is discriminatory and sexist, I would beg to differ. It is by its very nature sexist, as only women will ever be asked to relocate while feeding their children. Furthermore, it is undoubtedly prejudicial as only one segment of the population will ever be effected by it, unless you plan on expanding this policy to include all children, regardless of how and from whom they receive their nutrition.

Finally, I am dismayed that this has even become an issue. I recognize that our culture has become so misogynistic that it can only conceive of the female body as a sex object but I am disappointed that Mountain Home’s Air Force leadership has taken the same stance. Breasts are not a sex organ. Their primary bodily function is to feed children. Two generations ago, this policy would have been laughed down before it was ever sent out a memorandum for record because women feeding their children was not something they had to be ashamed of. It was, and is, a normal part of life for billions of people the world over. Except, apparently, at Mountain Home AFB.

I strongly urge you to reconsider this ludicrous and burdensome policy which in no way respects the rights of nursing mothers.

Sincerely,
Leah Wilson

UPDATE:
As of the morning of April 23, 2015, Col. Iverson has rescinded the previous policy!
http://www.mountainhome.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123446020
Thank you, Colonel Iverson, for listening to the concerns of so many and for responding so quickly.

 

 

5 thoughts on “Dear Col. Iverson”

  1. Hi Leah,

    Thank you for writing this response to Col. Iverson. And I’m glad you saw my post on their facebook page. I was absolutely infuriated when I hit the pc at 6am and that was the first thing I saw in my feed!!!

    I spent 3 years in pre-nursing studies from 2000 to the end of summer in 2003, and had my middle two children while attending full time. My oldest was a toddler at the time. With the birth of my second child, my midwife told me she had NEVER seen another woman labor like me and she wholeheartedly encouraged me to become a Child Birth Educator. I pursued that along with Doula certification as well because I scratched the RN program, and instead focused on becoming a Licensed Midwife. My younger two children were both born at home and in water. Don’t ask how I successfully juggled all of that LOL! I still wonder myself ­čÖé Insanity maybe!!!

    My children are now 15, 13, 11, and 8. While I was in the process of applying to BirthingWay Midwifery College in Portland, OR (and I was a shoo in for the program), my 13 year old was injured by a vaccine and regressed into severe autism. Fortunately he is now 75-85% recovered, but at the time, I knew that autism, the military, and a life on call 24/7 wasn’t going to mesh, so I withdrew my application. Don’t ask me why I wasn’t as savvy about vaccines as I was about birth. I have to forgive myself daily. Two of my other children were also injured by a vaccine as I still hadn’t made the connection. None of them were vaccinated according to the schedule, nor did they receive all the vaccines they were “supposed” to receive. We no longer vaccinate. I am, however, happy to say my youngest is completely unvaccinated and honestly the healthiest of all four.

    I am extremely passionate about mothers, babes, children, and their health and safety. Men like Col. Iverson are an embarrassment to the military, and men like him set women back, demoralize us, and objectify us. He obviously has serious issues with women in general, and with human sexuality, which is a HUGE problematic character flaw for a man in such a position of power, to possess.

    I didn’t even bother looking up the laws he cited because I was well aware of the Federal law, and having openly breastfed in numerous places on base, including the Commanders office on our base (PANG), I knew he was full of crap. Regardless, I also know that individual base rules, MUST comply with Federal law and his “policy” is in violation.

    So, again, thank you. As much as this infuriated me, it is heartwarming to know that there are other women who are willing to speak up and out, intelligently, even to those in positions of “authority”, and do so without fear. There are too few of us. Believe you me, I know.

    I called an IG investigation for something completely unrelated while I was pregnant with my 8 year old. Leadership at our base failed miserably when my 13 year old had to be hospitalized. I was threatened and by a jackass prior supervising Colonel of my husbands when the IG report came back (same man the IG was essentially about). I knew this was bogus when I read it this morning. I was actually nursing my youngest when he was reading the report. He had asked me to stop feeding her. I told him that I would not and asked if he would like to feed her. He knew he had no legal recourse to force me to do otherwise, but he certainly couldn’t stop looking at my breasts while he was speaking and I was not exposed in anyway. I would have been more exposed if I’d had a swimsuit on. Needless to say, he was basically forced into retirement shortly after.

    If you would like to friend me on fb I would love it, and we probably know many of the people.

    In Kindred Spirit,
    Ang

  2. Thank you for your letter. It was beautifully written and said everything that needed to be said and addressed all the issues.

  3. Thank you for standing up for the right to nurse in public. i’ve always wondered why it is my problem that others dont like what they’re seeing, and if being a nursing mother means i’ll have to be confined to the walls of my house because it is “unlawful” to feed my baby in public. This is all the more ironic when the base hospital is a huge advocate of breastfeeding.

  4. Miss Leah Wilson wrote an excellent response. I am not only impressed at what she said, but how she said it.

    Very good rebuttal to an outlandish policy.

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